I’m glad I went, but also glad I only paid moderate price. It's a first production, after all, and there's no doubt they'll be doing work on it. For my taste it needs it, though the audience seemed to love the show and was cheering at the end. I just found it moderately interesting.
The story struck me as pretty surface, and the main characters don't change much. Also, I didn't find the score all that interesting, though a few songs worked well. (What also didn't help is that I also had great difficulty making out about 70% of what Lupone sang in her very-thick Polish accent for Helena Rubenstein.) There are a couple of nice twists in the plot, though, and the last third of the show ratchets up the plot pretty well. The last scene -- when the two bitter rivals finally meet for the first time -- is particularly wonderful, not only with some good drama, but dripping with charming, passive-aggressive ripostes back-and forth.
Just one example about how thin things are. At one point, each side passes along damning information about the other, which leads to a Senate investigation on the cosmetic industry. It's an important, dramatic moment -- yet each side clears up their own testimony in about 45 seconds with some quips.
One clever lyric I do remember comes in the very first song, setting up the rivalry and how incredibly hard these two women have worked for years to reach their levels of success, and basically goes --
The day is carpe diem
From the AM to the PM.
There's also a good laugh at some dialogue within that same number when Helena Rubenstein talks about how all it takes for a woman to look beautiful is to put in the time in the morning with makeup. She says, "There are no ugly women. Only lazy ones."
I thought that both actresses were very good, though Ebserole (in part because of the higher register of her voice and also her lack of such a thick accent) was easy to understand, which allowed me to appreciate her performance more, though Lupone's character coming from poverty and another culture has a bit more edge. (There's a great running story point about her wanting to buy a magnificent apartment but being denied, clearly for being Jewish, which leads to us much later discovering how she overcame it: she bought the building!) Also, the two men in their lives -- played by Douglas Sills and in particular John Dossett -- were both quite good.
At one point, this being early in the show's first run, there was a long technical glitch getting some scenery on stage. Ebersole was on her side of the stage at a desk, well-lit. But Lupone and Dossett (I think...) were on the other side, in the dark. And for a while everyone just stood there, waiting. Eventually, they began bantering with the audience. "You may have noticed, we're having a problem, Dossett called out, to laughs. There was a little more back-and-forth, and then again Dossett called out to the crowd -- "Any requests?" (I was tempted to yell out, "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina.") After some more quips, Lupone (still completely in the dark) turned to Ebersole and said, "Hey you've got a spotlight, you should sing something." And as it happened, she did -- and she began to sing, "On State Street, that great street..." and went into "Chicago." To big cheers. Annoyingly, a Voice From Above (likely the stage manager) ordered everyone off the stage, so she had to stop. And yes, they finally fixed the problem and started up again, to big applause.
If the show was (for me) stronger, that interlude might not have been as fun, and more an intrusion. To be fair, there was a lot in the how that was quite good. It just fell thin for me. And this should in no way be seen as a final word on the show, even my own -- after all, it's the world premiere and only a couple weeks into the run, so I'm sure there's much they're working on and will be a lot of work to go on it. And I trust things will change. How much and how significantly it improves, that's another matter and time will tell. Again, the audience did enjoy it. And the show's run has already been extended (I suspect on the star power of the two leads, since I don't believe reviews have come out yet). I did look for reviews after the fact, but couldn't find any -- perhaps critics are giving it a bit of time to work things out, though my understanding is that these aren't preview performances, so I don't know.
And the War goes on...