From Universal to Oz to Brooklyn, an Interview with Eden Espinosa
The critics weren't too kind to Brooklyn when it opened which can sometimes present a challenge to a performer if they're not able to put it in perspective, which Eden was able to. "I did read the reviews, and I don't know if I will continue to do that throughout the rest of my career but this was the first opportunity I had other than regional theater in LA to read them. I guess it does bother me a little bit because it's something that you're doing every single night and that you're putting so much into, but it's someone's opinion and not everybody's going to feel the same way about a show. Not that our show is the greatest, and flawless, every show has flaws, but critics have not liked some of the biggest hits on Broadway right now. I just look at it as one person's opinion. It doesn't bring me down, and it doesn't affect my performance at all. Initially, it does kind of hurt a little bit, but you move on."
What has helped in moving on has been some very enthusiastic audiences, the noise of which is sometimes comparable to that of a rock concert. "Our audience response is unbelievable because they really, really get into it. Right off the bat, audiences don't really know what to expect but as soon as 'Heart Behind These Hands' starts, they kind of see what they're into, and once we start what we're into, it's inevitable that they're with us. It's crazy, because they cheer like they're at a rock concert sometimes. I think we're really starting to build our little audience, and sometimes we're really blown away by the noise coming back from them. That feels so good."
Having the audience take part in the story was deemed important enough that fans of the show were invited in and recorded live along with the vocals on the cast album. Cast members sang the show three times at the recording studio, with an audience in the studio for two out of the three, adding a live feel to the appropriately titled 'Brooklyn Live!' cast recording. "It was a really, really, interesting experience because I'd never recorded live in the studio like that before. Singing the show that many times in a row was a hard day, but definitely a fun one too. I think that the audience plays such a big part in our show that it was a great idea, and I don't think I could hear the score without it. I haven't brought myself to listen to it all through yet, but the stuff I have heard I couldn't imagine hearing without. I couldn't imagine it the other way like a normal cast album, so I'm glad that they recorded it the way they did."
Eden's musical influences come from a few generations of family members. "I always listened to oldies with my dad in the car, and we'd sing along to a lot of the old school blues, Motown, the Beatles, and everything like that. Then when I'd go to my grandmother's house, she'd have classical music on, or would take me to the ballet and opera. As I got older, Debbie Gibson was my idol when I was 10, she really cinched it for me as a pop singer, and I wanted to be a recording artist before I ever wanted to be in theater. I think I really started the whole belt thing when Mariah Carey came out, because I never heard anyone as young as she was sing like her. I'd just try to emulate everything that she did in my room until I got it right, so she had a great influence on me too when I was young."
These days, her music tastes remain just as varied. "I'm an Eva Cassidy freak, and a lot of people don't know who she is, and she passed away unfortunately, but she's one of the most amazing vocalists. I listen to her a lot, and I also listen to a lot of my friends' music that put out independent albums in LA. One example of that is Matt Caplan who was in Rent. I also like a lot of singer-songwriter music, John Mayer, Dave Matthews, that kind of stuff."
Speaking of singer-songwriters, that's a path that appears to lie in Eden's future. "I'd like to record, and I've had a strong notion that I didn't want to do that till I had something to say, my own style, and my own niche. I have written some of my own music when I was younger, and as I got older my head got in the way of myself and I got insecure and scared about it. I'm starting to feel more comfortable with things though, and telling myself that everything's not going to be totally great, and it's ok to collaborate with somebody so it's something I'd like to start trying out, perhaps sharing with someone that can guide me along a little bit more."
Just like nearly every actor in New York, Eden would love to try her hand at TV and film, but theater remains her first love. "I'm always going to want to do theater, and there's so many parts out there I'd love to play. Les Miserables is my dream show, period. At this time, and when I was younger, Eponine was of course my dream part. Maybe by the time it comes around again, I'll be appropriate for Fantine! Eva Peron is another one, and I'd love to do Evita at some point in my career because the role's so great, and so strong."
Both sound to us like good casting ideas for this young talent. In the meantime, Brooklyn, the Musical plays nightly at the Plymouth Theater. For details, visit www.brooklynthemusical.com. Brooklyn Live! is now available, and to order, click here.