LaCHIUSA: I love that Audra apologized to the kids for killing them. She explained to [the actors who played Marie Christine's children] that she wasn't really killing them, and she would make little fart noises in their ears.
TM: Mandy Patinkin?
LaCHIUSA: He is really remarkable in so many respects. The joy of creation with Mandy is so exciting. I wrote a really bad lyric, and he said he wanted to frame it. I said, "But it's bad." And he said, "Yeah, but we did it together."
TM: Toni Collette?
LaCHIUSA: Ah, Toni Collette. She's living the life of a wild party gal with me. We've belted a few back! She wants us to put out an ad with her tit in a champagne glass. I just love her freeness with her body; she's one of the most unrepressed women I've ever met. Just a beautiful, beautiful woman.
TM: Eartha Kitt?
LaCHIUSA: Well, Eartha can out-jump-rope me by three minutes. I was dissed by some critics this year, and it was an obvious slight; yet, when they were putting together their awards ceremony, they wanted Eartha to perform. It was obvious that they didn't like our work, and yet they wanted us to come and entertain them. I felt that was wrong. But Eartha put her arm around me and told me to never give in to any feelings of defeat that I might have--to be strong in the face of it all. Of course, she went on to do the number and wowed everybody. They just don't make them like her any more! She told me that the way you move on is to show them that you're moving on. When you get advice like that, especially from a trouper like her, you take it to heart and you cherish it.
TM: You wrote music that made Audra McDonald's veins pop out on her neck. Who else's veins would you like to see bulge out to one of your scores?
LaCHIUSA: Brian Stokes Mitchell. I think he's one of the most exciting actors out there right now, and I'd love to write something for him.
TM: If you could exhume any three dead people and invite them to a wild party, whom would you choose?
LaCHIUSA: Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein...and I'd like Eugene O'Neill there.
TM: What lines from Marie Christine and The Wild Party have special meaning for you?
LaCHIUSA: "You think love's too small a pain for a woman? Come on and dance with me." Marie Christine sings that in a reprise of Dante's little "come on and dance with me" that he does with all the little girls. She's saying, "Oh, you think you can be this way with a woman, you can do these things to a human being who loved you? Try me." That, to me, is a very poignant part of that aria, "Tell Me." I just don't like it when women are abused. My mom was not physically abused, but psychologically, she was. And "Lowdown-Down" from The Wild Party is a lot like me: "Small town girl she comes to town, tin of rouge and strapless gown, dies a lot before she gets to die. But, with a smile, she'll say, 'Ah, that's the lowdown-down.' " Queenie's not ready to confront it all yet: she still had to cover it up with a mask of snow.
TM: What are your three favorite musicals by other composers?
LaCHIUSA: South Pacific, The King and I, and Mozart's The Magic Flute.
TM: When you had to hock your piano during a financial slump, how much did you get for it and how long was it before you got it back?
LaCHIUSA: Well, it actually never left my place. A person came down and rented it for 250 bucks a month. I wasn't going to move it upstairs!
TM: What is the worst job you've ever had?
LaCHIUSA: I worked at a Brew-Burger on 53rd, about a block away from where The Wild Party is playing. I served tap beer from midnight to six in the morning to the whores, whom I really liked a lot. The girls who worked the street were fabulous. That was the job's only saving grace--meeting that side of life in Manhattan. Yeah, you got to see a lot of life, man.
TM: Tell me how you felt at the opening of The Wild Party.
LaCHIUSA: I was very tired that night. We'd done a lot of work in previews, and I had to prepare the cast album, which took a lot of preparation. I was also very happy that we'd reached our opening on time. I knew it would be a hard one; I knew that the critics wouldn't be all together on it, and that weighed heavily on me--wondering what the reviews would be like. At the same time, though, I had a wonderful time. You know, they pulled us on stage. I don't like to do that sort of thing, because I'm very superstitious about being on stage with the actors. But it was still a lot of fun to be with them all.
TM: What do you say to those who've said that Marie Christine is more like opera than Broadway?
LaCHIUSA: I don't like to draw a line between the two. I feel we should use what's available to us from a European musical tradition, from black culture, etc. You know, we're Americans. We're a mongrel culture. Whenever you hear "opera" or "ballet," those are European words. The word "musical" covers so much more ground. Look at this year's Tonys: They chose from a broad spectrum of pieces that one would not normally consider musicals, but why not? It's all interesting stuff. Why do we have to classify things in genres and create titles?