“I immediately said yes!” says Joe Dulude II when asked if he’d like to do the make-up for Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert on NBC.
The project came to him in a roundabout way and started with a friendly text from Chuck LaPointe, the wig designer, who suggested Dulude reach out to Paul Tazewell, the costume designer, regarding make-up for Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Turns out, Tazewell wanted Dulude for both projects.
“I have loved Jesus Christ Superstar since I was in high school,” says Dulude. “I used to work with a friend in high school who was a huge musical theater fan. She would bring in cassette tapes (which tells you how long ago that was) of different musicals and one of them was Jesus Christ Superstar. I have always been drawn to rock opera as I’m a big rock and roll fan. Then I watched the 1970s movie and fell in love with it even more. I loved the whole concept of this group of people traveling into the desert and putting on a show that then becomes real. So, I was excited to work on the show. Then I saw Paul’s costume designs and I was even more excited.”
Tazewell informed Dulude of his inspiration and idea for the look of the show, and Dulude began his research. However, only after first lighting his Artists and Angels candle from Rebels and Outlaws—which he does when working on the design for a project. “It is a non-guided meditation candle that stimulates creativity,” he explains.
Having done make-up for film and television in the past, Dulude was aware of the differences between make-up for stage and make-up for film and television. One of his initial moves in preparation was contacting several make-up lines that he has worked with in the past to request products; this included M.A.C., Make Up For Ever, Skindinavia, Embryolisse and Danessa Myricks. From that point, he began working on his face charts and creating the make-up looks for the show.
Describing his overall inspiration for the make-up, he calls it “clean post-apocalyptic.” By creating a dewy, fresh and sun-kissed look on the actors, he hoped they would embrace the feeling of a futuristic version of Jerusalem. Further describing the make-up, Dulude says, “They also had a slight rock and roll edge to them with dark smoky eyes being the focus. For King Herod’s backup girls, I wanted more of a dirty Vegas showgirl that has been partying all night. And for the Superstar ladies I was looking for something that was ethereal and would make them look like they were elevated from the sun-kissed look of the rest of the ensemble.”
The tattoos, he says, were all based on sacred geometry and involved simple geometric shapes (circles, squares, lines, triangles) and were based on Christian iconography—some tattoos represent an abstract version of a church, stained glass windows and crosses. Tattoos were also designed using sets of three shapes to represent the Holy Trinity. The middle section of Judas’ tattoo is a modern interpretation of the sacred heart of Jesus.
The tattoo work ended up being the most challenging aspect of the project for Dulude. He explains, “There were so many directions that I could go with them. I was trying out all different styles to see which one I liked the best. Then Paul sent me a reference photo of a model who had a solid rectangular armband with a thin line that ran down his entire arm. This gave me the inspiration for using sacred geometry as the basis for the tattoos. But time was at a minimum. I had to have the designs done and printed for the camera tests and then reordered for the dress rehearsals and show. This all was within a span of a few weeks. There was no room for error on it and often I was changing tattoo designs or placements up until the actual show. Some tattoos I created on the spot by cutting up existing ones and making new designs.”
As to what make-ups he found to be the most enjoyable, Dulude says the ethereal look of the Superstar ladies was his favorite. To create this look, he built on their basic ensemble look and used Lemonhead Spacepaste glitter in Private School (which he describes as a beautiful bright aqua) on the eyelids, Danessa Myricks Enlight Luminizer in Synergy on the body and highlighted areas of the face, NYX Crushing It Duo Chromatic Lip Gloss on the lips with a spot of Lemonhead Spacepaste glitter in Silverlake on the center bottom lip.
Throughout the show there were numerous other products he relied on. Make Up For Ever’s HD liquid foundation helped him in creating the perfect dewy, sun-kissed look for the ensemble. Embryolisse’s Lait-Crème Concentré moisturizer also assisted this look. Skindinavia’s Primer Spray and Finishing Spray were essential to provide even application and staying power for the actors who were dancing and moving all over the stage and backstage, while Danessa Myricks Enlight Luminizers created a beautiful glowing sheen on the Superstar ladies. “It allowed their skin to glow without looking shimmery,” Dulude says.
With every new job, Dulude explains that he pulls from past experiences to help motivate and inspire him, and this one was no different. His years of designing for Broadway helped him to understand the design for a musical. His past involvement in the gothic, rock and roll and punk scenes gave him the reference of a slightly rough but beautiful make-up design. His past work in film and television gave him the knowledge of designing for the camera and what would look good and what wouldn’t. And his background in graphic design was essential in creating the tattoos and allowed him to see and correct any designs that didn’t work or needed different placement on the body.
“I think the power and sign of a good designer is in using all of their past,” says Dulude, “not only from the industry and former projects but also from their personal lives, art, design, nature—everything around them.”
Dulude’s past work and experiences definitely prepared him for this once-in-a-lifetime project and helped him take a timeless rock opera and elevate the look with his personal touch.
Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert aired April 1, received 13 Emmy nominations this year, including a nod to seasoned make-up artist Joe Dulude II for Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special. Read more articles on Joe Dulude’s work here.