Alex-Christian Lucas, born and raised in New Orleans, brings his new creative venture of a one-man musical to The Vaults on 13th February 2024. We took the opportunity to speak to Alex-Christian to tell us more about 'Every Man a King: A New Orleans Jazz Fable.'
Meet Huey Pierce Long, the colorful populist governor who ran Louisiana like his own country, inspired millions with his Share the Wealth program, and was deemed "the second most dangerous man in America" by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After his 1935 assassination, Huey's ghost spends the next thirty-five years trapped in the Louisiana governor's office. Upon learning that his wife Rose has died, Huey embarks on a turbulent journey through his past to discover who killed him and why, believing this knowledge to be key to escaping his personal purgatory and reuniting with his wife. But as he relives past glories and mistakes, Huey inches closer to a disturbing truth that will turn his world and his image of himself upside down. The score features original songs in the iconic Dixieland style of New Orleans jazz, incorporating five authentic compositions by Long himself, some of which haven’t been heard in decades.
When asked about what drew him to the life and character of Huey P. Long, Lucas refers to Long as a colourful, historical figure "who believed in fighting.. on behalf of the common man, and did a lot of genuine good for the state of Louisiana, expanding access to education and bringing infrastructure to rural areas." Lucas and his book co-writer are "giant history nerds, so have enjoyed using so much original historical material in the show." Lucas believes that this story gives opportunity for great storytelling, as Long could be seen as an "anti-hero, and that complexity of character is what makes the show dramatically appealing."
When discussing the challenges of being a writer of a new musical, Lucas discusses how his fellow book co-writer Sophie Trist comes from a fiction writing background, with no previous experience in the theatre industry. "I knew that she was an excellent word builder and creator of vivid character. It has been immensely challenging and rewarding for Sophie to take her knowledge of storytelling and discover how that translates to the stage." Lucas has also taken a playwriting class whilst writing the show, helping him to "grow as a writer and aided the show's development." With a life as colourful and fulfilled as Long's, another challenge in the writing process was the sheer volume of material on Huey P. Long. "There were so many amazingly hilariously dramatic incidents and quotes that we wanted to include in the show, It was hard, but fun, figuring out which incidents from his life were truly necessary for the story we wanted to tell."
Writing a musical was never on the cards for Lucas, "had you asked me a year ago if I would ever write a musical, I would have said 'you're crazy! I don't know how to write a musical, and nobody cares what I have to say, anyway." However, this process has helped Lucas to realise "I've been studying, watching and doing musical theatre for so long, that I had far more knowledge about the craft and architecture of a musical than I thought through embodied experience." Lucas talked about the "beautiful thing about being a writer and an actor is that we don't solely have to tell our own stories; we get to become other people and write other stories into existence, amplifying messages that are simultaneously personal and universal."
Whilst Every Man a King: A New Orleans Jazz Fable may be set in the1930's, the themes of family, power, pride, and love will resonate with modern audiences. "The show is a reflection on the life of a profoundly flawed human being, and rather than make moral judgments, we hope the show will help viewers to see what is really important in their own lives." When discussing why audiences should come to see this musical, Lucas referred to the authenticity of the show, both historically and culturally. "The main writing team of creatives are all born and raised in New Orleans, so we have lived an understanding of the Louisiana culture that underpins the show." Labelled as a Jazz fable, the musical score is strictly New Orleans, "Kevin's music is gorgeous, truly capturing the real sound and feel of a New Orleans' musical landscape."
When asked about the future of this musical, Lucas makes it clear that whilst the show is still only in its early days, and set to undertake its second workshop at The Vaults, that there are "high hopes for the show in sharing its message, story and own culture around the world." Every Man a King: A New Orleans Jazz Fable plays at The Vaults for one night on the 13th February 2024. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.