Marie Christine Begins Working Her Musical Magic Dec. 2

News   Marie Christine Begins Working Her Musical Magic Dec. 2 Marie Christine, the highly-anticipated Medea-inspired musical by composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa, opens Dec. 2 at Lincoln Center Theater's Vivian Beaumont Theatre.
Mary Testa and Audra McDonald in Marie Christine.
Mary Testa and Audra McDonald in Marie Christine. (Photo by Photo by Joan Marcus)

Marie Christine, the highly-anticipated Medea-inspired musical by composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa, opens Dec. 2 at Lincoln Center Theater's Vivian Beaumont Theatre.

The darkly passionate show, which stars Audra McDonald and Anthony Crivello, began previews Oct. 28 and is expected to continue its limited engagement to Jan. 9, 2000, a week's extension from the originally announced Jan. 2 closing.

Graciela Daniele (A New Brain, Ragtime) directs and choreographs. The book, music and lyrics, exploring the world of a passionate Creole-African-American woman played by McDonald, are all by LaChiusa (Hello Again).

Because McDonald has become such a draw, Marie Christine is one of the season's hot tickets, but its life at the Beaumont is apparently limited, due to the recent announcement that Contact, the hit "dance-play" currently at the Mitzi E. Newhouse, will reopen there in early March 2000. The LaChiusa musical has been billed as a limited run since its announcement.

Marie Christine is a modern American retelling of the Greek Medea story by Euripides (circa 431 B.C.). The tale is set in New Orleans a century ago. McDonald plays a passionate young woman willing to do anything to preserve her love for an ambitious sea captain, the Jason figure, played by Crivello. Act One is set in the South, Act Two is in Chicago. LaChiusa wrote the lead role with McDonald in mind. *

Marie Christine represents a test of sorts for its composer and star. LaChiusa has earned a cult following with such musicals as Hello Again (at LCT), The Petrified Prince (at The Public Theater) and Chronicle of a Death Foretold on Broadway. Though each show has had its supporters and has nurtured interest in LaChiusa's future, none have proven a breakout critical or commercial hit. Marie Christine marks his most high profile project to date. Observers in the industry have envied three major Christine-related features in The New York Times in fall 1999.

The omnipresent McDonald most recently starred as Sarah in Ragtime, for which she won her third Tony (the previous two were for Master Class and Carousel ). But, though McDonald has been a star in the New York theatre world for some time now -- and has recently made inroads in recordings ("Audra McDonald"), cabaret (Joe's Pub) and television (TV's "Annie") -- this will be the first time she has been asked to carry a Broadway musical on her own.

Crivello starred in the Kander and Ebb musical Kiss of the Spider Woman. He won a Tony for that role, but has been largely absent from the New York theatre scene since.

Also in the cast of 31 are Mary Testa (Tartuffe, On the Town), Darius de Haas (The Running Man), Kim Huber and Michael McCormick. Sherry Boone will play McDonald's role at Wednesday and Saturday matinees.

The musical's design is by Christopher Barreca (sets), Toni-Leslie James (costumes), Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (lights) and Scott Stauffer (sound). Musical direction is by David Evans; Jonathan Tunick did the orchestrations.

For information, call (212) 239-6200.