How Angels in America Comes to Life on Broadway

MAC Cosmetics lends its support to some of the show’s most beautiful moments.

by Nora Maloney

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Early on in Angels in America, Prior Walter, a young man dying of AIDS, sits in front of a mirror dressed head to toe in drag, sparkling beneath the stage lights. Harper Pitt, a Mormon housewife with a pill addiction, arrives in this fantasy to incredulously ask him why he is wearing makeup. “I was in the process of applying the face, trying to make myself feel better,” he says. “I swiped the new fall colors off the Clinique counter at Macy’s . . . it was an emotional emergency.”

This surface-level solution to his sorrow is so simple and sympathetic. “When Andrew [Garfield] appears in full drag, it’s this really magical moment—he looks fantastic and he’s trying to cheer himself up from what he considers to be his death sentence,” Tim Levy, the show’s producer and director of the National Theatre America, told Vanity Fair. This underlying theme of beauty weaves its way throughout Tony Kushner’s two-part play, from the devastating but beautiful angel with dark makeup and unruly hair to Pitt’s Mormon mother-in-law, who connects with Prior despite the differences in their backgrounds.

MAC Cosmetics is the makeup partner of the show, providing products backstage in addition to a $50,000 donation toward the production. MAC founders Frank Angelo and Frank Toskan created the MAC AIDS Fund in 1994, just three years after the premiere of the original performance of Angels in America, and have since raised more the $480 million for the cause. The brand works with Giuseppe Cannas,who manages the makeup and wig teams at the National Theatre, and who helped to create the final looks for the show.

“Since [MAC’s] inception, it was the goal to make sure that it became an artist brand, and that we focused on artistry and supporting the community more than anything else,” says Karen Reddy-Medeiros, executive director of global artist relations. “That continues to be a pillar for us, that we maintain that support throughout the community.”

Angels in America’s revival has been in the works since before the 2016 election, but like so much other art these days, feels more relevant than ever. “I was reading something online yesterday,” Levy says, “where Margaret Atwood was talking about The Handmaid’s Tale, and she said, ‘This would not have had the resonance, if the election had gone the other way.’ I think Tony says the same about this. He says, ‘My work, unfortunately, is more significant, profound, and probably important under a Republican government.’”

This poignant realization makes the play all the more important—and all the more beautiful. The AIDS crisis may look different than it did 30 years ago, but it is still a crisis. “The take that we have as a beauty company is that the tent is built big enough for all of us, and we are stronger together,” says Nancy Mahon, global executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund. “[Angels in America] is great theater and it’s great storytelling, but it’s also a great history lesson in the importance of advocacy and the importance of humanity and the importance of hope.”

Nora MaloneyComment