How does it feel to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel… and survive? Michael John LaChiusa, who wrote a musical on just this subject, was on his way back to the States by the time I chaired my post-show Q&A at the West End (and UK) premiere of his musical Queen Of The Mist – but I wonder if his ears were burning badly en route?
A central part of my discussion – with director Dom O’Hanlon, musical director Connor Fogel, leading lady Trudi Camilleri and fellow cast members Will Arundell, Conor McFarlane, Emma Ralston and Tom Blackmore – was LaChiusa himself.
What distinguishes his work? Why has he inspired such a devoted following on both sides of the Atlantic? How do his songs challenge – and reward – performers? Given his esteemed reputation, why don’t we see more of his shows in London?
Michael John LaChiusa is a five-time Tony Award-nominated composer, lyricist and librettist whose other shows include The Wild Party, See What I Wanna See, Hello Again and Little Fish, which have all had Off-West End productions in London, as well as Giant, Marie Christine, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, First Lady Suite, Bernarda Alba, Four Short Operas: Break, Agnes, Eulogy for Mr Hamm and Lucky Nurse.
Queen Of The Mist, originally seen in New York in 2011, won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical and was nominated for six Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical.
It’s based on the astounding and outrageous true story of Anna Edson Taylor, who, in 1901, on her 63rd birthday, set out to make her fortune by becoming the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls. She accomplished the plunge in a barrel of her own design, but fame and fortune – as well as the barrel – proved more elusive.
This UK premiere production, care of Pint of Wine Theatre Company, had a sell-out run at west London’s Brockley Jack Studio Theatre in April.
It has moved from the fringe 50-seater for a limited West End season at Charing Cross Theatre, where Tara Usher‘s barrel-set is stunningly reconfigured for the underground venue’s traverse staging, with lush lighting by Beth Gupwell, soundscape by Adrian Jeakins and costumes by Lemington Ridley – who also received shoutouts in our post-show discussion.
Queen of the Mist continues until 5 October 2019 at the Charing Cross Theatre, The Arches, Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NL, with performances Mondays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, matinees Wednesday at 2.30pm and Saturday at 3pm. Tickets are priced from £15. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
More from the Q&A
Don't miss StageFaves' live-tweeting from the Queen of the Mist discussion, plus more photos and video.