Michael John LaChiusa, Audra McDonald, Anthony Crivello Marie Christine (1999 Broadway Cast) Genres:Pop, Soundtracks, Classical, Broadway & Vocalists A retelling of Medea transposed to 19th-century America, Marie Christine falls short of its lofty ambitions, which still makes it more audacious than most of the current Broadway fare. Composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiu... more »sa's lyrics can be cumbersomely narrative, and too often he dispatches a song without letting it develop fully, as if refusing to be overly easy on the ear. But the man's dramatic flair is undeniable, and this recording allows us to fully appreciate subtleties that got drowned in Graciela Daniele's often-dreary staging at Lincoln Center. Second-act opener "Cincinnati" shows that when he feels like it, LaChiusa can write the kind of boisterous big number that brings down a house. In the title role, Audra McDonald confirms that she is an incandescent presence. This welcome recording may help rehabilitate a misunderstood show. --Elisabeth Vincentelli« less
A retelling of Medea transposed to 19th-century America, Marie Christine falls short of its lofty ambitions, which still makes it more audacious than most of the current Broadway fare. Composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa's lyrics can be cumbersomely narrative, and too often he dispatches a song without letting it develop fully, as if refusing to be overly easy on the ear. But the man's dramatic flair is undeniable, and this recording allows us to fully appreciate subtleties that got drowned in Graciela Daniele's often-dreary staging at Lincoln Center. Second-act opener "Cincinnati" shows that when he feels like it, LaChiusa can write the kind of boisterous big number that brings down a house. In the title role, Audra McDonald confirms that she is an incandescent presence. This welcome recording may help rehabilitate a misunderstood show. --Elisabeth Vincentelli
"The "Beautiful" motif fits this show well... the music is beautiful. And arrogant. And lonely- Except for Audra's sake, I can't see how anyone went to see this.
My biggest complaint with with music is that LaChiusa refuses to allow his melodies to develop fully, which is unfortunate, because he's written some of the most beautiful music to come to New York since Adam Guettel's Floyd Collins, or even Sondhiem's Passion. In too many songs, he allows the song to build much too quickly; "Tell Me" for example, moves in suddenly, which, while striking, fails to fully develop the rage Marie Christine feels. Also, it seems LaChiusa feels that no chord, or even rhythm can be anything less than confusing. There doesn't need to be three melodies within the chord at the end of "Finale", nor does he need to follow the one truly melodic song in the entire show, "I Will Love You", with a jarring and, frankly painful, chord that seemed to assault my ears. This certainly doesn't help the hummable factor.
On another note, Audra McDonald is astoudning. She owns every note of LaChiusa's amazingly complex score. Her presence fills up the air from the moment you hear her voice. Anyone else in this role would have resulted in a complete wreck of a musical\"chamber opera". The rest, with the possible exceptions of Mary Testa and Darius DeHaas, are adequate and have their moments.
Ultimately, LaChiusa's music leaves a powerful impression; For all it's faults, I can't stop listening to several songs from Marie Christine: "Tell Me," "Your Name," "Paradise is Burning Down," "Prison in a Prison," and of course, "Beautiful" all enter my mind and won't let go, much like Marie herself."
marcia | Poughkeepsie NY | 02/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll be brief by saying that I disagree with most of the posted reviews that claim LaChiusa's music to be cold or unncessarilly complicated. After speaking with Marc Kudisch (from LaChiusa's "Wild Party")after a performance of "See What I Wanna See"--an equally moving and stimulating piece--he recommended that I listen to LaChiusa's works multiple times to appreciate their subtle genius. I've listened to the recording of Marie Christine well over 50 times and am still discovering subtle patterns and recurring melodies that provide moving links to the characters' respective emotional journeys and memories at the time. More importantly, however, LaChiusa is unafraid to tackle dark subject matter and present it in an honest and raw way--seemingly unchained by the expected commercial value recquired of most Broadway shows today. Because of this, he is able to tap into some of the most primal of human emotions through his music, which is likewise butressed by the fantastic Audra and supporting cast. Perhaps its the actor/musician in me that finds this piece intriguing, but I believe that anyone who is willing to listen to this ablum without any pre-conceived notions about what it is or should be, can benefit from not only the beauty and insight of the music, but also the thoughtful presentation of the raw elements of the human experience that are, in some ways, universal to all of us. In other words, I highly recommmend this CD as one of LaChiusa's exemplary works."
Wren Spencer | USA | 01/31/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Let me place my view of this piece in context -- I have just come off an extensive study of Gershwin's Porgy & Bess, a show that, sadly, was viewed -- and presented -- as a Broadway vehicle until the Houston Opera restored its full operatic score in 1976. I HATED P&B as Broadway vehicle/movie, but find it interpretation as an opera breathtaking.
I say all that to say that from the first time I heard Marie Christine I could not - for the life of me -- figure out what the *&(& it was doing on Broadway. Kudos for the reviewer who noted Medea isn't a sympathetic figure -- she isn't by B'way terms.
However, she fits comfortably into the world of opera - a place filled with unsympathetic leads.
I'd like to see MC staged by an opera company. Not "sold" as a B'way musical. Look at MC compared to Hairspray, Spamalot, even Guettel's Light... then place it in context with La Traviata, Aida, Carmen... "
OUTSTANDING! NOT TO BE MISSED . . . . . .
J. T Waldmann | Carmel, IN, home to the fabulous new Regional Perf | 05/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Boy! Heather Headley must have been unbelievably wonderful in AIDA, in view of the fact that she received the 2000 Tony and Drama Desk Awards instead of Audra McDonald who IS absolutely incredible as MARIE CHRISTINE. Did the fact that Ms. McDonald had already received three Tonys, a Theatre World Award, and a Drama Desk Award have any bearing on the voting? Or that AIDIA ran for 1852 performances, 1810 more than MARIE CHRISTINE's forty-two? Ms. McDonald received her fourth Tony & her second Drama Desk Award in 2004 for A RAISIN IN THE SUN and is in contention again this year for the revival of 110 IN THE SHADE. Another interesting tidbit: Ms. Headley and Ms. McDonald appeared respectively as Lorrell Robinson and Deena Jones in the September 24, 2001 benefit performance of DREAMGIRLS, available on the Nonesuch label.
With MARIE CHRISTINE, Michael John LaChiusa firmly establishes himself at the forefront of the "serious" composers for the American Musical Theater. Upon LaChiusa's acceptance of a residency with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2004, USOperaWeb Managing Editor Robert Wilder Blue wrote, "We don't imagine that musical theater composer Michael John LaChiusa woke up one morning in the later years of the 1990s and made a decision to be more controversial.
"Nonetheless, he set Broadway astir . . . with MARIE CHRISTINE and THE WILD PARTY, musicals whose subject matters (the Medea story and sexual escapades in the 1920s, respectively) were found to be unsuitable for that Disney-esque landscape, and whose music didn't set audiences to whistling upon leaving the theater. Worse yet, those works didn't conform to many critics' and theatergoers' preset ideas of categorization: were they musicals or were they operas? Finally, how were they to be judged? Were they the work of a genius or a hack? Critics and audiences have not been so divided in their impressions and opinions since Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY hit the stage in 1970."
David Finkle wrote (in "The TheaterMania Guide to Musical Theater Recordings"), "LaChiusa has a gift for ravishing melody but cuts corners by not bothering to develop the themes and motifs into rounded songs. Seemingly allergic to the thirty-two-bar ditty, he prefers to construct his scores as if they're ever-evolving fragments of music. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it can strike the listener as continual 'songus interruptus.'"
It works for me, and works incredibly well. Finkle further states, "LaChiusa's great fortune is in having Audra McDonald apply her gorgeous mezzo-soprano to his concoctions." He is also fortunate in having Anthony Crivello playing the part of Dante Keyes, Mary Testa as the Entertainer, and an outstanding cast of singers. Equally fortunate is having Jonathan Tunick supply the exciting orchestrations.
Opera or Broadway musical? Do we really have to make that distinction? All I can tell you is that MARIE CHRISTINE is the most exciting piece of music I have heard in a long, long time.
One of my fondest memories is seeing the great Dame Judith Anderson as MEDEA back in the mid-60s. I think she would be very pleased with Mr. LaChiusa's musical and especially with Audra McDonald's ravishing performance.