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Lempicka: This True Story Comes to Life at the La Jolla Playhouse

The new musical is the true story of Tamara de Lempicka, who arrived in Paris as a refugee, newly destitute
Carolyn Brown

By Dan Letchworth


Andrew Samonsky and Eden Espinoza in the 2018 Williamstown Theatre Festival world premiere production of Lempicka 

Carolyn Brown

In response to the war in Ukraine, La Jolla Playhouse postponed their fall world-premiere Mother Russia. This spring, Cygnet Theatre postponed a play that takes place during an invasion of Czarist Russia. Is director Rachel Chavkin worried about her show Lempicka, opening this month, which begins with the title character fleeing the Soviet secret police?

“If anything, honestly, current events will just make the world of Lempicka more potent,” Chavkin says. “She survives the total loss of her world. How do you prepare for cataclysm?”

The Playhouse’s new musical is the extraordinary true story of Tamara de Lempicka, who arrived in Paris as a refugee, newly destitute. When her husband was unable to find work, she refused to wait for a miracle to save them and worked her way up to become one of the most admired painters of the art deco period. Her portraits were polished and luminous, especially those of a young woman named Rafaela, who became her muse—and lover.

“It’s that love triangle that forms the center of the show,” says Chavkin, who won a Tony Award for directing Hadestown. “I love history and intimate human stories being told against epic historical backdrops, and that’s exactly what this show is. Paris between the wars is sexy, fun—and then very, very frightening.”

Lempicka runs June 14 through July 24 in La Jolla; Eden Espinoza and Andrew Samonsky are reprising their roles from its original debut at Williamstown Theatre Festival.

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