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Review: Lempicka at the Longacre Theatre

Lempicka on Broadway (Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

With a pop and rock infused score that details the largely unknown and infrequently discussed lives of loves of the artist Tamara de Lempicka, the new Rachel Chavkin musical makes a strong attempt to dissect a complex narrative that spans both personal and political conflicts across multiple decades.

Opening in California in the late 1970s, we are introduced to the titular character at an advanced age, reminiscing on times gone by. Presented this way the audience sees Lempicka herself as a relic similar to her paintings, a representation of a style and an era that has since passed. Very quickly however, we meet her in her youth, about to marry a Russian aristocrat, only for the revolution to turn the tide on their fortunes. It is in these early scenes that the characterisation of Tamara de Lempicka is established, as a strong and independent woman, one who is fiercely in touch with her sexuality, and one who came of age and grew to prominence in a time where women began to come into their own in a constantly changing society.

The physicality of the musical blends the Art Deco and cubic styles that define Lempicka's artwork alongside modern influences that could only be found on a Broadway stage. It's bright, bold, and flashy; capturing attention while trying its hardest to convey a story and message. The cast work their way through a beautiful and complex score, though a mostly sung-through book leads to larger plot points getting muddled along the way. Despite this, the performances greatly elevate the show, offering emotionally complex and nuanced performances that stick in the mind.

While Lempicka picked up a few Tony nominations – more on that here – it hasn't been enough to sustain the show through the nominations period. While it closes today, it begs the question – how can new and innovative shows be given time to build an audience on Broadway? Is there still room for the experiemental? While those questions won't be answered in the immediate future, we can rest assured that Lempicka will go out on a high, thanks to the brilliant people that have been making it sing.


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