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Frida Kahlo, subject of a new Broadway musical
Via Canadian Museum of Textiles

Frida Kahlo, the Musical: the Broadway show that nobody asked for

The artist’s family has announced a stage show based on her ‘rollercoaster romance’ with Diego Rivera

Back in May this year, it was announced that a new TV series based on the life of Frida Kahlo is in the works. Overseen by the late artist’s estate and the Miami-based production company BTF Media, it promises to “portray Frida as she has never been seen before [...] to present a unique perspective based on what her family knows about her and show how she really lived her life”. Apparently, a mere TV show isn’t enough though, and now the estate has landed on another vehicle for the true story of Frida Kahlo: a Broadway musical.

Imaginatively titled Frida, the Musical, the US show is once again overseen by the artist’s estate and BTF Media, alongside producer Valentina Berger. “We are deeply moved that this show will allow audiences around the world to get to know Frida as so much more than just an artist,” says Mara Romeo, the painter’s great-niece and heiress to her legacy. “Full of joy, ahead of her time, and steeped in the culture of Mexico, she was a woman driven by an unending passion for life. I hope that this show inspires women everywhere to have the courage to fight for their dreams.”

Revolving around her intense and unstable relationship with her husband, Diego Rivera, the musical will follow Kahlo from Mexico City to Paris and New York, finally returning to the iconic Blue House, where she was born and died. Mexican composer Jaime Lozano and award-winning playwright Neena Beber are also on board for the Broadway debut, with the first workshop scheduled to take place in 2023.

If you’ve browsed those cute little tables of books by the Urban Outfitters checkout any time in the last few years, then you’ll know this isn’t the first attempt to package the Mexican artist’s turbulent life and radical politics for our consumption. Since Julie Taymor cast Salma Hayek as the titular artist in her 2002 film Frida, we’ve been inundated with coffee table tomes and graphic novels on the artist, not to mention sans-monobrow Barbie dolls, emojis, and whitewashing Snapchat filters – despite fierce competition from the likes of Basquiat and Keith Haring, it’s fair to say that she’s defended the title of Most Exploited Artist pretty admirably in recent years.

This time, of course, it’s slightly different, since Kahlo’s own family are fully on board and plan to tell the “real” story of how she “transform[ed] physical and emotional pain into breathtaking beauty” (Mara Romeo spoke out publicly against the Barbie back in 2018, to her credit). Nevertheless, it’s still debatable whether an all-singing all-dancing approach is the best way to narrate Kahlo’s “rollercoaster romance” with Rivera (their words). Do we really need to Lin-Manuel Miranda-fy her ethnicity, her disability, and her ideology, when it’s all there in her art already?

According to Berger, yes. “Frida still has so much to teach us, and I am thrilled at the chance to honour her life and her work through this most expressive medium,” she says. “Her spirit is very much alive in our young creative team, who continually dazzle me with their big creative swings and mind-bending talent.”