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Raul Esparza

Anyone Can Whistle

March 20, 2022

Although when MasterVoices chose the third of the four Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents collaborations, "Anyone Can Whistle," as part of their 80th season at Carnegie Hall, they had no way of knowing that it would prove to be a memorial to the late Mr. Sondheim rather than a tribute. This rarely revived show, now considered a “cult classic,” a euphemism for a quick flop in 1964 running only nine performances, was ahead of its time, attempting a new form, one that Sondheim has called “the first absurdist musical.” Performed by stars Vanessa Williams, Santino Fontana, Elizabeth Stanley, Douglas Sills, Eddie Cooper, Michael Mulheren, and Joanna Gleason as the narrator, it was beautifully sung under the direction of maestro Ted Sperling, but can’t hide the fact that Laurents’ libretto is extremely scattershot taking on far too many targets for one show. Subtitled “A Musical Fable” in its first publication, the musical is really a cartoon satirizing everything imaginable. The theme is one of individualism versus conformity, a big trope for shows and movies in the turbulent 1960’s, now symbolized by the more famous "King of Hearts" (1966), "Your Own Thing" (1968), "HAIR" (1968) and "Easy Rider" (1969). [more]

Sutton Foster: “Bring Me to Light” 

April 30, 2021

Sutton Foster, one of the shining lights of New York City’s currently dimmed theater scene, glowed in Sutton Foster/Bring Me to Light.  Her voice and interpretations were the richest they have ever been.  Add to this her choice of repertoire and her talented guests and Bring Me to Light is a beacon of light in a dark year. As we see New York City Center’s backstage staff prepare for the performance, Foster performed the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Cockeyed Optimist” segueing to Stephen Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t” and Kander and Ebb’s “Yes,” all upbeat, optimistic songs that should resonate with today’s pandemic-strained audiences. [more]

Seared

November 8, 2019

As directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, the play is fast-paced and engrossing and the smell of garlic coming from the stage convinces us that real cooking is going on. The completely working industrial kitchen designed by Tim Mackabee is a wonder of economy on the small stage of the Susan & Ronald Frankel Theater at The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space as we watch many meals get prepared in record time. The flaw in the play is that Esparza’s Harry spends so much time ranting about his beliefs and requirements that he becomes both tiresome and unsympathetic. Harry may be an artist fighting capitalist necessities, but he also sabotages his own success. We eventually discover that he is not as ethical as he pretends to be even though he claims not to care about money – or adulations. And as none of the money in the restaurant is his, ultimately he has no say in what is decided. [more]

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

November 17, 2018

The Classic Stage Company's current revival of Bertolt Brecht’s "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" is not the first to draw comparisons between the sitting president and Hitler. In 2002, or the year after 9/11, National Theatre of Actors presented an all-star production in downtown Manhattan – featuring Al Pacino, no less - comparing Ui to Hitler and President George W. Bush. [more]

Cymbeline

August 13, 2015

At The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park venue, director Daniel Sullivan has proved himself a brilliant interpreter of the Bard’s comedies, both dark and light, from the evidence of his "Merchant of Venice," "The Comedy of Errors" and "Twelfth Night," to name only a few. Therefore it is a great disappointment to report that his "Cymbeline," the second and last 2015 Shakespeare in the Park offering, based on his 1999 Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, staging, is both confused and uneven, both visually and theatrically. Even more discouraging, the production wastes the talents of noted stage stars Kate Burton, Raúl Esparza, Patrick Page, and Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater, the acting couple being reteamed on the New York stage for the fifth time. [more]

City Center Encores production of Jonathan Larson’s “tick, tick..BOOM!”

July 17, 2014

The audience packing City Center--whether applauding or laughing or cheering--certainly showed its enthusiasm throughout. The opening scene of "tick, tick...BOOM!" is very powerfully and economically written. I admire Larson's writing. Hearing those ticks (representing the relentless passing of time), and anticipating the coming boom (of an impending disaster that is somehow sensed without being fully understood) ... well, that came from a deep place. [more]

Company

December 28, 2006

Raul Esparza, the dynamic young actor who made great impressions in such not so great shows as Taboo and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , plays Robert, whose tainted attitudes about attachment and commitment to women, and specifically to his three concurrent girl friends, appear the direct result of observing his friends' disintegrating relationships. Esparza delivers the insecurities of his character with a brio and confidence that also drives his two big songs "Marry Me a Little" (not in the original show, but restored here as it was in the earlier revival) and "Being Alive." Pivotal as he is, Robert often stands at the outside of his friends' lives as they are revealed in a series of skittish skits. [more]

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

April 28, 2005

Yes, folks, prepare yourselves - The Car simply takes your breath away. And as you're sitting there gasping at the marvel of it all, you keep reminding yourself of your age. Because by the time Chitty makes her celebrated appearance, you have magically become eight years old again. [more]