Whether it’s the life of a South American president’s wife, a tale of Mormon missionaries in Uganda, or the rise and fall of that guy on the ten-dollar bill, musicals can come from some pretty strange and disparate places. You never can tell what’s going to play well with audiences when in pre-production. But one of the ways writers and producers try to tap into mass appeal is to make a “bio-musical”. Telling real-life stories seems to resonate with people, whether it’s the six wives of Henry VIII, or the Von Trapp family, or Annie Oakley. But sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. So some are feeling either excitement or alarm since BTF Media announced a new musical is in the works based on the life of Frida Kahlo.
The new project, known by the working title Frida: The Musical, already has ten songs by the Mexican composer Jaime Lozano and the American lyricist Neena Beber. Two songs were recently performed as part of the American Songbook series at New York’s Lincoln Center. This is rather big news since many have attempted to adapt Kahlo’s life for the stage. In 2014, producers put out a casting call for a Frida musical called Tree of Hope, named after her painting of the same title. I can’t find anything that shows that Tree of Hope amounted to anything. But this new attempt at bringing Kahlo’s life to the stage is the first time the Kahlo estate has signed off on a musical adaptation. This may indicate that perhaps this may not be as kitschy as similar projects (I’m looking at you, Diana: The Musical).
Producers state that the musical will be “a full-throated celebration of Kahlo’s joyous spirit of creativity and her unmatched gift for transforming physical and emotional pain into breathtaking beauty.” The plot will cover her international trips to Paris and New York, her relationship with Diego Rivera, and her celebration of her native Mexico. It will be tough for whoever is cast in the title role to fill the enormous shoes the artist left behind.