LA CASA AZUL made its debut to packed houses in June of 2015 at The Tarkington Theatre at The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana. In addition to writing the music and co-authoring lyrics, Mr. Hancock produced, directed, choreographed and costumed the show. PBS station WFYI, documented the making of LA CASA AZUL and produced a documentary of Mr. Hancock’s personal story of turning pain into creativity and beauty. PBS also filmed the entire production. The performances received rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.
Tristan Ross, Theatre Critic for NUVO Indianapolis writes:
“What Gregory Hancock has created here is a work to be savored by future generations. La Casa Azul merits being performed by theatre groups for years to come. When a work is so deeply rooted in well-crafted music, triviality is washed away. The thing is, aside from all the little faults a grumpy snob like me can find, the whole of this show was beyond excellent. Through the combined efforts of Hancock, Kate Ayers (who assisted with lyrics), Nicholas Cline’s orchestrations and vocal direction by Terry Woods, the score was lush and sweeping without being saccharine – my word, what a great sounding show it was. The tragedy of the piece was deftly counterbalanced with moments of real humor. The blocking was slick, the scene transitions effortless and Ryan Koharchik’s lighting was nothing less than pure kick-ass level drool worthy. Of course, Mr. Hancock’s choreography was sometimes lively, sometimes mournful, but always expressive; and in the case of Rivera’s rhythmic brush strokes, totally amusing. Antithetically, Hancock’s choreography was executed with twisted beauty by Abbie Lessaris as Death, Kahlo’s only truly constant companion. Through Hancock and Lessaris, Death eventually became a loving, embracing figure though her presence was almost constant and ominous- and her dealings with natal tragedies were interpreted with remarkable creativity and sensitivity. Ultimately, Jessica Crum Hawkins deserves heaps of praise for the performance as the famous inhabitant of the Blue House, Frida Kahlo. Hawkins never once faltered in spite of being the pack horse on which the majority of this beast of a show was placed; her voice was golden and soaring while interpretation dead on and moving throughout. Even the expository character of Young Frida was expertly performed by Sasha Kuznetsov, who returned by the ending to form a lovely, gut-wrenching bookend. It was beautiful. If the world were fair, The Tarkington would allow an extended run for this gem.”
Due to its tremendous success, another production was mounted three months later again at The Tarkington at The Center for the Performing Arts. This round, Mr. Hancock took the opportunity to edit and refine the work. Again, audiences and critics were impressed. “The work is poignant and powerful. Your beautiful music and lyrics catapult the story and our hearts to shatter to a million pieces. The heartache is very real, but we are compelled to feel it and not flee from it.” – Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, CEO Auditorium Theatre, Roosevelt University, Chicago.
Audiences responded: “a masterpiece of musical theatre.” “brilliant and visually stunning.” “heart wrenching” “remember LA CASA AZUL, as I have no doubt it is destined for national stage and fame.”
In January, 2016, WFYI, PBS Television aired LA CASA AZUL, The Musical, along with the documentary of how Mr. Hancock used his personal tragedies, like Frida Kahlo, to create art out of loss. This production was nominated for a regional EMMY Award. In June 2017, Mr. Hancock received an EMMY Award for LA CASA AZUL, The Musical.
LA CASA AZUL, The Musical, is a completely sung-through musical inspired by the life and art of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. The piece combines elements of musical theatre, opera, dance and visual art. The dancing character of “Death” is present with Frida throughout the entire show, visible as a separate character, but also appearing in ensembles in Calavera face. Several aspects of the story are advanced through dance and visual elements. Several abrupt incidents have been incorporated to reflect the nature of Frida’s challenges that would blindside her throughout her entire life. Set pieces are minimal. Scenic design featuring “papel picado” art of artist, Beatriz Vasquez is incorporated in an LED screen (if desired). Cast includes mixed ages, genders, and ethnicities. Voices should be interesting and emotional, above beautiful.
My life and art are forever for you.Gregory Hancock
Thank you Kate Ayers for your friendship and your wonderful collaboration. Thank you Nicholas Cline for your exquisite orchestrations and your generous acceptance of revisions. Thank you to Heather Helene King, Martin Casanova, and Anita Lerche Hjorth for your friendship and invaluable assistance during orchestra and vocal recordings. Thank you to Michael Graham and the staff at The Lodge Recording studios for all your talent, organization and work. Thank you to my brilliant collaborators Ryan Koharchik, Beatriz Vasquez, Terry Woods, and Daniel Klingler. All of you elevate my work to new levels. Thank you to my assistant director, Melanie Eakman for your organization and competency. You have evolved into a remarkable and invaluable assistant.
Thank you to the incredible cast of LA CASA AZUL for giving life to my vision and for believing in the power of this work. Over the past few months I have realized there is no such thing as security in life. There are no guarantees for anything. Happiness, success, fame, security, even love, are all fleeting and elusive at best. Our only guarantee in life is death. Recently I was asked why I made a choice to have Death be such a major role in LA CASA AZUL. I replied back that Death was Frida’s closest friend. It was not something she feared but, but welcomed. Death was her constant companion and she embraced and accepted this as her ultimate fate. This is not saying that she did not have great joy, but it was balanced with great sorrow. I have learned to let go of fear, insecurity and doubt, for if security does not exist, why should these things exist?
Thank you Mama for constantly believing in me, for teaching and showing me the beauty of life, for demonstrating the meaning of selflessness, and for giving me undying love. My world is empty without you. My life and art are forever for you.