Michael John LaChiusa (born July 24, 1962) is an American musical theatre and opera composer, lyricist, and librettist. He is best known for musically esoteric shows such as Hello Again, Marie Christine, The Wild Party, and See What I Wanna See. He was nominated for four Tony Awards in 2000 for his score and book for both Marie Christine and The Wild Party and received another nomination for his libretto for Chronicle of a Death Foretold.Cite error: The named reference feud was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference post was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
ContentsBiography1.1 Teaching1.2 Performing1.3 Personal life
LaChiusa grew up in Chautauqua, New York, the eldest of three boys in an Italian Catholic family. His parents had a "[v]ery mentally abusive" relationship; Michael was not close to his father, but was encouraged by his mother to pursue his interest in music. He taught himself to play piano at the age of seven and had little formal music training. LaChiusa was influenced early on by the music of "modern American composers" such as John Corigliano, John Adams, and Philip Glass, as well as the musical theatre composers George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, and Stephen Sondheim. LaChiusa graduated high school early and enrolled in a television journalism program, but he dropped out after a semester.
In 1980, LaChiusa moved to New York City, where he took jobs as a music director and accompanist while trying to find songwriting work. In the mid-1980s, he joined the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, where he was strongly influenced by a series of mentors and where he segued from writing "camp" songs to more serious work. In 1993, The Public Theater's producer George C. Wolfe presented LaChiusa's First Lady Suite. A year later, Lincoln Center produced his musical Hello Again Off Broadway. A series of interconnected stories about love based on Arthur Schnitzler's play La Ronde, Hello Again was nominated for ten Drama Desk Awards, including three (Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Music, and Outstanding Lyrics) for LaChiusa.
In 1995, LaChiusa wrote additional book material for the Broadway musical Chronicle of a Death Foretold (an adaptation of Gabriel García Márquez's 1981 novella of the same name.) For the book, written with Graciela Daniele and Jim Lewis, LaChiusa received a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical.
During the 1999-2000 season, two of LaChiusa's large-scale musicals premiered on Broadway: Marie Christine and The Wild Party. Marie Christine, a retelling of the Medea myth set in 19th-century Louisiana, starred Audra McDonald and attracted controversy due to its grim subject matter and demanding score—The New York Times reported that "even the formidable and classically trained McDonald could sing it only six times a week, rather than the standard eight." Marie Christine closed after 42 performances; LaChiusa later said that the show "in my mind should have been performed for three performances.... Only three. It's huge, and it's intensely difficult". The Wild Party was based on the 1928 poem of the same name by Joseph Moncure March and starred Toni Collette, Mandy Patinkin, and Eartha Kitt. The Wild Party struggled commercially; after receiving seven Tony nominations but failing to win a single one, producers closed the show. For both Marie Christine and The Wild Party, LaChiusa received Tony nominations for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.
In 2003, Little Fish, an uncharacteristically cheerful one-act musical for LaChiusa, based on two short stories by Deborah Eisenberg, premiered Off-Broadway. The show's failure sent LaChiusa into a funk; he recalled, "I went, 'My God, they don't want the hard stuff and more challenging material here in this city from me. They don't want something nice and fun, either. What am I supposed to do?'"
In August 2005, LaChiusa published an article in Opera News that disparaged several successful, upbeat Broadway musicals of the 2000s, among them The Producers and Hairspray, which LaChiusa dubbed a "faux-musical". He continued, "Instead of choreography, there is dancing. Instead of crafted songwriting, there is tune-positioning. Faux-musicals are mechanical; they have to be. For expectations to be met, there can be no room for risk, derring-do or innovation." The article caused a great deal of controversy and provoked shocked responses from several of LaChiusa's colleagues, who saw it as an attack.
In Fall 2005, LaChiusa's show See What I Wanna See, based on the stories "In a Grove," "The Dragon," and "Kesa and Morito" by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, had a successful Off-Broadway run at the Public Theater. LaChiusa was nominated for Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics.
In September 2008, he was quoted in Opera News Online as working on an adaptation of Bizet's opera Carmen with Tony winner Audra McDonald in mind.
In April 2009, the Signature Theatre, Arlington, Virginia, premiered Giant, a musical adaptation of Edna Ferber's 1952 novel of the same name with music and lyrics by LaChiusa and book by Sybille Pearson, who wrote the book for the 1983 musical Baby.
Queen of the Mist is a musical adaption of the story of Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Commissioned by Off-Broadway theatre company the Transport Group Queen of the Mist received a developmental lab in fall 2010, and opened in November 2011 at The Gym at Judson. With direction by Jack Cummings III and choreography by Scott Rink, the musical stars Mary Testa and Julia Murney.
LaChiusa's newest work, Nine Fathers of Ariel, is being toted as "a dance musical which centers on a mother's effort to provide her son with good fathering in the face of a war-obsessed world". It is having a 29-hour private industry reading on April 5, 2014. It will be a co-collaboration with Ellen Fitzhugh, and also will have Graciela Daniele at the helm and musical direction by Mary Mitchell Campbell. The cast will include Tonya Pinkins, Marc Kudisch, Malcolm Gets, Telly Leung, Bryce Ryness, Darius de Haas, Stanley Bahorek, Sydney James Harcourt, Ashley Robinson, Casey Robinson, and Hayley Feinstein.
LaChiusa is an adjunct professor at the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
LaChiusa also performs at various cabaret and concert venues, including:La La Chiusa at Joe's Pub (October 16, 2000 – November 5, 2000);The Girly Show, as part of Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series (May 17, 2004) and at Cinespace, Hollywood (August 15, 2005);Platform Series at Lincoln Center Theater (March 29, 2006);Little Fish in Concert at Joe's Pub (July 10, 2006);Concert that featured music from Bernarda Alba and other LaChiusa scores as well as a Little Fish CD Release party ; Alice Ripley and Lea DeLaria, appeared at Joe's Pub (September 8, 2008);
In 2004, LaChiusa told The Washington Post that he was a "gay man, happily single".Green, Jesse. "So Many Musicals to Write, So Little Time", The New York Times, 2006-03-05. Retrieved on 2008-02-29. Blue, Robert Wilder. "Lovers and Friends", USOperaWeb, June 2001. Retrieved on 2008-03-01. Heilpern, John. "Worried About the War? Why Not Forget Your Troubles at Little Fish", The New York Observer, 2003-03-03. Retrieved on 2008-03-01. Pressley, Nelson. "At Long Last, All Systems Are Gogh For 'Yellow': Composer LaChiusa's Difficult Musical Shapes Up", The Washington Post, 2004-10-31. Retrieved on 2008-02-29. "Drama Desk Awards 2006 - Winners 2001". Dramadesk.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05. McKinley, Jesse. "Shut Out of Tonys, The Wild Party Is Over", The New York Times, 2000-06-07. Retrieved on 2008-02-29. Simonson, Robert. "2 Broadway Composers Do Inharmonious Battle", The New York Times, 2005-08-11. Retrieved on 2008-02-29. Portantiere, Michael. "Over the Borderline", Opera News Online, September 2008, vol 73, no. 3. Retrieved on 2008-09-02. Jones, Kenneth."DC's Signature Theatre Will Premiere LaChiusa Musical Giant in 2009; Ace and Whistle Also on Schedule", Playbill, 2008-03-04. Retrieved on 2008-03-04. Brantley, Ben."Theater Review:Obsessed With Taking the Plunge" The New York Times, November 6, 2011 http://www.playbill.com/news/article/189570-Reading-of-Michael-John-LaChiusa-Ellen-Fitzhugh-Dance-Musical-to-Feature-Tonya-Pinkins-Marc-Kudisch-Malcolm-Gets-Telly-Leung-and-More http://www.playbill.com/news/article/189570-Reading-of-Michael-John-LaChiusa-Ellen-Fitzhugh-Dance-Musical-to-Feature-Tonya-Pinkins-Marc-Kudisch-Malcolm-Gets-Telly-Leung-and-More La La LaChiusa listing at Joes Pub, October-November 2000 theatermania.com, accessed July 27, 2009 "Photo Coverage: 'The Girly Show' a Celebration of the Music of Michael John La Chiusa," broadwayworld.com, May 19, 2004 BWW News Desk. "LaChiusa Appears at Blank's Gala for Girly Show, Aug. 15," broadwayworld.com, August 9, 2005 BWW News Desk. "LaChiusa Appears at LCT as Part of Platform Series, March 29," broadwayworld.com, March 29, 2006; Little Fish in concert listing for July 10, 2006 theatermania.com, accessed July 27, 2009 Gans, Andrew. LaChiusa to Celebrate Little Fish CD with Joe's Pub Concert," playbill.com, August 5, 2008 "Michael John LaChiusa:Little Fish release concert listing for September 8, 2008". Joespub.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05. "Photo Moments; Little Fish at Joe's Pub" shkbuzz.wordpress.com, September 18, 2008