The story of Frida Kahlo’s life continues to fascinate and intrigue, even close to seven decades since her death.
A new stage musical that envisions Kahlo’s upbringing and rise to one of the most famous artists in the world is coming to Broadway in 2024. Frida, The Musical features songs by the Mexican composer Jamie Lozano and lyrics by the playwright Neena Beber that aim to celebrate Kahlo while shedding new light on her life and art. It is being produced by Valentina Berger with the permission of the Frida Kahlo estate, which is providing the project with exclusive material, Deadline reported.
The musical will follow Kahlo’s journey from Mexico City to Paris and New York, and her return to the house of her birth, La Casa Azul, or the Blue House, now home to the Frida Kahlo Museum. A synopsis of the production states: “Grounded by the rollercoaster romance between the artist and her great love, Diego Rivera, Frida will be a full-throated celebration of Kahlo’s joyous spirit of creativity and her unmatched gift for transforming physical and emotional pain into breathtaking beauty.”
Several famous artists have had their lives portrayed through major stage productions, from Mark Rothko in the play Red to Andy Warhol in The Trial of Andy Warhol. According to The Washington Post, there have been previous attempts to produce Kahlo-inspired musicals, but this is the sole project that the artist’s family has officially greenlit. Its story is based partially on the memoir of her niece Isolda P. Kahlo, Intimate Frida, and Berger and Lozano have also visited the Kahlo family in Mexico to garner more personal accounts. A critically acclaimed opera based on Kahlo’s life, Frida, with music by Robert Xavier Rodriguez, a book by Hilary Blecher and lyrics and monologues by Migdalia Cruz, debuted in 1991.
While Kahlo’s life is often described as tragic—she contracted polio as a child and later sustained severe injuries from a bus accident—Frida, The Musical intends to portray a more layered, complex portrait of her. “Everyone knows a colder Frida, a suffering Frida, but she loved life,” Berger tells The Post. “She was really, really fun. That’s what we want to portray. I used to have a sad view of Frida, like, ‘Oh, the poor woman.’ Now, knowing how she was so smart and so clever, I look up to her.”
The musical underscores Kahlo’s ascent to cult stardom in recent decades, with the ubiquity of her image—on everything from feminist tote bags to tequila bottles—giving rise to a global phenomenon known as Fridamania. This demand has led to several disputes over intellectual property rights to Kahlo's work and likeness, including one between her descendents and the Frida Kahlo Corporation over the release of a Kahlo-inspired Barbie doll.
The Frida Kahlo estate has partnered with BTF Media, a production company that caters to Spanish-speaking audiences, to produce the musical. According to Variety, the parties have also teamed up to co-produce a television series that seeks to reveal little-known facts about Kahlo’s life and art.