PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Eden Espinosa

Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Eden Espinosa
 
Fresh from her work as the potent standby for Idina Menzel in Wicked, Eden Espinosa will again be in a Broadway theatre this fall. Now, she's creating a role rather than covering one.

Eden Espinosa
Eden Espinosa

That role goes by the name of Brooklyn, a woman on the edge who comes to the city that bears her name to search for the father she hasn't seen since childhood and to claim her fortune as a singer. But first, she must discover not only her own past, but be discovered for the talent she possesses. Surrounded by the fellow street singers she meets on the intersections of the city, Brooklyn sings her sidewalk fairy tale to the audience.

On a break in rehearsals that will lead to the Sept. 23 first preview of Brooklyn the Musical at the Plymouth Theatre, the young actress talked with Playbill On-Line about how she got attached to the show, her grandparents' take on the show's grittier side, and the difference between performing in a cavernous space like Wicked's home (the Gershwin) and the Plymouth (where Brooklyn will reside).

PLAYBILL ON-LINE: Can you talk about how you got involved in the production?
Eden Espinosa: I was living in Southern California, where I was born and raised, I was working at Universal Studios and I got a call from Dave Clemmons, the casting director saying there's this new project coming out…Jeff Calhoun and John McDaniel are involved, and they're coming out to L.A. to look at some girls and you should be seen. He was just really talking the project up. He sent me the material, and I auditioned, and the rest is history.

PBOL: How has the production changed since those early days when you first got involved?
EE: It's changed…it's funny because when I look back I feel like it's changed a lot, but at the same time, it hasn't. It's been a really thing to see it grow, to see it change and get better. To see things that 'oh, yes, that is so much better…I'm glad you changed that!' [Songwriters] Mark [Schoenfeld] and Barri [McPherson] are very good about [saying] "okay, cut it." They're not holding on to every little thing, they want their show to be the best. They're really great about [saying] '"if it doesn't work, then we'll find something else." There have been new songs that have come in and out; there have been songs that have swapped. “Once Upon A Time,” for example, wasn't originally Brooklyn's song. It was more like a lullaby, really soft and pretty, that Street Singer sang to Brooklyn, and they changed that around and made it a big number. I couldn't be happier.

PBOL: Given the pop nature of the score and the hiply-designed ads for the production, do you think the show will play to an older audience as well, or does it matter?
EE: I do think it has appeal for everyone. We got to see that in [the] Denver [tryout]. My grandparents flew out to Denver and loved it. They were, of course, supportive of me, but my grandmother, believe it or not, loved everything about [the villainous street-walker character] Paradice. She's tough, street-talking. But I think that they will identify with the heart of the piece. PBOL: Everyone involved seems to feel a real sense of warmth and joy surrounding the production. How is it working with the cast and Jeff Calhoun, the director?
EE: I think that we are very, very spoiled and lucky to be in this working environment. Everyone creatively is the same from the workshop and everyone is really invested in this piece, it's not just a job they were hired out for. They really believe in it and therefore it comes through in the piece. Mark and Barri are that way. It's a very warm environment, open. It's a very best idea [environment], if that doesn't work we'll find something else. Supportive, never ever condescending or "wrong answer, wrong choice." Jeff is really, really excellent about guiding us along enough but letting us find it on our own. Therefore, it's always organic, and I have found that from doing the show a million times from the workshop in Denver to here, that even if it's not the same choice every night it comes across as though that's what it was intended to be. I feel comfortable enough and he trusts me enough to let it be what it's going to be for that night. I know I can pretty much speak for the other four cast members in that as well.

PBOL: What was it like coming from that massive production of Wicked, with all its technical aspects, to such a smaller piece with Brooklyn?
EE: Well, I'll tell you what it was like come from Denver into Wicked and my first time in the Gershwin Theatre. Walking in and being like this "I'm not in Kansas anymore" type thing. I was used to my plastic bag dress and dirty tube-sock gloves [her street-trash costumes in the tryout of Brooklyn], and [now] I was being fitted for this designer dress…and the flying and the monkeys and everything. It was overwhelming. It was so overwhelming. They don't call that theatre “the barn” for nothing, it's huge. We walked into the Plymouth, our first time on Saturday night [Sept. 4]. It'll be nice, because our show's small, you know we're a five-person cast, it's intimate. It was definitely a trip.

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