Twenty-two years ago, the young Michael John LaChiusa burst onto the musical scene as a gifted triple-threat-composer, lyricist and author with a beguiling, poignant and odd chamber musical about presidents' wives called "First Lady Suite."
After a career that has included such daring and off-center works as "Hello Again" and "The Wild Party," LaChiusa is back where his debut show began at the Public Theater with a similarly inventive and peculiar companion piece, "First Daughter Suite." More musically mature but no less audacious, this quartet of playlets about the girls in the White House -- and their mothers and their grandmothers -- is both a satirical and tender tribute to the parallel universe of history in, as Pat Nixon (Barbara Walsh) sings, "a house that will never be a home."
Except for "Amy Carter's Fabulous Dream Adventure," which traps us for too long in the musical-comedy absurdity of a 12-year-old's dream, the brief pieces enchant and inform with an eclectic mix of post-Sondheim modernism, bluesy riffs and swingy styles that are very much his own. Imaginatively directed by Kirsten Sanderson, the terrific nine-woman cast eerily suggests, with only the wittiest bits of caricature, Betty Ford/Nancy Reagan (Alison Fraser), Rosalynn Carter / Laura Bush (Rachel Bay Jones), Julie Nixon/Patti Davis (Caissie Levy), Barbara Bush (Mary Testa).More coverageLinda WinerPhotosTony Awards 2014More coverageTheater reviews
Separately, all have rich, expressive voices that, together, gleam in unusually stirring dramatic blends. In LaChiusa's deftly researched scenes, history makes a little wistful sense, too.
WHERE Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St.
INFO $65; 212-967-7555; publictheater.org