Original cast recording
|Music||Michael John LaChiusa|
|Lyrics||Michael John LaChiusa|
|Book||Michael John LaChiusa|
|Basis||Loosely based on Medea|
Marie Christine is a musical written by Michael John LaChiusa. It opened on Broadway in 1999. Set in 1890s New Orleans and then 5 years later in Chicago; the story is loosely based on the Greek play Medea, and uses elements of voodoo rituals and practices. The title character was based in part on the historical figure of Marie Laveau – specifically, her daughter, who took the same name – and the myths surrounding them.
The musical opened on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater of Lincoln Center on December 2, 1999 and closed on January 9, 2000 after 42 performances and 39 previews. Directed and choreographed by Graciela Daniele, it starred Audra McDonald as Marie Christine, Anthony Crivello as Dante Keyes, Vivian Reed as Marie Christine's voodoo priestess mother, and Mary Testa as Magdalena.
The production was nominated for several Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical (LaChiusa), Best Score (LaChiusa), and Best Leading Actress in a Musical (McDonald).
Columbia Stages presented the first New York City revival, opening on March 6, 2013 through March 9th and was staged in a raw space in at 3LD Technology and Art Center directed by Raymond Zilberberg.
In New Orleans in 1899 Marie Christine, a racially mixed woman, is in prison. Three of the prisoners, acting as a Greek chorus, follow her as she tells her story. Marie's mother is a practitioner of voodoo magic. In 1894 Marie had met Dante Keyes, a white sea captain from Chicago, whose ship is stranded. They fall in love and sail for 5 years along the Eastern seaboard and have two boys. They finally start a home in Chicago. However, Dante is now more interested in the political world of Chicago and runs for Alderman, telling Marie that she must leave. He becomes engaged to Helena, the daughter of the political boss, Charles Gates. In a confrontation, Gates offers to keep the children with Dante, but Marie refuses. On the day of his wedding, a present that Marie has given Helena turns out to be poison and kills her. Finally, Marie reveals that she has also killed her children.
The production received mixed reviews.
Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times: "When Audra McDonald sings her first notes as the Medea-like heroine of Marie Christine, Michael John LaChiusa's solemn, sometimes somnolent musical tragedy at Lincoln Center, there is clearly sorcery at work.... Marie Christine ... is a resounding confirmation of Ms. McDonald's status as a vocal artist of singular skills and sensibility.... As a musical portrait of an individual, Marie Christine is stunning; as a compelling, complete production, it still feels oddly unfinished. Despite ravishing orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, the score rarely achieves much momentum or intensity on its own, and its recurrent motifs don't haunt the imagination as they should."
Michael Feingold, reviewing for the Village Voice, wrote: "Proficient, skilled, and imaginative, LaChiusa marshals an enormous panoply of approaches to tell his tale, but it doesn't hold together, even with the towering talent of Audra McDonald at its center, because the myth won't supply what he needs from it; his constantly shifting strategies only diffuse it further. Though LaChiusa's blurry conception is often conveyed in equally blurry lyrics, his music, with its constant restless invention, probably deserves a fairer hearing than it gets here. More than any new score I've heard recently, it wants unplugging."
- Bouthiller, Russell. broadwaybeat.com BROADWAY SNAP-SHOT:Marie Christine" broadwaybeat.com, December 13, 1999
- Brantley, Ben. "Theatre Review: The Promises of an Enchantress," The New York Times, December 3, 1999
- Feingold, Michael. "Women's Stresses", Village Voice, December 7, 1999
- Internet Broadway Database listing
- "Michael John LaChiusa Makes the Story Sing", November 30, 1999
- Marie Christine plot and production information at guidetomusicaltheatre.com
- Marie Christine production notes, composre's notes, review summaries, song list at rnh.com