Throughtout history, the presidential first ladies have intrigued the American people. So has Michael John LaChuisa's First Lady Suite, now extending an extra two weeks at Los Angeles' Blank Theatre. The world premiere production of the revamped musical will now continue through April 28. First Lady Suite opened March 9.
The piece, which revisits the lives of various 20th Century Presidential First Ladies, stars Victor/Victoria and Chicago's Gregory Jbara as Eisenhower/Bess Truman, former Miss America and Cabaret star Kate Shindle as aviator Amelia Earhart, and Violet and Carousel's Paula Newsome as Marian Anderson.
Blank artistic director Daniel Henning (Precious Sons, Hello Again, Starr Struck) directs the four part look at various First Ladies and the history surronding them. "Over Texas" visits the Secretaries of Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy as they fly into Dallas on November 22, 1963. In "Where's Mamie?" Mamie Eisenhower travels through time and space to warn her husband off an affair and of the upcoming racial strife during his presidency. The comic "Olio" features Margaret Truman attempting to sing at a recital while she is constantly interrupted by Lady Bess. The final piece, "Eleanor Sleeps Here," finds Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok flying over Washington with Amelia Earhart. Henning and LaChiusa are making adjustments to the show, including the addition of an opening and closing number to frame the piece.
First Lady Suite was first presented Off Broadway at the Public Theater in December 1993. Other LaChuisa musicals include the Tony nominees Marie Christine and The Wild Party.
Also in the L.A. cast are Eydie Alyson as Mamie Eisenhower, Heather Lee (Beauty and the Beast) as Mary Gallagher, Mary-Par Green (Starr Struck) as Lorena Hickok, Bronwen Booth as Jackie Kennedy, Evelyn Halus as Eleanor Roosevelt and Irene Warner as Margaret Truman. Tickets are $30. The Blank Theatre plays the Second Stage Theatre at 6500 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. For ticket information, call (323) 661-9827. The Blank Theatre Company is on the web at http://www.theblank.com.
The Blank Theatre Company is known for its recent productions of The Why, Starr Struck: A Musical Investigation and Hello Again as well as its artistic producer, TV's Noah Wylie. The Los Angeles-based company was founded in 1990.
— By Christine Ehren