Michael John LaChiusa – composer, lyricist and librettist – established himself as a powerful presence on the American musical theatre scene after winning Off-Broadway's 1993 Obie Award for his musicals First Lady Suite and Hello Again. Six years later, LaChiusa was represented on Broadway during the 1999-2000 season by two more musicals, The Wild Party and Marie Christine, which together received 12 Tony Award nominations for the season – garnering Mr. LaChiusa two nominations for each production – Best Score and Best Book (along with George C. Wolfe on The Wild Party). He received his first Tony Award nomination for Best Book (co-written with Graciela Daniele and Jim Lewis) for Chronicle of a Death Foretold, produced on Broadway by Lincoln Center Theater Company in 1996.
In addition to the Obie Award (1993), Mr. LaChiusa was the recipient of the first Stephen Sondheim Award (1989), the Gilman-Gonzalez-Falla Musical Theatre Award (1995) and the Kleban Foundation Award (1999). He was the 1998-99 Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and an Artist-in-Residence at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theatre from 1997-98. In 2000, with the recording of The Wild Party, he was voted an Amazon.com Artist of the Year and was nominated for a Grammy Award. In 2005 he was the recipient of Emerson College's Leonidas A. Nickole Award of Distinction for Artistic Growth and Achievement in Musical Theatre, and the Flora Roberts Award, given annually by The Dramatists Guild, Inc. He is also the recipient of the 2013 Frederick Loewe Award, administered by the Dramatists Guild, Inc.
His musicals Giant, Queen of the Mist, Los Otros (with Ellen Fitzhugh), See What I Wanna See, Bernarda Alba, Little Fish, The Highest Yellow (with John Strand), Hello Again, First Lady Suite, The Petrified Prince and the one-acts Lucky Nurse...Break...Agnes...Eulogy for Mister Hamm have had their original productions presented by Williamstown Theatre Festival, Lincoln Center Theater Company, The Public Theatre, Second Stage, Signature Theatre (Virginia), The Dallas Theatre Center, The Mark Taper Forum, Transport Group and Playwrights Horizons, prior to subsequent productions across the United States and in London, Budapest, Melbourne, Stockholm, Seoul and other international cities. First Lady Suite was revived Off-Broadway by Transport Group in 2004, and was performed in concert in 2005 at the New York Historical Society.
During his time as the 1998-99 Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, he wrote Lovers & Friends: The Chautauqua Variations, which had its world premiere there in June 2001. Also in 2001, LaChiusa was commissioned by Suntori Ltd. of Japan to write the score for a contemporary version of The Nutcracker, collaborating with director Amon Miyamoto, which premiered in Tokyo at Christmas 2002.
In addition to Lovers & Friends and The Nutcracker, Mr. LaChiusa has been commissioned to write musicals and operas by Houston Grand Opera, Center Theatre Group/Los Angeles, Musical Theatre Works, Lincoln Center Theatre Company, The New York Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Transport Group, Signature Theatre in Virginia, and by Audra McDonald for her Seven Deadly Sins project, which premiered at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall in 2004. His opera Send (who are you? I love you), starring Ms. McDonald, premiered at Houston Grand Opera in spring 2006.
He has created two revues of his works, “la..la…LaChiusa,” which premiered at Joe's Pub in New York City in 2002, and Hotel C'est l'Amour, which was workshopped at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and received its World Premiere production at the Blank Theatre in Los Angeles in fall 2006. Additionally, Mr. LaChiusa himself accompanied an array of female stars singing songs from the LaChiusa catalogue in The Girlie Show, which was performed at the Kaplan Room as a part of the “American Songbook Series” at Lincoln Center in May 2004. In 2014, an anthology performance of Heartbreak Country: Michael John LaChiusa's Stories of America sold out the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center. His songs have been performed in concert halls across the country, including Carnegie Hall.
He has contributed songs to numerous shows, including The Audience, Requiem for William (Transport Group), Artificial Reality (New York Theatre Workshop), Bella, Belle of Byelorussia (WPA Theatre), and Broken Sleep & Nocturne (Williamstown Theatre Festival), among others. He has collaborated with composers Anthony Davis and Robert Moran, writing librettos for their operas Tania and From the Towers of the Moon, respectively.
Cast recordings include First Daughter Suite (Ghostlight Records), Giant (Ghostlight Records), Queen of the Mist (Ghostlight Records), Bernarda Alba (Ghostlight Records), See What I Wanna See (Ghostlight Records), the 2001 Grammy-nominated Original Cast Album of The Wild Party (Decca Broadway), Marie Christine (RCA Victor), Hello Again (RCA Victor), First Lady Suite (PS Classics) and Little Fish (Ghostlight Records). LaChiusa's songs have been recorded by artists ranging from Lea DeLaria to Audra McDonald, and have appeared on McDonald's best-selling debut album Way Back To Paradise (Nonesuch) and her third album, Happy Songs (Nonesuch).
LaChiusa won a 2008 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition, for the “Save the Bee/Save the Squirrel” episode on the Nickelodeon, Jr. series The Wonder Pets! He was subsequently nominated for a second Emmy for the same series.
In 2010, he was commissioned to compose the music for a dance piece, Mirror, Mirror, by the Chase Brock Experience.
In 2009, his musical Giant, based on the novel by Edna Ferber, with a libretto by Sybille Pearson, had its World Premiere at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. It was subsequently produced by Dallas Theatre Center in January 2012, in a co-production with NY's Public Theatre where it was produced in fall 2012 and received 12 Drama Desk Award nominations. The Off-Broadway production of Queen of the Mist won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical in 2012, in addition to being nominated for Outstanding Musical by the Drama Desk Awards, where Michael John himself was nominated for Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics and Outstanding Book. Additionally, spring 2011 brought about the first Off-Broadway revival of Hello Again, which received glowing reviews and award nominations.
An Edgerton Commission from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival resulted in the musical First Daughter Suite, which had its World Premiere production at the NY Shakespeare Festival's Public Theatre in 2015, earning a rave review in The New York Times. The musical Rain, written with Sybille Pearson and based on the short story by Somerset Maugham, had its World Premiere production at Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in spring 2016. In spring of 2017, The Wild Party had its London premiere at the newly opened The Other Palace, starring Frances Ruffelle. Simultaneously, Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, MD premiered a revised version of LaChiusa's Los Otros. November 2017 saw the release of the feature film Hello Again, based on his stage musical. The film stars Martha Plimpton, Audra McDonald, Cheyenne Jackson, T.R. Knight and Rumor Willis, among others.
His new musical The Gardens of Anuncia was to have premiered in spring 2020 at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, and has been postponed to spring 2021 due to the health pandemic. He is currently under commission by Transport Group for a new musical due to workshop in fall 2020, and has two additional new musicals which have been workshopped and are being considered for further development and production.
Mr. LaChiusa has been a contributing writer to The New York Times, Opera News and many other periodicals. He has been on the faculty at New York University and Pace University in New York City. He has taught at Columbia University, and been an adjunct professor at Yale School of Drama. He has been a guest lecturer on musical theatre, and taught Master Classes as well, at several other universities in the US and abroad.
Michael John LaChiusa was born in Chautauqua, New York and currently lives in New York City.
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