In ‘Lempicka,’ an artist with a big, messy life gets a big, messy musical

NEW YORK — Tamara de Lempicka was a Polish artist born into a privileged Jewish family in Warsaw. She married a handsome lawyer whom she saved from prison during the Russian Revolution, and they both fled west, eventually settling in Paris. There, Lempicka parlayed his formidable painting skills into a successful career as an artist, socialite, and glamorous denizen of the interwar demi-monde.

“The story is a bitch,” says Tamara, played by Eden Espinosa in the new musical “Lempicka.” “But me too.”

The creators of “Lempicka” – book, lyrics and concept by Carson Kreitzer, music by Matt Gould – want their main character to be many things: feminist, sexual revolutionary, pioneering entrepreneur, tortured artist, victim and survivor, and martyr to the end. death. modes of art and history. There is enough evidence in the life of the real Lempicka to substantiate most of these claims to some extent, but this musical wants to prove them all, absolutely, in the space of two and a half hours. The result is a breathtaking, fast-paced power march through some of the darkest decades in European history, and a big, messy, fascinating life is transformed into a simply big, messy play.

The musical, first seen at the Williamstown Theater Festival in 2018, is presented as a flashback: an embittered old artist alone on a park bench in Los Angeles in 1975, ruminating on her life and career, wondering : “How did I end up here? “Her work is forgotten and out of fashion, and she is exiled to a world far from the wit and sophistication she once surrounded herself with.

Suddenly it’s 1916, she’s young again, about to get married, and her mother is begging her to give up painting and live a decent, respectable life. The revolution intervenes and we are off, on a highway built by “Hamilton”, towards the first of the major traumas. After failing to win her husband Tadeusz’s freedom by offering her jewelry to the threatening Bolsheviks, she is forced to give up her body.

The young couple flee to the west, their escape plotted on a map above the stage (set design by Riccardo Hernández), which will also bear fragments of the real Lempicka’s luminous, sensual and slightly cool art deco paintings, including Works were collected and promoted by Madonna. A seductive ensemble of dancers (choreography by Raja Feather Kelly), by turns androgynous, sleazy, menacing and camp, sets the tone for a frenetic idyll of ambition, success and debauchery in the interwar period at Paris.

Lempicka’s art is represented on stage mainly with easels and empty frames, and the story receives the same treatment: presented as a shadow and not as a substance. The revolution that upends the lives of our main characters is cruel, but the grievances that trigger it are passed over in silence. Decades of need, misery and political violence flash by, visible in black and white film clips. If you want to learn more about this and how it relates to art, check out the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition Käthe Kollwitz, an artist a generation older than Lempicka, who left a much greater legacy .

In “Lempicka,” the story is, as they say, one dance number after another. It summons the shocks and jolts that forge the identity and resilience of the artist, which does not give rise to a real character, but rather to a ready-made hero for contemporary political tastes. Espinosa does a heroic job of tying the wires together, but instead of inhabiting A multifaceted character, she must reconcile several characters in the service of various theatrical aims.

Lempicka has an affair with Rafaela, an empowered prostitute (beautifully played and sung by Amber Iman), and his work – portraits of confident women and statuesque nudes – is celebrated as liberating by the LGBT regulars at the Monocle nightclub, who feel a sense of freedom. a bit like the Kit Kat Club from “Cabaret”.

She also wrests a great deal of independence from Tadeusz, played with starchy elegance by Andrew Samonsky, but when she confides in him a terrible secret, the scene falls flat because their relationship has never been consistent. She follows her own path, resisting the dark, modernist ideology of the futurist prophet Marinetti, portrayed as an obnoxious drunk and brutal social seer by George Abud. But it’s unclear whether we should admire the artist for his independence or for his pragmatic, even cynical, submission to elite tastes. The series seems to credit her not only with having embodied the ideal of the New Woman of the 1920s, but also with having invented it. “Your women,” says a ghostly apparition of Rafaela, “they conquer the world.”

Director Rachel Chavkin’s production is sleek and fast-paced, and opens up just enough room for a few truly theatrical moments. Iman’s “The Most Beautiful Bracelet” is Act I The highlight of the show, as well as the climax of the evening, is Beth Leavel’s tender, determined but resigned song about love and memory in Act II in which she plays an aristocratic woman facing her own death.

Gould’s music lacks a strong melodic profile and tends to move quickly toward the big fortissimo notes that flatter his singer’s voice. But the text is clear and effective and the music seems to disappear when the drama – Leavel’s heartbreaking recognition of mortality – is the point.

The real Lempicka is having a moment right now. His work is on display in an exhibition at Sotheby’s and will receive a museum treatment later this year in a retrospective in San Francisco. She’s not as well known as she deserves to be, but she wasn’t as forgotten and hopeless as this musical makes her out to be. His career was interrupted after emigrating to the United States and then to Mexico. But it was already rediscovered in the 1960s, the subject of a major retrospective in Paris in 1972, and has appeared in Madonna’s videos and shows for decades.

In a review published in the late 1980s in Woman’s Art Journal, a slightly dyspeptic critic asserted that Lempicka’s art was more rejected than forgotten: “Her Art Deco portraits are largely unknown today for two good reasons: they’re hopelessly overwhelmed and none of it was very good to begin with.

“Lempicka” challenges both of these assumptions. The public may be inspired by the exhibition and seek out the art itself, which offers a more measured and reasonable response.

Lempicka, at the Longacre Theater, 220 W. 48th St., in New York. 150 minutes, including intermission. lempickamusical.com.

Gn entert
News Source : www.washingtonpost.com


With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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