You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Local Hero: Thelma Pollard, ‘Phantom’ Production Makeup Supervisor

Makeup maven has been at Broadway’s Majestic Theater where 'Opera' has been running since 1988

JOB DESCRIPTION

At every performance of musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” on Broadway and around the country, the tortured title character rips off his mask to reveal his disfigured face. That deformed mug is the handiwork of production makeup supervisor Thelma Pollard, who’s been with the Gotham incarnation since it began in 1988. It’s her job to teach every new “Phantom” cast member how to apply character makeup correctly and then ensure they keep doing it right. But it’s the Phantom himself that’s her baby: Before each perf, she carefully paints the prosthetics pieces (made of one-use latex) and applies the actor’s makeup herself, a process that takes about an hour.

SPECIAL CHALLENGES

Besides fidgety thesps — “some actors are better at sitting still than others,” she says diplomatically — hurdles include dropped wigs and a clock-ticking makeup application for an understudy who was rushed into a perf when the lead was sidelined by laryngitis midshow. And then there was the time she had to figure out the Phantom’s skin color palette for Robert Guillaume, one of the few black actors to take on the title role.

BACKGROUND

Pollard was born in what she describes as a small village in Barbados — “I didn’t know about Broadway!” — and eventually followed her parents to New York, going on to earn two licenses in cosmetology, specializing in hair and makeup. A chance meeting with makeup designer Stanley James in the salon where she was an apprentice led to gigs on the original Broadway production of “The Wiz” and a string of legit credits that include “Dreamgirls,” “Cats,” “Song and Dance,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.”

SIDE INTEREST

Along with steady work on screen projects, she was part of the first all-black female team to compete in the World Hair Olympics in Paris in 1980, where her group won a silver medal. She’s also spoken at the Intl. Makeup Artist Trade Show and mentors students at Gotham vocational schools.

NAME: Thelma Pollard

TITLE: Production makeup supervisor for Broadway and all North American productions of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

FUNCTION: Applies the elaborate makeup to the actor playing the Phantom of the Opera.

DOMAIN: Broadway’s Majestic Theater, where “Phantom” has been running since 1988.

# OF PHANTOMS WORKED ON: 30 on Broadway, including understudies.

PROSTHETIC PIECES APPLIED BEFORE EVERY PERF: 3

# OF BROADWAY PERFORMANCES OF PHANTOM: 10,543 as of June 2

SCREEN WORK: “I Am Legend,” “Revolutionary Road,” “Malcolm X,” “Saturday Night Live,” “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” “The Guiding Light”

Local Hero is a tribute to the people who are invisible but invaluable: They’re not in the spotlight, but the biz couldn’t function without them.

More Legit

  • Lindsay Mendez Tony Awards Win

    Tony Awards Set 2019 Broadcast Date on CBS

    JOB DESCRIPTION At every performance of musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” on Broadway and around the country, the tortured title character rips off his mask to reveal his disfigured face. That deformed mug is the handiwork of production makeup supervisor Thelma Pollard, who’s been with the Gotham incarnation since it began in 1988. It’s […]

  • Mother of the Maid Glenn Close

    Off Broadway Review: 'Mother of the Maid' Starring Glenn Close

    JOB DESCRIPTION At every performance of musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” on Broadway and around the country, the tortured title character rips off his mask to reveal his disfigured face. That deformed mug is the handiwork of production makeup supervisor Thelma Pollard, who’s been with the Gotham incarnation since it began in 1988. It’s […]

  • Company review

    West End Review: 'Company'

    JOB DESCRIPTION At every performance of musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” on Broadway and around the country, the tortured title character rips off his mask to reveal his disfigured face. That deformed mug is the handiwork of production makeup supervisor Thelma Pollard, who’s been with the Gotham incarnation since it began in 1988. It’s […]

  • Aasif Mandvi

    Listen: How Aasif Mandvi Told 'a Story About Brown People That Nobody Else Was Telling'

    JOB DESCRIPTION At every performance of musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” on Broadway and around the country, the tortured title character rips off his mask to reveal his disfigured face. That deformed mug is the handiwork of production makeup supervisor Thelma Pollard, who’s been with the Gotham incarnation since it began in 1988. It’s […]

  • Gordon Cox, Jeffrey Seller and Robert

    Listen: Why the Digital Revolution Is Good for Broadway

    JOB DESCRIPTION At every performance of musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” on Broadway and around the country, the tortured title character rips off his mask to reveal his disfigured face. That deformed mug is the handiwork of production makeup supervisor Thelma Pollard, who’s been with the Gotham incarnation since it began in 1988. It’s […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content