Historians, critics, designers and even casual art lovers have long been fascinated by Frida Kahlo—so much so that they’ve put her face on T-shirts, created immersive experiences of her art and made movies and books about her life. One of her self-portraits even appeared on a postage stamp.
Now, nearly 70 years after her death, the famed Mexican painter is finally getting the Broadway musical treatment. Frida, The Musical, which is expected to open in 2024, is the first such production to receive her family’s blessing, reports the Washington Post’s Kelsey Ables.
Drawing on personal stories and previously unshared details about her life, the musical’s creators hope to tell a complete story, one that gives audiences an intimate window into the painter’s wit, zest for life and closeness to her family, in addition to the hardships she experienced.
The show is based on the book Intimate Frida, written by her niece Isolda P. Kahlo, as well as personal conversations with her family in Mexico. Valentina Berger is producing the show, Jaime Lozano is composing much of the music and Neena Beber is writing the lyrics.
“Everyone knows a colder Frida, a suffering Frida, but she loved life,” Berger tells the Washington 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.”
Kahlo was born in 1907 to a German father and a Mexican mother in a suburb of Mexico City. She suffered from polio as a child, which gave her a slight limp, and she was later involved in a bus accident that required her to undergo more than 30 surgeries and saddled her with chronic pain.
It was while recovering from the accident in the hospital that Kahlo began more regularly painting, a craft she continued to hone and study in the intervening years. As Kahlo spent three months in bed, her mother set up a portable easel and a mirror so Kahlo could practice painting her own face.
“Without giving it any particular thought, I started painting,” Kahlo once recalled, per Smithsonian magazine’s Phyllis Tuchman.
While studying at the National Preparatory School in the early 1920s, she met muralist Diego Rivera for the first time, and the two went on to have a fraught relationship. They married in 1929, divorced in 1939 and remarried in 1940.
Through it all, the self-taught artist continued to paint and dazzle gallery-goers with her work, particularly her striking self-portraits. She suffered a pulmonary embolism and died in 1954 at the age of 47.
So far, the musical’s creators have written ten songs, including one called “Wings” that explores Kahlo’s resilience while enduring so much pain from her injuries.
Kahlo’s relatives are eager, too, to share more of the artist’s story with the world in song. In a statement on behalf of the Kahlo family, her grand-niece Mara Romeo says that Kahlo was “driven by an unending passion for life,” per Deadline’s Greg Evans.
She continues, “I hope that this show inspires women everywhere to have the courage to fight for their dreams.”