First Lady Suite
First Lady Suite is a chamber musical by Michael John LaChiusa. The musical contains four separate segments about four of the First Ladies of the United States of America and the people surrounding them. They are: Eleanor Roosevelt, Mamie Eisenhower, Bess Truman, and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. It premiered Off-Broadway in 1993.
The chamber musical was produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Public Theater from November 30, 1993 through December 26, 1993, running for 32 performances. Directed by Kirsten Sanderson, it featured Alice Playten (Lady Bird Johnson and Mamie Eisenhower), Debra Stricklin (Margaret Truman), Carolann Page (Eleanor Roosevelt), Maureen Moore (Amelia Earhart, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy), and David Wasson (Bess Truman). The production received the Obie Award, Performance (Playten) and Special Citation (LaChiusa).
The Blank Theatre, Los Angeles, California, presented a revised version of the musical from March 7, 2002-April 14, 2002. Directed by Daniel Henning, the cast featured Gregory Jbara as Eisenhower, Kate Shindle as Amelia Earhart, and Paula Newsome as Marian Anderson.
A New York revival produced by Transport Group Theatre Company ran at The Connelly Theater in New York City from April 6, 2004 through April 17, 2004. This production received two Drama Desk Award nominations: Outstanding Revival of a Musical and Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Mary Testa). Directed by Jack Cummings III, the cast included Julia Murney (Amelia Earhart), Mary Beth Peil (Eleanor Roosevelt), Mary Testa (Lorena Hickok), Robyn Hussa (Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy), Sherry D. Boone (Marian Anderson), Donna Lynne Champlin, Ruth Gottschall (Margaret Truman), James Hindman (Eisenhower, and Cheryl Stern (Mamie Eisenhower).
The 2004 revival had the added prologue and epilogue, sung individually and by the group, which explains the theme, to "fly away from the constraints that come with the traditional First Lady's privileged life."
The Transport Group Theatre Company's acclaimed 2004 NYC revival was filmed for preservation by The Theatre on Film and Tape Archive, a division of The New York Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center.
The cast album from the Blank Theater production is available on PS Classics.
The plot contains four unrelated stories.
- Over Texas
- The scene is aboard Air Force One on November 22, 1963
- Where's Mamie?
- The White House, 1957
- Eleanor Sleeps Here
- Inside Amelia Earhart's plane, 1936
- Richards, David."Review/Theater: First Lady Suite; Jackie, Mamie and Eleanor, Traveling to Their Destinies,"The New York Times, December 16, 1993
- "L.A.'s Blank Readies Revised LaChiusa First Lady Suite w/ Jbara, Shindle March," playbill.com, March 7, 2002
- Brantley, Ben."THEATER REVIEW; Why the Caged First Ladies Sing,"The New York Times, April 6, 2004
- Sommer, Elyse."A CurtainUp Review, First Lady Suite" curtainup.com, April 2, 2004
- Shenton, Mark.LaChiusa's First Lady Suite to Play London's Union Theatre" playbill.com, August 26, 2009
- Crawford, Skye. "Fringe Review:London Fringe:First Lady Suite" October 7, 2009
- LaChiusa, Michael John. First Lady Suite (1995), Dramatists Play Service, Inc, ISBN 0-8222-1408-3, p. 5