Cast Size: Medium (5-21) • Large (14+). Vocal Demands: Challenging. Dance Requirements: Minimal. Good For: College/University • Amateur/Community • Professional Theatre.
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This powerful re-telling of the tragic Medea myth by Michael John LaChiusa was hailed by the San Francisco Examiner as “A major work by one of the most highly regarded new serious songwriters for the stage.” Set in the twilight years of the 19th century, MARIE CHRISTINE chronicles a doomed heroine’s journey from her genteel life of privilege in New Orleans Creole society through betrayal and incomprehensible vengeance in boisterous Chicago. This gripping tale of one headstrong and passionate young woman’s all-consuming love for an ambitious sea captain provides a tour-de-force for its leading lady. When it premiered at the esteemed Lincoln Center Theater, the New York Daily News found it to be “A brilliant re-working of Medea [that] manages at once to make it fresh and to retain its gut-wrenching compulsion.” MARIE CHRISTINE is an extraordinary creation that investigates unsettling mysteries of the psyche as old as the human condition itself."
- Excerpted from "MAKE MINE RARE...BUT WELL DONE! ," as featured in Happy Talk, Volume 13, Issue 2 - Fall 2006
Vocal Range of Characters:
Written By: Michael John LaChiusa
If one were to ask me which musical of mine is my favorite---and I have been asked many times---I wouldn’t be able to say. It is, as it’s often said, like choosing between children, which ones do you love most? If you’re a good parent, you simply can’t choose. But if there is a musical that I can say I loved writing most, it would be MARIE CHRISTINE. It’s probably the least familiar of my musicals---if not the most controversial. Of course, it would have to be controversial: it’s based in part on the classic Greek myth of Medea, transplanted to turn-of-the-century New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s about an interracial love gone terribly wrong; it’s about magic and revenge and passion and murder. Brothers are stabbed to death. Young brides and elderly fathers are poisoned. Children are killed. It’s a bloody carnage set to song and dance. But that’s why writing this musical was so thrilling: how far could I take things? How high is the ceiling? How thick and how fragile are the rules of musical theatre? I really wanted to find out for myself. Another major reason why I loved writing MARIE CHRISTINE was because of the extraordinary Audra McDonald who, once she came into my life, has continued to enthrall and inspire me.
The genesis of MARIE CHRISTINE is a convergence of coincidences and surprise revelations. In 1993, we were auditioning actresses for HELLO AGAIN, my musical based on Schnitzler’s “La Ronde”. A young woman, recently graduated from Juilliard, came into the room and proceeded to sing in a voice so clarion, so beautiful, so unique that I thought I would faint or cry or hide under the table for fear of the Almighty. Though she was too young for the roles we were casting, I said aloud, “I’m writing that woman a musical someday.” That woman was Audra McDonald. Cut to a few years later, 1995. While during a break in rehearsing my first Broadway show, CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD, a dance piece conceived and directed by choreographer Graciela Daniele, Graciela and I were chatting about our favorite plays. Both of us instantly chose MEDEA, by Euripedes. Medea, an enchantress on a remote island, meets and falls in love with a sea captain, Jason, who is on a mission to obtain the Golden Fleece, which belongs to Medea’s father. Medea helps Jason in stealing the Golden Fleece, and in the process, kills her own brother to protect her beloved. She flees with Jason back to his homeland where he discards her for another woman. Wronged, consumed with passion and revenge, Medea kills their two children and ascends into the sky in a chariot. It is, in many ways, the ultimate horror story but one so potent in its theme. Though one can’t condone what Medea does, one finds understanding in why she does it. It’s a story of what happens when passions are allowed to run unchecked; it’s a story of the hubris of heroes; it’s a story of cultures clashing and intolerance of another ethnicity and race and creed. That’s what makes the myth a myth: timeless and eternal truths and questions about the human condition. Cut to a few years later. My younger brother, Matthew, was living in New Orleans. Matt found an out-of-print paperback book that he thought I might enjoy: “Stories and Legends of New Orleans.” In the book, stories of the famous New Orleans’ voudon queen, Marie LaVeau, are recounted. She was very successful, very popular and sometimes very notorious practitioner of the art of voudon, or voodoo. Historically, her life is rather sketchy, but belief in her is not; people today still call on her name to help them in crisis--to aid in love affairs, or health and money issues. There was one line in the book that struck me when reading about Marie LaVeau. “It’s said she had a daughter who ran away with a white man to the North.” I found myself rereading that one line over and over again. And then an idea was just, I don’t know, there: Medea. Marie Laveau’s daughter. Audra.
It didn’t take too long to turn the idea “Medea/Marie Laveau’s daughter/Audra” into MARIE CHRISTINE. I followed the Euripedes play closely, especially for the second act. I relied on earlier plays and myths from Greek and Roman writers, as well as other literary sources to model the first act. I plundered the American Songbook to evoke New Orleans and Chicago in the early years of the 20th century, using Haitian music, Creole folksongs, ragtime, early jazz, early blues, drum rhythms from Congo Square, period classical art song, and even a touch of R&B. It was fun to research and then filter what I’d discovered. But best of all was writing the lead role for an astounding actress and singer who would portray an enchantress---who actually could enchant with her magical voice.
Cut to 1999. On the Vivian Beaumont stage at Lincoln Center Theatre, Graciela Daniele directed a lavish, stunning production starring Audra McDonald in a shattering performance as Marie Christine. Jonathan Tunick provided the gorgeous orchestrations for a 17-piece orchestra. Brothers were stabbed to death. Young brides and elderly fathers were poisoned. Children were killed. Audiences were polarized, not only about the right or wrong of Marie’s actions, but whether the musical I’d written was actually a musical, or even should be a musical. People either loved it or hated it. There was no in-between. For me, the whole process of writing MARIE CHRISTINE had been a trip to paradise and more.
"I think we have to feel empathy for the character of Medea. If we don't, why—and it's MARIE CHRISTINE that I'm writing here, as well, based on the story of Medea. We have to feel some empathy for her. Her crime is not to be condoned, but at the same time it should be understood. Audra [who originated the role] elicits a great deal of empathy. Her personal persona, yes, she is wholesome up to a point, but I think that is part and parcel of the character, until, of course, this love affair gone wrong erupts her from within... My central character, Marie Christine, is essentially an anti-hero. What happens to her and how the plot develops and unfolds, is essentially the desconstruction of a woman's memory. The score reflects that to a certain degree; certain songs get deconstructed or reconstructed throughout the show to reflect a central series of themes that have been created for this character."
Written By: Michael John LaChiusa
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- MARIE CHRISTINE - Orchestration Package (18 Books/17 Players)
- 1 – PIANO VOCAL SCORE
- 1 – REED I (Flute, Bb Clarinet, Piccolo, Alto Flute, Soprano Sax)
- 2 – Violin I, II
- 1 – REED II (Bb Clarinet, Eb Clarinet, Clarinet in A)
- 1 – REED III (Bb Clarinet, Oboe, English Horn)
- 1 – REED IV (Bassoon, Bass Clarinet, Flute, Bb Clarinet)
- 1 – HORN I
- 1 – HORN II
- 1 – TRUMPET I (Bb Trumpet, Cornet)
- 1 – TRUMPET II
- 1 – ON STAGE PERCUSSION (see list below)
- 1 – VIOLA
- 1 – CELLO
- 1 – BASS
- 1 – PERCUSSION I (see "Materials Notes", under "Production Information")
- 1 – PERCUSSION II (see "Materials Notes", under "Production Information")
- 1 – Piano
- Perusal Package (1lib., 1 PV)
- 1 – Libretto
- 1 – PIANO VOCAL SCORE
- Rehearsal Set (42 Books)
- 20 – Libretto
- 1 – Logo CD
- 22 – PIANO VOCAL SCORE
- Digital Logo
- MARIE CHRISTINE - PRE-PRODUCTION PACKAGE
- 1 – Libretto
- 1 – PIANO VOCAL SCORE
2 Boys (non-speaking roles)
Woman in Prison #1
Woman in Prison #2
Woman in Prison #3
Marie Christine L'Adresse
Marie Christine L'Adresse's Mother
Jean - Marie Christine's elder brother
Paris - her other brother, younger than Jean
Lisette - Marie Christine's maid
Beatrice - Jean's fiancée
2 Children - three and five years old, the children of Marie Christine and Dante
Magdalena - an entertainer
2 'Daughters' - performers with Magdelena. Will also play the daughters of Esau Parker
Charles Gates - Dante's financier
Leary - associate of Gates
McMahon - associate of Gates
Dante as an old man
Helena - daughter of Gates
MARIE CHRISTINE takes place in New Orleans and in Chicago between 1894 and 1899.
A Woman's Prison in Chicago
A Park on Lake Pontchartrain, outside of New Orleans
Marie Christine's elegant home on Mandoline Street and its interiors
The Garconierre and Ballroom of Marie Christine's House
A Saloon in the First Ward, Chicago
A Small House and its interiors
Interior of a Church
A High Scaffold