After having designed makeup on Broadway for 15 years—starting with Wicked in 2003 and then shows like 2011’s Follies, Jekyll & Hyde, Beautiful, and 2017’s Sunday in the Park With George—in the summer of 2017 Joe Dulude II couldn’t find work. Broadway wasn’t calling, his usual summer pick-up gigs in film never popped up, his fall class at Pace University had been canceled for under-enrollment. “I thought, ‘Maybe now is the time I need to think about changing and doing something different,” the makeup designer recalls.
But then the team behind Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert rang. Thanks to his masterful vision (what he calls a “clean, post-apocalyptic version of Jerusalem”), Dulude earned a 2018 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special. His name is back on the map, his confidence rebounded, and his passion reignited. “I’ve always loved makeup since I was a kid,” Dulude shares.
Growing up in Rhode Island, a young Dulude spent his Saturdays watching Creature Double Feature, fascinated by the makeup that brought sci-fi to life. Though he started a formal education in graphic design, Dulude itched for an artist’s freedom. So he packed up for New York City and started working the counter at Trash & Vaudeville on St. Mark’s, which led to freelance makeup artistry for photoshoots, which led him to Mac when the flagship store opened in Soho. When he did the makeup for one of the models during a pin-up girl shoot, one of the on-site trainers noticed Dulude’s talent and recruited him for an annual BC/EFA production, Broadway Bares, inducting him to the world of theatre. But his first Broadway gig didn’t come until 2002, when he became the vacation swing makeup artist for Vanessa Williams on Into the Woods.
Susan Hilferty designed the costumes for that Sondheim revival and Dulude heard she had been hired to do the design for an original musical: Wicked. “I had read Wicked twice and I loved the story and I said to her, ‘I would love to work on this,’ and not meaning design it. I just wanted to work on the show like I had worked on Into the Woods,” says Dulude.
But director Joe Mantello didn’t want traditional theatrics for the makeup design; he wanted something editorial. Knowing his background, Hilferty reached out to Dulude. “I’d designed other things, fashion shows and small productions and things like that, but nothing this big. I went and just did it,” he says. “Wicked just came from my imagination.”
In addition to inventing the now-iconic looks for the musical re-imagining of the Land of Oz, his adaptability has allowed him to design faces for 1940s New York in On the Town, authentic Russian revolution peasantry for Dr. Zhivago, and nod to 1920s Paris for Anastasia, while also diving into fantasies like SpongeBob SquarePants The Musical and preparing for Broadway’s Torch Song and Beetlejuice.
With 17 Broadway credits to his name, Dulude has bequeathed audiences wit multiple iconic visuals—though even the greatest of theatre insiders don’t know his name. “You can’t market us,” says Dulude. “You can’t say ‘won a Tony for Best Hair and Makeup.’” Which is why Dulude treasures his Emmy nomination as a badge of honor for the profession as a whole, not to mention “the first thing I design for TV gets nominated? It’s been such a surreal thing for me.”
Still, it’s his foundation in stage that’s led to his tenacity. “Through the experiences that I’ve had doing theatre, it’s made me realize that I’m good at what I do and it’s hard to admit that sometimes because we always feel like, ‘Oh I’ve got a big ego if I say I’m good at what I do,’ but you have to have that confidence.”
“I love creating worlds,” Dulude gushes. “I think it stems from Dungeons and Dragons and playing with my Star Wars action figures when I was a kid. I created these worlds in my head and now it’s like, ‘Wow, I’m actually doing it for a living.'”
Watch the video above to see Dulude recreate six of his favorite looks from his résumé of Broadway designs, and check out the before-and-after photos below.
Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Female ensemblist, “Superstar Girl”
Arnold’s opening drag
“It’s supposed to look like really bad ’70s drag and that he’s done it himself. So it’s not the drag of today—it’s the drag of yesterday. It wasn’t about realness, it was about creating this feminine look as well as you could with the tools you had. If you look, a lot of old drag pictures...they look like men with makeup on. The big thing was to emulate movie stars, as well. So you see inappropriate styles on people because it wasn’t about creating their own character. It was about trying to be Marilyn Monroe, trying to be Elizabeth Taylor. This is almost like trying to a woman from the ’50s, and if you think about it, the character of Anrold would have grown up with those movie stars. Still, trying to do makeup that is supposed to be not quite even, not the best, a little rush [is hard].”
SpongeBob SquarePants, The Musical
“We wanted to create a world and, if you look at it, it’s really inspired by the ’80s. With Squidward it was interesting because trying to interpret that character, he’s the one main character that actually gets [a look] that’s a bit more character-y than the others. The only makeup class I took in college, I learned from this woman Bara Mathison. She taught us old-school theatre [makeup]; it was thick, it was heavy, and every show we did all of the guys had to have a sad eye like this.”
Anastasia Act 1 and Act 2
“It’s the Russian revolution and she was a peasant who was working sweeping up the street. So she wouldn’t have makeup on at all, but we need her to have this beauty look because Gleb he instantly falls in love with her so you’re not going to have something like for Dr Zhivago where all the peasants were emaciated with missing teeth and dark circles under their eyes. [Anastasia] is a bit more fantasy. In Act 2, for Anastasia herself we keep it very 1920s adjacent, a modern interpretation. In the original production there was a whole scene where Coco Chanel would take her and make her over. It was a long production number with people playing people who were in Paris: Hemingway and Coco Chanel and Gertrude Stein. Now we do things very simply that keep the flavor of the time period.”
Into the Woods
The Witch, post-transformation
Because the Witch’s transformation happens onstage, actor Donna Murphy had to get into her “pretty witch” makeup in between earlier scenes and then re-dress as the ugly witch. “
“I want to say it’s not makeup in a way. It’s more her character. That’s her skin. In the book Wicked, she isn’t super attractive. She has pointy teeth. She has a long nose. I didn’t want it to be about her not being pretty. I wanted it to be about her skin color and that people just didn't like her because her skin was a different color, which I think was really relevant 15 years ago and today.”
This article was originally published September 14, 2018, on Playbill.com.