She lived a wild tempestuous, curler coaster life. Typically rich, generally poor. Each well-known and forgotten. An Artwork Deco artist, iconoclast and provocateur, a tastemaker and groundbreaker, the toast of Paris, New York and Hollywood, who died in obscurity in Mexico, her ashes, at her request, forged into the stay volcano Popocatépetl.
And now, 42 years after her demise, she rises once more, phoenix-like, with a brand new musical bearing her identify, and her work fetching tens of thousands and thousands at high-end public sale homes.
She was Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980), born Tamara Rosalia Gurwik-Górska in Warsaw Poland, to a rich Jewish lawyer and a Russian socialite.
She met her aristocratic Polish-lawyer husband, Tadeusz Lempicki in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and married him a yr later, when she was 18.
In 1917, when he was arrested by the key police, she made the final word sacrifice to get him out. They escaped the Russian Revolution and ended up as refugees in Paris. In 1939, because the Nazi invasion threatened, she as soon as once more, all the time cognizant of her Jewish heritage, feared for her life and escaped to the US.
Many times, she needed to re-invent herself. “There’s a sure freedom in dropping the whole lot,” she says. “Overlook what got here earlier than.” “The century’s totally different, so why shouldn’t I be?”
All of this (and way more) makes its method into the brand new Broadway-bound musical, “Lempicka,” having its West coast premiere on the La Jolla Playhouse.
An earlier model of the piece premiered in 2018 on the Williamstown Theatre Pageant in Massachusetts. That present was scheduled for a 2020 debut on the Playhouse, however Covid pressured a change of plans.
So, right here we’re, with a much-revised incarnation of “Lempicka,” which although it was conceived by playwright/lyricist Carson Kreitzer round 2010, earlier than she met composer and co-librettist Matt Gould, appears intently associated to Ellis Avery’s 2012 historic novel, “The Final Nude.” The ebook, set primarily in 1927 Paris, is narrated by the younger 17 year-old runaway, Rafaela Fano, who was Lempicka’s lover and muse.
Tony Award-winning director Rachel Chavkin, whose fantastically stylized work was final seen domestically in “The Royale” in 2016 at The Outdated Globe, and the current touring manufacturing of “Hadestown,” has been connected to the undertaking since 2014.
Lempicka (Eden Espinosa, with powerhouse vocals, particularly in her deep, wealthy, alto vary) was a maverick, a radical. Not essentially the most devoted of wives or moms, she led a flagrantly hedonistic life, hobnobbing with excessive rollers and interesting in a number of affairs, with each women and men.
She began portray significantly in Paris, to help the household when her husband couldn’t appear to adapt (“What’s a person with no nation?” he laments). Her second husband was the Baron Raoul Kuffner (native stalwart Victor E. Chan), a wedding that gave her the moniker “The Baroness with a Brush.”
Though this musical presents a tough define of the arc of her eventful life, it focuses particularly on the power and delirium that was Jazz Age Paris within the Twenties, and the sexual empowerment of ladies that birthed.
We see Rafaela as a someday prostitute and cabaret singer (magnificent Amber Iman, who brings a quiet grandeur to the frenetic piece, along with her sultry presence and beautiful voice. From July 12-24 Ximone Rose will take over the position). As Lempicka’s muse, lover and obsession, Rafaela is resented by Lempicka’s husband (Andrew Samonsky) and daughter Kizette (Jordan Tyson).
We hear a bit about Lempicka’s artwork (“Line, coloration, type, shadow and light-weight,” paying homage to the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine 1985 musical, “Sunday within the Park with George”). She appears at an individual and sees coloration: “cobalt, Prussian blue, cerulean, sapphire… crimson, scarlet, vermilion, rose madder.” However we don’t see a lot of her artwork (rights points?).
We meet Lempicka’s trainer/harshest critic/antagonist, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (George Abud), who tells her “We’ve to disturb, disrupt the world.” The actual Marinetti was founding father of the Futurist motion, which decried the previous and celebrated the trendy, mechanical world. (He was additionally co-author of the Fascist Manifesto). He turns right into a Mussolini-loving black-shirt monster, reminding Lempicka about Hitler’s notion of “degenerate artwork” — “Jews and queers. You may be erased. The long run is now and it’s mine.” Within the musical, he additionally shares Rafaela, a lot to Lempicka’s chagrin.
When she sees the starched, uniformed Marinetti, Lempicka is aware of the celebration is over and he or she has to go away Paris, the place she’d launched Rafaela to a hidden speakeasy-like bar/cabaret, Le Monocle, whose motto is “Liberté, ‘Egalité, Lesbianité.” The (infamous) place is run by singer Suzy Solidor (Natalie Pleasure Johnson) with whom Lempicka additionally had an affair, although not on this present.
We see how the artist struggles for acceptance in a person’s world; we briefly see her melancholy and tried suicide.
However we don’t ever actually get inside her head, or get a way of what she actually thinks and feels. We’re too caught up within the turbulence of the time and the manufacturing.
Chavkin is understood for her multisensory sensibility, however she’s actually outdone herself this time, because of her design workforce and choreographer Raja Feather Kelly.
The extraordinary deal with revolution, change and the longer term are represented within the angular strains and revolving set (Riccardo Hernandez), neon and flashing lights (Bradley King) and ever-changing projections (Peter Negrini), each archival and inventive. It’s a phantasmagoria of motion greater than artwork.
Even the sensuality is extra hinted at than proven. We see extra Artwork Deco within the lovely costumes (Anita Yavich) and manufacturing design than in Lempicka’s work — although the icy cubist/neoclassical mixture of her well-known self-portrait, “Tamara in a Inexperienced Bugatti,” from 1929) dominates the set earlier than the proceedings start.
The rating, excellently performed by a 10-piece orchestra beneath the baton of Charity Wicks, echoes the general esthetic: relentlessly excessive power, high-volume, extremely belted (all that usually making it arduous to discern the lyrics). The metallic, rock-infused music is insistent and unremitting, solely mitigated by Rafaela’s bluesy, scatting moments of welcome calm (“Stillness,” “Bracelet”).
There are some beautiful stage photos, and anthemic show-stoppers (“Love is for Fools,” “Girl Is”).
However with practically three hours at a frenzied, feverish tempo, the present may use extra revising, condensing — and coronary heart. And much more depth of character. Proper now, the piece has the chilly, arduous floor of her work. Maybe that’s intentional, but it surely retains us at an emotional take away.
It is a whirlwind tour of a subversive life, but it surely must breathe extra, and go deeper inside this pushed non-conformist, a serial survivor who was hellbent on doing issues her method, being seen and being remembered.
Her distinguished collectors embrace Madonna, Jack Nicholson and Barbra Streisand. Perhaps now, you’ll keep in mind her, too.
- “Lempicka: A New Musical,” a West coast premiere, runs on the La Jolla Playhouse (Mandell Weiss Theatre, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive) by July 24
- Performances: Tuesday and Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
- Tickets ($25-$95) will be obtained at 858-550-1010 or www.lajollaplayhouse org
- Working time: 2 hrs. 45 min.
- Word: Whereas development continues, there are shuttles from the distanced parking zone.
- COVID coverage: Masks are required indoors
Pat Launer, a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation, is a long-time San Diego arts author and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and critiques will be discovered at patlauner.com.