Dallas — Eden Espinosa, one of the stars of the national tour of the musical Falsettos, which opens tonight at AT&T Performing Arts Center, took time out of her hectic schedule to chat about her career and this tour in particular.
In this Tony-winning Broadway musical Falsettos, with music and lyrics by William Finn and a book by James Lapine, Espinosa plays Trina, the wife of a neurotic gay man Marvin (Max von Essen). Max has a lover Whizzer (Nick Adams), and together, Trina and Max have a son Jason (Jim Kaplan), who’s about to be bar-mitzvahed. The wacky but wonderful musical has a powerful underlying theme: Love can tell a million stories. The musicals comes from the second and third parts of a trio of musicals written earlier by Finn and Lapine (March of the Falsettos and Falsetttoland) and originally performed in Los Angeles and then off-Broadway. The 1992 Broadway debut earned Tony Awards for Finn’s music and lyrics; the show was bested for Best Musical by Crazy for You. The 2016 Broadway revival starred Andrew Rannells, Christian Borle, and Stephanie J. Block.
Espinosa stars alongside Max von Essen and Nick Adams in the tour.
TheaterJones chatted with Espinosa Monday night, the day before the tour’s weeklong run at the Winspear Opera House:
TheaterJones: Eden, you’ve been singing all your life, ever since you were a kid. Singing is as natural to you as drinking water is to most. Was there even an ah-ha moment that said to you, “Yes! This is what I want to do with my life?”
Eden Espinosa: Ever since I was little I just wanted to perform and sing, and there were several different versions of that. Before I even fell in love and grasped the concept of musical theater for a living, I wanted to be a recording artist. There was always some sort of aspect of singing and recording that I wanted to be a part of.
You’re a powerful tour de force type singer on stage, both vocally and dramatically. Is there an essential vocal technique that you keep in mind when you’re singing, which protects your voice and maintains it?
For me, the older I get, as you become known for a singing a certain way of singing or a certain style, you kind of become a little too self-aware and just forget how to naturally do it. And so, I start getting in my head a little bit. For me it’s just about keeping in shape, continuously studying. Whether you have your one teacher, who you love, or several teachers… just keeping your instrument in shape. For me, it’s just about continuously training and studying.
What type of roles do you say “no” to?
There are certain things now that I have enough experience of knowing, like what doing a show eight times a week requires. I’m not the type of actor who will take anything on just because I need a job. I’ve been fortunate enough to have other things to supplement my income. I get to be choosey with the projects that I do. There are things that I know for a fact that I might not enjoy doing eight times a week. Even for Falsettos, I said “no” to coming in to the audition because I didn’t think I was right for it. They asked again, and I said okay, I’ll just go in and see what happens.
The rest is history, right?
[Laughter] So…I try not to limit myself in that regard anymore because this taught me a lesson. You don’t know what they’re looking for; you might open their eyes to a new version of the character that they didn’t know they wanted. But, I definitely do say no to things that I think that I might not enjoy.
It sounds like in Falsettos with Trina, you had to fall in love with this character or be convinced. Was there an enduring or delicious trait about Trina’s character that you like or that surprised you? You’ve played many varied characters in Wicked, Brooklyn, and Rent. Is there a trait about Trina that you just really love?
We’ve just started [the tour], so I haven’t had that much time in her shoes, but what I, off-the-bat love about Trina and see in her, is that she walks through a lot of hurt and turmoil and tries to make the best of things for her family, for her blood family, her husband and her son and her chosen family, in act two. She’s very human about it. She must feed off all the characters in Falsettos. That’s one of the things that I’m drawn to about the piece—it’s not pretty, wrapped up in a bow. They’re very flawed human beings and Trina does the best that she can for the sake of family, which I really admire.
I’m curious about how you view crossing into other genres of music? Like jazz or opera?
I actually train on the legit side with my teacher and I’m pretty much known for doing more contemporary pop singing. But this role in particular, I have to say, is one of my hardest that I’ve had to sing because it is so rangy and the styles are so different. It literally uses every part of the voice—your normal speaking patter stuff, your mixed voice part, your legit voice, and your sell voice. It uses everything! It’s taken me a minute to brush the cobwebs off of certain parts of my voice, but it’s been a good challenge for me. I’ve enjoyed it and I hope I continue to throughout the tour.
What do you sing in the shower or at a stoplight when perhaps no one’s listening?
I usually don’t sing in the shower unless I’m warming up and using the hot water, and I don’t drive that often because I’m in New York. But I do sing walking down the street. A lot of people in New York City do. NYC is full of people in their own little bubbles while we walk down the street as if we were in the car. I just sing whatever I’m listening to on my headphones—what’s rotating on my playlist.
What might be one of the best singing tips that you were ever given?
Don’t be afraid to sound like you. Try not to emulate other people. Find your sound and what makes you unique.
Tell me about emotional moments in the show or ones that bring a lump to one’s throat.
We’ve only had two shows so far in Arkansas and we’re still finding our way, but it happens a lot during the show. The show runs the gamut of emotions from laughing to crying. Dallas is our second city on the tour, and we haven’t traveled around that much so I don’t have that much experience on the actual tour itself yet.
Tell me about what’s unusual or enjoyable about this show and the locations in which you’ve performed?
This musical is not one of the mainstream musicals. It’s not Wicked. It’s not Lion King. It’s dealing with real-life things. It was written about the ’70s—things that were relevant then and it’s still very relevant now. You know, like chosen families, divorce, homosexuality, AIDS, and people that become your family through life circumstances. There obviously is awareness… knowing that certain areas of this country might be a little more conservative than others. And so, there is that little awareness of knowing… I wonder how this is going to come off here. I wonder how it will be received. But, I think it’s that underlying theme of the show, “love can tell a million stories,” that is… the fundamental thing of what makes a family a family, are true no matter if it’s a chosen family or blood family. I hope that people can have open hearts and minds enough to receive the message that we’ve changed. I hope they come out to see the show!