Monday, March 4, 2013 | 6 p.m.
Editor’s note: Columnist John Katsilometes and photographer Leila Navidi have been granted exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the development of Cirque du Soleil’s charity show “One Night for One Drop,” scheduled for March 22 at Bellagio’s O Theatre. Today: a visit to the "Zumanity" backstage where the hair and makeup is being planed for “One Drop.”
What excites Roger Stricker?
Waterproof glitter. He fairly percolates when talking of waterproof glitter.
"It is not easy to find, or work with, the kind of glitter we need for this show," said Stricker, the makeup, hair and wig supervisor of "Zumanity." "When you find it, you almost want to keep it a secret. Some of these performers would wear it all the time because it is very adhesive."
Waterproof glitter, commonly used in the form of eyeliner, lasts a long time. MAC Cosmetics, a vendor Stricker buys products from for Cirque du Soleil shows, offers waterproof glitter. So it is not only a fashion accessory but a time-saver, too. Who knew?
Stricker is donating his glitter — along with his time and effort — to "One Night for One Drop." The charity show benefiting Cirque's water-conservation foundation One Drop is set for March 22 at Bellagio's O Theatre. The show is a one-time Cirque production drawing from all of its Strip productions. Performers and behind-the-scenes creative types are donating their time and talents to bring the production to the stage.
Stricker is one of the production's most valuable volunteers, as he makes those onstage look beautiful or otherwise striking. He has worked at "Zumanity" since the show opened in 2003 after working with such superstars as Cher, Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra. He has applied makeup and wigs to the stars of the TV series "Wings" and beautified performers in such Broadway productions as "Beauty and the Beast," "The King and I," "Cats" and "The Producers."
Stricker's work has taken him all over the world. The Chicago native concedes he is uncommonly lucky, talking of moving from job to job and advancing his career as opportunities have surfaced.
"In my whole career, I have been unemployed for four weeks," he said during a break in his accessories- and wig-laden enclave at "Zumanity" theater. "Four weeks in 1989. That's it. How lucky is that?"
For someone with such a unique skill set, it's very lucky. But Stricker is a highly regarded hair and makeup technician (if that term can be used in the theater world) who has twice won one of the industry's highest honors, the Hollywood Hairstylist and Makeup Artist Guild Award. A decade ago, he was plucked from the touring production of "The Producers" by "Zumanity" wardrobe head Jack Ricks to join the in-development production.
And Stricker has been in Las Vegas ever since.
"I love it," he said. "I'm the kind of guy who goes to sleep wondering, 'What about this eyebrow or that eyelash, or what about that kind of wig?' So this is the perfect place for me."
In contributing to "One Drop," Stricker must delegate authority on a level he's not experienced. As many as 60 makeup artists will be required to work with the 230 performers in the "One Drop" cast. Those working at Las Vegas cosmetic boutiques are qualified to help with "One Drop."
"There is no way I could handle all of this myself and keep my schedule with 'Zumanity,' " he said.
Stricker has an easy disposition and expansive worldview, drawn from his career working with artists of varying cultures. His work has taken him to 20 countries, and he has touched down in nearly every state in the U.S. He is often face to face with a performer who might be a stranger but is customarily comfortable in conversation.
"You have to make the person feel at ease, like they are in a safe place, because this is such an intimate process," he said. "I am the last person they see before they take the stage. It's a great psychological study, actually, because there is so much trust involved."
Stricker usually takes performers through a painstaking, step-by-step instructional period so he or she can apply makeup themselves. He takes a photo of what the person should look like after being prepped for the show. Some are quick studies.
But others ...
"We've had some of these guys take the makeup brush like a paintbrush or trowel," Stricker said, laughing. "This is not something they've trained for. These are world-class athletes."
But there have been instances when the guys have acquired unforeseen knowledge of makeup.
"When we tell them the colors we use can enhance their eyes, like if they have blue eyes, they start getting into it," Stricker said. "I know of cases where a guy in the show has said to his wife or girlfriend, 'I think you have too much concealer on.' "
At that, Stricker reaches for a wig to be used in "One Drop." He holds it over his right hand and says, "This is a lace front wig, very valuable, made of synthetic hair. Isn't it beautiful?"
He shows the intricate, strand-by-strand work that allows this fake hair to appear real. The wig is worth $2,600.
"I'm fortunate to get to work with some beautiful materials and products and beautiful people," he said. "I am always learning, too, every day. The day I don't learn something is the day I leave."