Angelina Avallone, Makeup Designer, Cabaret


“Makeup design starts with research. For this production of Cabaret I wanted to go back to source material rather than reference what somebody did 20 years ago. We looked at books, photos of real people, photos of movie stars—Spring 1930, what were the German fashion magazines? It’s about going back and looking at Vogue ads or cabaret posters from that time, painters of that period, photographers, trying to find actual makeup from that period. Who were the big manufacturers? What were the colors?

Then you have to consider characters. Fraulein Kost is one of the girls at the cabaret, but then also in the play we see her life outside of the show. Would she even wear that much makeup? Probably not. How much money did this girl make? Well, not much because she can’t always pay rent, so maybe she is shoplifting makeup from the store. You really have to think of the backstory—how many shows do these girls do? Do they even take their makeup off? Maybe they go out and then they go to bed with it on and wake up to put on a little more.

After we go through the research and read the script, we break down what each actor is doing at any given time to create individual looks for each part. Where are the changes happening? Who is playing what role? Then we sit down and have a makeup session, or two, or three until the look is really finalized and then we do makeup charts for everyone and teach them how to apply their look—they have to really be hands-on. Plus they all play instruments, which of course affects the staying power of lipstick, so we have fallen in love with the MAC Pro Longwear products.

We’re in a historic theater with very limited space, which often times dictates where all of the departments are situated and how we'll make things will happen. Believe me, it’s all about improvising. So we get our folding tables and our clip lights, and we improvise! The backstage is a well-oiled machine. Everybody has their kit, but we have swings and understudies as well, so if Michelle is out, for example, we will have Andrea cover for her. She takes Michelle’s makeup bag, goes into her room and wears her set of costumes to create Sally Bowles—and she gets to wear the beautiful green Deep Sea Nail Lacquer instead of the black.

Everybody has the white eyeliner, which is typical of the period—white pencil on the inside of the eyes to make them look a little bigger. A lot of our girls have thinned their brows out for the show, but we do go in with pencil to create an even more defined line. We love using shadows in particular because they have a beautiful Art Deco feel. I like the idea of them spilling over a little bit onto the cheek; it has that very decadent, luxurious, sexy look. Then for Act II, we go over it all with the white powder for a very graphic look so that you kind of feel that sense of something really serious happening. You see the great world of the cabaret, and even though Alan opens the show saying, ‘Come here and you can forget all your troubles!' you realize that there is nowhere to go. The reality outside of the cabaret is beginning to affect the performers. I like, though, that there is still a layer of Act I underneath. It’s like having a little bit of the past remain."

—as told to ITG

Angelina Avallone and the cast of Cabaret, starring Michelle Williams and Alan Cumming, backstage at Studio 54 in New York, photographed by Brayden Olson. Tickets available here

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  • Samantha Marriott

    Such an interesting article :)

  • Edwina@WINONA,INC.

    Thank you for this. Terrific shots.

  • Bridget

    yuss this is fabulous, nicely done ITG!

  • Sarika

    This is the dream job I never knew I wanted until I read this, thank you ITG!


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