The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Makeovers like the tide

It may seem a bit counterintuitive to write a show about a makeup empire in the hopes of better capturing the attention of theater-going husbands, but that’s exactly what Darrah Cloud did.

Cloud, who has an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an M.F.A. from the UI Playwrights’ Workshop, along with composing partner Kim Sherman, wrote the musical Makeover to interest both men and women. The show follows Ruth, abandoned after World War II, as she creates a makeup empire to support her young child, much like Mary Kay or Estée Lauder.

The first-ever stage production of Makeover will open at 8 p.m. today in the Theater Building’s Thayer Theater as part of the Mainstage Series. Performances will continue through Feb. 16, with 8 p.m. shows Wednesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. matinees on Sunday. Admission ranges from $5 to $17.

"I had this idea that stems from watching lots of husbands fall asleep in the theater," Cloud said. "I wanted the husbands to stay awake, so they had to relate to [the main character] in some way. And because many theater husbands are in business, they can relate to the business aspect."

Cloud wanted everyone to be able to connect with Ruth and to understand what it means to reinvent oneself. Allyson Malandra, the graduate-student actor playing Ruth, feels the character is undeniably relatable.

"Ruth says herself that she is a go-getter and a trendsetter, and she is," Malandra said. "She is strong-willed, strong-hearted, direct, she’s like this unstoppable force — so unstoppable that sometimes she gets in her own way. She inspires people, especially women, to do what people at the time thought couldn’t be done."

As the show progresses through decades, Ruth continues to do the supposedly impossible and adapt to the changes around her. This makes the musical especially relevant on the UI campus.

"I think the show is about reinvention; it’s about finding who you are," said Nick Demos, Makeover‘s director. "And on a college campus, you are inventing yourself. You’re constantly deciding who you want to be."

Even after college, Malandra believes people continually have the opportunity to reinvent themselves.

"What [this show] wants people to realize is they can create their own life and their own dreams," Malandra said "And if you lose yourself, you can always find yourself again. There’s nothing ever stopping you but yourself."

Ruth is constantly realizing her dreams, traveling through decades with ambition and music as her guides. The music of the show, in combination with the choreography and costumes, alerts the audience to the time period.

"Music takes us through time; it has a big job to do," Sherman said. "Besides the song, there is underscoring and instrumental music that go between the scenes and things like that."

Sherman wrote all the music specifically for Makeover in partnership with Cloud working on the book and lyrics. The pair have collaborated for 26 years. The past seven years have been spent, at least partially, on Makeover.

"Before this production, we’ve only had readings, in which people read the script and sang the music in front of music stands," Sherman said. "And this is a big show with big production numbers, so that’s one of the things we are learning about here — how does this show work on its feet? It really helps us get a sense of flow."

Demos attended one of the readings before signing on to direct the Iowa for Partnership in the Arts show.

"I went to a reading of just the book, just the story," he said. "It was just actors sitting around the table, and I was then invited to a notes session. They liked my notes, so [Sherman] invited me to come have bread and soup. She made homemade bread, and that was that."

Since joining the team, Demos has become invested in the project, saying he will stay with the show as long as they will have him. Cloud and Sherman want to keep Demos around, because he works very well with the group and adds much to the show. He even choreographed the production.

Having the three collaborators at the university has been beneficial to UI students involved in the musical.

"Being in a room with three people who are creating something as you go along, not just re-creating something that has already been made, is inspiring and reaffirms our belief in ourselves as artists," Malandra said.

That’s fitting with her takeaway for the show:

"It’s not the makeup, it’s sharing what you have within you."


More to Discover