The RCA Victor cast album of Michael John LaChiusa's Marie Christine, with Audra McDonald singing the title role, is in stores April 18, luring those who missed the limited engagement of the prolific composer's operatic work.
Audiences were on the edge of their seats for composer-lyricist librettist LaChiusa's Medea-inspired musical, which opened Dec. 2, 1999, at Lincoln Center Theater's Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Eerie, with a hint of impending violence, the largely sung-through, darkly passionate show divided audiences, but undeniably got people talking about the nature and definitions of "musical theatre." Some called the show opera with subtle nuances, others called it musical theatre minus "numbers" or traditional climaxes.
McDonald played a Creole-African American woman who flees her New Orleans past to an uncertain future with a man in Chicago.
The album was recorded Dec. 6. Jay David Saks produced. Orchestrations are by Jonathan Tunick, musical director is David Evans.
* Marie Christine, which also starred Anthony Crivello, began previews Oct. 28, 1999, and continued to Jan. 9, extending one week.
Graciela Daniele (A New Brain, Ragtime) directed and choreographed, with a chorus of performers seated on stage to view and join the action, as necessary.
The book, music and lyrics are all by LaChiusa (Hello Again), whose Broadway tuner, The Wild Party, was recorded April 17 for a May 23 release.
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.
Tom Lazarus served as recording engineer on the Marie Christine disc.
Marie Christine represented 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 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 ("Way Back to Paradise," "How Glory Goes"), cabaret (Joe's Pub) and television (TV's "Annie") -- this was the first time she was 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 were Mary Testa (Tartuffe, On the Town), Darius de Haas (The Running Man), Kim Huber and Michael McCormick. Sherry Boone played McDonald's role at Wednesday and Saturday matinees.