Michael James Scott, The Genie, Aladdin
Michael James Scott’s association with Aladdin dates to the show’s Broadway premiere in 2014, when he was the standby for the Genie. He’s played the role for more than three years in productions from Australia to Los Angeles to London, and has been back on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre since February 2019.
Michael James Scott
“The Genie is dramatically high energy, and a pretty out-there kind of a role. I tend to be more quiet during most of my day leading up to the show. So when it’s time and the transformation starts, I’m in it. It’s immediate, because for me it’s all about the makeup and the costume—it’s like my armor.”
Michael James Scott
Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice
Alex Brightman went through multiple makeovers as the Beetlejuiceteam honed the final look for his character over a few years of workshops and out-of-town productions. One version, which took nearly three hours of makeup, was deemed too terrifying. Brightman’s transformation now takes about 30 minutes, leaving him looking otherworldly but still recognizably human.
“When I make the face, it becomes this strange asymmetrical thing with the green spot [on my nose]. It was a mistake, and then I was like, Please leave that. It’s so great. It offsets the face in a way. By the end of the show it gets greener, and then there’s a little bit in my ear. There are little nuances that make him look like he’s continuously leaking or oozing.”
Tshidi Manye, Rafiki, The Lion King
Tshidi Manye sang on the original soundtrack recording for The Lion King animated film in 1994, and has played the narrator, Rafiki, on stage since 2002. She moved from understudy to star in the Toronto production, reaching Broadway in 2004. The role is very personal to Manye, who hails from South Africa, as it’s a representation of her heritage and culture.
“It takes me about 25 to 30 minutes to get ready. They use a water-based paint, which is easy to wash off. It’s very intricate, as they have to make sure the colors don’t bleed. They are very particular with how they put it on, making sure the yellow circles around my eyes and the lines between the blue and yellow and around my mouth are precise.”
“It comes to a point where it’s not about makeup; it’s about you making sure the character is true. Makeup helps you become the character. Even today, makeup is like a mask. But how do you portray the character so that people don’t see the mask, but see the message…the truthfulness? That’s the challenge.”
Ben Crawford, The Phantom, The Phantom of the Opera
Ben Crawford has been a Broadway regular since his 2006 debut in Les Misérables. Since April 2018, he’s played the title role in Broadway’s longest-running show, The Phantom of the Opera. It takes about an hour to transform into his character, but he’s found fun ways to keep himself busy in the chair.
“I bring my iPad, and I have a Nintendo Switch. I keep myself busy with those. I can’t play action games, because I was playing a racing game and poor Thelma [Pollard, the show’s makeup supervisor] had to deal with me leaning cause I was in the moment. So I’ve figured out which sort of games I can and can’t play.”
“When you put everything on for the first time, you put on the prosthetics and you apply the mask, those are surreal moments. It was very memorable for me to see that all come together, and to think about how many people and facets come together to create the Phantom.”
These shows are part of NYC Broadway Week℠, which runs September 3–16.
Most Broadway actors only need a quick brush of base and powder before stepping onstage. But a select few portray roles that require more than an hour of help from hairdressers, makeup artists and dressers.
We recently went backstage at four Broadway shows to witness this usually hidden process. While we were there, these talented performers discussed how dramatic changes to their hair, face, eyes and skin can hold the key to understanding the larger-than-life characters they play.