‘Frida. The Musical’ will take the painter’s life story to Broadway

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Mexican painter Frida Kahlo has been the focus of so much attention – films, immersive experiences, countless T-shirts and tote bags – that it’s surprising there is still Kahlo content to be created. But Fridamania knows no end: On Thursday, it was announced that Kahlo’s life story would be turned into a musical.

The production, which is slated to open on Broadway in 2024, after regional tryouts next year, will follow Kahlo’s life from Mexico City to Paris, New York and back to the famous “Blue House” where she was born and died in 1954. Currently titled “Frida, the Musical”, the show will include music by Jaime Lozano, lyrics by playwright Neena Beber and will be produced by Valentina Berger.

Much has already been said about Frida Kahlo, but the creators of the musical hope the series will offer a fresh look at Kahlo’s life, bringing to light previously unknown details and personal stories about the beloved entertainer. . It will be based in part on the book “Intimate Frida” by her niece Isolda P. Kahlo and informed by conversations with Kahlo’s family in Mexico. Although there have been other attempts to turn Kahlo’s life story into a musical, this is the only one that her family has officially approved.

“In all the stories I heard when I was little, our family remembered Aunt Frida as a very cheerful woman,” said Mara Romeo Kahlo, universal heiress to the Frida Kahlo inheritance, in a statement. statement to the Washington Post. “She was passionate about Mexican music, arts and culture. “Frida, The Musical” pays homage to everything she was: a real woman who fought for her dreams, loved like everyone else and always lived ahead of her time. »

While Kahlo merchandise sometimes portrays the artist as a bubbly feminist icon, art historians tend to focus on her physique and emotions. suffering – portrayed so vividly in his work – the musical’s creators say they want to capture something more three-dimensional. “We really want to see Frida through a broader perspective,Lozano said in a phone interview.

Producer Valentina Berger agrees: “Everyone knows a colder Frida, a suffering Frida, but she loved life,” Berger said. “She was really, really fun. That’s what we want to portray. I used to have a sad vision of Frida, like – ‘Oh, poor woman.’ Now knowing how much she was so intelligent and intelligent, I admire her.

Beber, the playwright, is thrilled to capture Kahlo’s fun side, which she says is often overlooked. “I really connected with his humor,” she said. “I don’t think I knew how funny she was – that she had this wry, dry sense of humor. She was truly one of the people.

The musical is just the latest of many forays into Frida’s life. The 2002 biopic “Frida” (starring Salma Hayek as Kahlo and Alfred Molina as her painter husband Diego Rivera) received mixed reviews. More recently, the artist has nurtured immersive experiences, including “Mexican Geniuses”. Her estate also recently announced that they are developing a television series based on her life and work.

For Beber, the seemingly endless content doesn’t mean that Frida’s life is already over. “Why do people still do Shakespeare? ” she says. “Why do people still find ways to make ‘Hamlet’ exciting? How many self-portraits did Frida make? Not bad. I think there is room for several Fridas. We want to bring our own passions, love, interests, pain to her story. Let there be several Fridas.

You might think you know Frida Kahlo, but you’ll never understand her pain

Frida’s personal story certainly has a dramatic quality. The artist had an affair with the Russian-Ukrainian revolutionary Leon Trotsky during his unstable marriage to Rivera. A streetcar accident when she was 18 damaged her spine and pelvis, leaving her with chronic, debilitating pain. Throughout her life she often painted from her bed and depicted her own body as fragmented, bleeding, split in two – as if trying to make sense of its decomposition. She died at age 47.

But there is also a lighter side to Kahlo, according to Berger, who visited the Kahlo family in Mexico last week, and likens Kahlo and her three sisters to the “Kardashians of Mexico.” Berger says she learned that before Kahlo went on a trip, she was telling her sisters to give her husband Diego a bath. “I mean, how close do you have to be to your sisters to suggest something like that?” Berger said.

There’s love and irony in Frida Kahlo’s painting of herself with her husband

Throughout Berger’s journey, she’s had other glimpses into Kahlo’s life that she hopes will inform the musical. She visited the basement of Kahlo’s mother’s house where Kahlo hid when Rivera got violent. She heard Kahlo’s family play the songs Frida used to sing. She listened to first-hand accounts from Frida: how she was always laughing and telling crazy stories.

Lozano also visited the Kahlo family, who asked him to write the music for the production. The composer, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 2007, has spent much of his career telling Latinx stories and says it relates to Kahlo, who was, like him, a Mexican immigrant to New York at some point in his life.

“She is such an inspiration not only as an artist but also as a warrior,” he said. “With everything she’s been through, she’s kept fighting, creating her own art, telling her own story. As a Mexican, telling that story and bringing that authenticity to the show, I feel really honored. .

Ten songs have been written for the musical so far, including two Lozano premiering during the American Songbook Series at Lincoln Center in April. One song, “Wings,” captures Kahlo’s persistence — and even joy — in the midst of suffering. It is based on a famous quote from Kahlo, related to her chronic pain, which often kept her bedridden: “The feet”, she said, “Why do I need you, when I have wings to steal ?”

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