The posthumous New York City debut of late Tony-nominated composer Elizabeth Swados' The Beautiful Lady officially opens at La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre May 8 after beginning previews May 5. Composed by Swados in 1984, the Off-Off-Broadway musical will run through May 28.
Broadway alums fill the cast, including Tom Nelis (Indecent), Henry Stram (Titanic), Ashley Pérez Flanagan (Freestyle Love Supreme), Andrew Polec (Bat Out of Hell), Kate Fulgei (Spring Awakening), George Abud (The Visit), Starr Busby (Octet), Djore Nance, Paula Gaudier, Red Guhde, Jacob Louchheim, and Maya Sharpe.
The actors portray real figures in The Beautiful Lady, which is set in the historic Stray Dog café in St. Petersburg, Russia. The café was a popular meeting spot for poets, writers, performers, and other artists between 1911 and 1915. There they pushed the boundaries of art and language as part of a revolution that would eventually turn on them. The Beautiful Lady explores "the power of art and the delicate nature of free speech."
In its exploration of the threats which existed against free speech then, and continue to exist now, the musical features provocative writing of the time including poetry by Anna Akhmatova, Alexander Blok, and Marina Tsvetaeva. The text has been translated into English by Paul Schmidt.
Anne Bogart directs the production which features a score by Swados, who earned five Tony nominations for Runaways in 1978. Jocelyn Clarke has adapted the book and Swados' longtime collaborator Kris Kukul has provided musical arrangements. Also serving on the creative team are music director Adrian Ries, scenic designer Andromache Chalfant, lighting designer Brian H. Scott, costume designer Gabriel Berry, and choreographer Miki Orihara.
The Beautiful Lady receives its debut New York City staging more than seven years after Swados' death. Swados was an associate of La MaMa's founder Ellen Stewart. La MaMa's Artistic Director Mia Yoo said, “Throughout her career, Liz came back to La MaMa time and again to develop new work. Like Ellen Stewart, she spent her life influencing and empowering young minds through her work teaching. Both she and Anne Bogart are change-makers, revolutionary voices whose work has transformed how we think about theatre.”