Raul Esparza

Theaters, Actors, Etc.

Nov 23, 2005 at 2:06 pm
Raul Esparza


In mid-October I traveled to New York City to interview Stephen Sondheim before an audience of business executives. The renowned Broadway composer and I spent an hour onstage chatting about his career; we were next door to the Eugene O'Neill Theatre where the revival of his most admired work, Sweeney Todd, was about to open. Interspersed in our conversation were several songs performed by RAUL ESPARZA, a Broadway performer currently portraying Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I enjoyed meeting Esparza, who told me he was about to audition with John Doyle for the Sweeney director's next project, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park production of Company. Esparza wasn't confident about being cast: "I'm not sure I have the musical performing skills," he told me. That's a challenge because British director Doyle's formula for the re-invention of shows has been to employ actors who also perform the music, accompanying one another instead of using an orchestra. (Patti LuPone is playing a tuba in the Sweeney Todd production, for instance.) I suspected that Esparza was being modest, and apparently he convinced Doyle and Sondheim (who's keeping a close eye on elements of the Playhouse production, including casting). On Nov.14, the Playhouse announced that Esparza has been cast as Bobby. He's already an established Broadway performer: He was nominated for a Tony Award in Taboo; he played Riff Raff in the revival of The Rocky Horror Show and the emcee in Cabaret. If you saw Know Theatre's recent production of tick, tick ... BOOM! about composer Jonathan Larson's anxiety over turning 30, you should know that Esparza originated the central role, for which he received an Obie award. He's also a veteran Sondheim performer, having starred in two productions at the Kennedy Center's Sondheim Celebration in 2002, when he portrayed George in Sunday in the Park with George and Charley Kringas in MerrilyWe Roll Along. It will be a pleasure to see a professional performer of Esparza's stature onstage here in Cincinnati.

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