Standing backstage during a performance of The Phantom of the Opera, makeup artist Rudy Guerrero waits to hear his favorite sound of the evening. No, it’s not the seductive lyrics sung during “The Music of the Night” or the blaring synthesizers of “Overture.” Instead, Guerrero waits for the part of the production where the Phantom’s mask is removed, his hideous face is revealed, and someone in the audience shrieks.
“I usually know when the makeup is good because we’ll have a small child sitting up front and she’ll scream when they take the Phantom’s mask off,” Guerrero, 52, tells the Current. “When I hear that, I get a good feeling because that’s the reaction we are trying to achieve.”
Guerrero, who is originally from San Antonio and a 1974 graduate of St. Gerard High School, has been applying makeup to Broadway Phantoms since 1995. After owning his own hair salon in San Antonio in the late ’80s and working as a hairdresser on the production, Guerrero was placed on makeup detail on a full-time basis.
In the span of 45 minutes before each show, Guerrero fits the Phantom actor with a latex mask and cuts and glues it down to his hairline. He then glues prosthetics that have been pre-painted with acrylics to the face. Two wigs and a symbolic white mask later, the Phantom is ready to make his grand entrance.
Since the Phantom’s look is actually copyrighted, Guerrero has a set of rules he must follow to make the application consistent for each show. Despite the regulations, Guerrero says he has never felt his creativity stifled over the last 12 years. Working in new theaters with different lights and applying makeup to a handful of new actors keeps his job fresh.
“Within those set of rules you are allowed some freedoms,” Guerrero said. “You can make the makeup bloodier or with more scarring. There’s a certain amount of leeway where you can play around … so you don’t get bored.”