Michael John LaChiusa, Marie Christine, “Way Back to Paradise”
Nikki Renée Daniels
In the more than 150 years of musical theater on Broadway, there has never been a lack of shows created to celebrate the talents of one great performer. That tradition continued in 1999 with Michael John LaChiusa’s Marie-Christine. Although the show was not a hit, it will always be remembered as Audra McDonald’s first Broadway star vehicle. The dazzlingly gifted singer-actress, who had already won three Tony Awards for featured roles, was finally given a star role that required every vocal resource she possessed, with singing in an exceptionally wide variety of styles. At the same time, she had the massive dramatic challenge of portraying a character based on one of the most formidable women in Greek mythology.
LaChiusa’s score is hugely ambitious, including nearly 40 separate musical numbers. The show transplants to 1890s New Orleans the story of Medea, the sorceress who avenges herself on her faithless lover by killing their children. Early in the first act Marie-Christine sings a wide-ranging and rhythmically invigorating solo, “Way Back to Paradise.” The song presents the heroine’s assertion that women can get the better of men if they know how to use their power to the fullest.