This week, Ghostlight Records released the original cast recording of this past season’s Off-Broadway musical Queen of the Mist to generally positive reviews. The creative team includes Michael John LaChiusa (book, lyrics, music), Chris Fenwick (music direction), Michael Starobin (orchestration), and Walter Trarbach (sound effects). The cast includes Mary Testa with D.C. Anderson, Stanley Bahorek, Theresa McCarthy, Julia Murney, Andrew Samonsky, and Tally Sessions.
Steve Bergman (Edge): Testa is a frequent interpreter of LaChiusa’s work, and admirably proves her ability to effectively navigate his score, and yet she still provides the humanity necessary to pull off this potentially unlikable woman. LaChiusa has proven himself an accomplished and knowledgeable creator of works in both the musical theater and opera worlds. His music is accessible, yet complex, drawing the listener into the world of the story and challenging them to take away more than merely hummable show tunes, without offending them into leaving the experience too early. Mixing various musical styles, all centered on the turn of the 20th century, LaChiusa has written another timeless score that should attract a subset of regional theaters that seek out these works.
David Hurst (Next): Only the brilliant and eclectic Michael John LaChiusa could compose a musical about Anna Edson Taylor, the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel (in 1901 at the age of 63!). Boasting a superb cast led by the galvanizing performances of Mary Testa as Taylor and Andrew Samonsky as her unscrupulous promoter, LaChiusa’s score is as tuneful as it is terrific.
Joe Stead (Chicago Stage Style): I doubt I will be joining the Michael John LaChiusa fan club any time soon. … Queen of the Mist may be fated for legend, but more of a legendary flop if anything. Mary Testa’s ear-shattering portrayal of this pathetic phenomenon of “horrific beauty” has all the charm of a cat in heat. It actually took me three attempts to make it through this shrill and unpleasant cast album. … The author obviously sees Annie Edson Taylor as some kind of deranged but fascinating heroine, damaged but worthy goods. Maybe it worked better in a theatre where visual invention and ingenuity could compensate for the screechy vaudeville pastiche score. … It left me with a headache.