La Jolla Playhouse musical explores the art and complicated life of ‘Lempicka’

La Jolla Playhouse musical explores the art and complicated life of ‘Lempicka’

In 1920s and ‘30s Paris, Polish-Russian Artwork Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka was a celebrated

In 1920s and ‘30s Paris, Polish-Russian Artwork Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka was a celebrated artist who mingled with European aristocrats and the culturati and grew to become know as the “baroness with the brush.”

But currently, Lempicka and her placing and sensuous paintings aren’t very well identified, particularly in the United States, where she moved the 12 months in advance of Germany invaded France in 1940. As the the daughter of a Russian Jew, Lempicka still left Paris simply because she feared for her lifetime, just as she had when she fled St. Petersburg in 1917 as the Russian Revolution dawned.

But these historical particulars are just the idea of the paintbrush of the colourful and sophisticated daily life of Lempicka, whose intriguing tale will come to life onstage this 7 days at La Jolla Playhouse. “Lempicka, A New Musical” built its environment premiere in July 2018 at the Williamstown Theatre Competition in New York. It was established to open up at the Playhouse in a pre-Broadway tryout in 2020, but the pandemic pushed back the nearby debut right up until now.

The “Lempicka” inventive group of composer Matt Gould, left, playwright Carson Kreitzer and director Rachel Chavkin at La Jolla Playhouse.

(La Jolla Playhouse)

The musical’s e book, lyrics and concept are by playwright Carson Kreitzer with reserve and new music by composer Matt Gould. Its director is Rachel Chavkin, who received the 2019 Tony Award for her route of the musical “Hadestown.” She also directed the acclaimed Broadway musical “Natasha, Pierre & the Fantastic Comet of 1812.”

Chavkin, who is staging the musical with choreographer Raja Feather Kelly, said she suspects two factors why Lempicka is not much better identified currently are her gender and her somewhat infamous individual life.

A man passes a painting by Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka at a Mexico City exhibition in 2009.

A gentleman passes a portray by Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka at an exhibition of her operate at the Bellas Artes Museum in Mexico City in 2009.

(Gregory Bull / Involved Press)

Lempicka was brazenly bisexual and famously painted some of her woman lovers, which include Rafaela Fano and Suzy Solidor, in the nude. Her very first husband, Baron Tadeusz Lempicki, divorced her in 1931 above her serial affairs. She was also a neglectful mom and had a powerful and forceful individuality, traits art historians might have forgotten in a male artist.

“A ton of lecturers and artwork professors have dismissed her as Deco, which was this diminutive expression that’s been hooked up to women and women of shade due to the fact their fashion or their sort doesn’t conform to the ‘great male theory’ of visible artwork,” Chavkin mentioned. “History relegated her to becoming section of the swirl that created Picasso and Person Ray and Marinetti. And Tamara herself was extremely idiosyncratic. She was an unapologetic and pretty ambivalent mother and she was this very daring, forward-wondering bisexual. There was an remarkable fabulosity to her, but none of it healthy into an straightforward sample.”

Director Rachel Chavkin, left, with actors Jordan Tyson and Amber Iman rehearse a scene for "Lempicka" at La Jolla Playhouse.

Director Rachel Chavkin, still left, with actors Jordan Tyson and Amber Iman rehearse a scene for “Lempicka” at La Jolla Playhouse.

(Jenna Selby)

Telling Lempicka’s story onstage

If ever there was a playwright born to convey to Lempicka’s story, Chavkin thinks it’s Kreitzer, who Chavkin reported “has used her lifetime creating about hard gals.” Kreitzer has created a trio of performs on girls murderers, like serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and she also wrote a enjoy about ladies who eliminate their infants.

Twelve decades in the past, Kreitzer and Gould sat down together in old church in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen area and wrote the initially tune for their “Lempicka” musical, which experienced its initial script reading in 2011. 3 a long time afterwards, Kreitzer emailed Chavkin about the job and Chavkin was promptly hooked.

“‘Lempicka’ hit all of my sweet spots,” Chavkin stated. “I was blown absent by the spiritual and sexual empowerment of this unbelievably complicated heroine. I was blown away by Carson’s composing and the intelligence of it, and by the psychological sweep of Matt’s songs. My beloved variety of do the job is seriously nuanced and abnormal figures from the backdrop of a excellent minute in historical past.”

In 2017, Chavkin brought the musical to Williamstown Theatre Competition artistic director Mandy Greenfield, who was also enchanted with the show and made a decision to produce its premiere. New York Instances theater critic Ben Brantley gave the exhibit a mixed overview, praising its primary woman, Eden Espinosa — who reprises her title part in La Jolla — as very well as Kelly’s choreography and Chavkin’s route. But he termed the demonstrate a “woke throwback” for the reason that it reminded him far too a great deal of a further powerful-willed 20th century blonde: “Evita.”

The company of La Jolla Playhouse's upcoming production of the musical "Lempicka"

The enterprise of La Jolla Playhouse’s future manufacturing of the musical “Lempicka.”

(La Jolla Playhouse)

Chavkin explained the musical has due to the fact gone through significant adjustments, which include a full redesign and tighten-up through the pandemic shutdown.

The musical’s central figures are Lempicka, her partner Tadeusz (played by Andrew Samonsky) and her lover and muse Rafaela (Amber Iman). The musical handles the fantastic moments of transition in Lempicka’s existence, which includes the flight from Russia, the alternatives Lempicka can make to adhere to her creative and passionate muse at great value, and her choice to go away Paris with her next spouse as the Nazis near in.

“Matt and Carson have been relentless in just producing and rewriting to make certain that not just Tamara but the characters of her husband and her muse are dynamic and challenging, though also producing confident every has a second where your heart is leaping out of your upper body for them in pleasure or in worry or despair,” Chavkin explained.

Whilst Lempicka’s vision, generate and inspiration as an artist are central to the musical, Chavkin mentioned her paintings — such as her most renowned piece, “Self Portrait (Tamara in Eco-friendly Bugatti)” — will not be a significant element of the La Jolla production’s actual physical structure. Chavkin explained almost all of Lempicka’s topics had been White Europeans and the Playhouse staging is multi-ethnic.

People look at a painting by Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka at the Bellas Artes Museum in Mexico City in 2009.

Folks search at a painting by Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka at the Bellas Artes Museum in Mexico Metropolis in 2009.

(Gregory Bull / Associated Push)

In modern many years, Lempicka’s paintings have skyrocketed in worth, with the 1932 “Portrait of Marjorie Ferry” fetching a history $21.1 million at a London auction in 2020. Among the her collectors are singers Barbra Streisand and Madonna. But Lempicka’s art has not generally been in superior desire. By the early 1960s, the widowed Lempicka retired as a expert painter, marketed off her possessions and eventually moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, exactly where she died in her snooze in 1980 at age 81.

Chavkin said she finds a profound relationship among how the musical aims to capture times in time, just as Lempicka did as a portrait painter.

“Here you are capturing a very fragile human in a minute of time, recognizing that history can sweep any of us away in a heartbeat,” Chavkin mentioned. “One of the central themes of the present is the concept that we can not regulate the environment, and Tamara was an individual whose lifetime was spun into chaos many occasions by despotic gentlemen and bullies. She was out of command a great deal of the time. What you see in her paintings is this motivation to capture and hold on to and handle a instant in time.”


When: Opens Tuesday and runs by July 24. Showtimes, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays. 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Where: Mandell Weiss Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Generate, La Jolla

Tickets: $25 to $95

Phone: (858) 550-1010