By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
August 4, 2013
The Cabaret at the Columbia Club continues to grow its reputation, both locally and nationally, as a presenter of some of the world’s finest talent. Another example of the high caliber entertainment that audiences have come to expect was that of Eden Espinosa, who opened her solo show, “Eden Espinosa: Look Around,” Friday, the first of a two-night engagement, at the stylish establishment in downtown Indianapolis.
Espinosa, an Orange County, Cal. native who now resides in NYC, performed on Broadway inWicked, Rent, and Brooklyn. For the last few years she has been performing in concerts and in December released “Look Around,” her debut album.
Joseph Abate is Espinosa’s husband. He also happens to the music director, arranger and pianist for the band that accompanied Espinosa in her Cabaret show. Other members are Thad DeBrock on guitar and drummer Doug Yowell.
During introductory remarks, Cabaret managing producer Shannon Forsell reminded the full-house audience how fortunate they were to be present, considering that there were 30 people on a waiting list for Espinosa’s show. It’s one of those “good” problems the Cabaret is experiencing these days and a sign that they’re becoming victims of their own success.
After Espinosa was introduced by Forsell, which coincided with a musical flourish from the band, she opened with “I’m Not That Girl,” from Wicked, in which she previously played Elphaba on Broadway. In doing so, she immediately established that she was a potent vocal force to be reckoned with.
Espinosa, who stood tall both literally and figuratively, made it clear at the onset that she likes “an interactive audience” as she encouraged the crowd to interact with her. From that point on, the affable entertainer cracked self-deprecating jokes and shared sometimes rambling but often humorous anecdotes during her unscripted banter.
During a program of songs that included tunes from her album and songs she simply chose out of personal preference there were some favorite moments for this writer. During one of these moments, prefaced with an admission that she had been bullied in school, Espinosa sang “Petrified.” The song, with lyrics by Boy George from the musical Taboo, showed off her emotional depth. Another great moment was a tribute to one of her influences, Eva Cassidy, when she sang a lovely rendition of “Fields of Gold,” made even more compelling by DeBrock’s guitar accompaniment.
A highlight of the show came towards the end of Act 2 when Espinosa invited two young singers to perform duets with her. The two were selected from 30 videotapes that had been submitted to Espinosa in advance of the show. Duets with unknown performers have become a regular feature of Espinosa’s concerts ever since she began offering them as perks to donors when she used Kickstarter.com, the fundraising website, to finance her “Look Around” CD.
First up was Ball State Theatre student Michael Ferraro, who sang “As Long As You’re Mine” fromWicked. Ferraro was impressive not only for his vocal talent and but also for the poise he showed while singing with Espinosa.
Next to perform was Ferraro’s Ball State classmate and fellow theater student Keirsten Hodgens who brought down the house with her powerhouse performance alongside Espinosa of “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent.
Hodgens has the kind of talent that could make her Broadway’s next Jennifer Holliday and Ferraro has musical leading man written all over him.
During Act 2, Espinosa further demonstrated her vocal and dramatic versatility and a range that allowed her to execute extreme high notes and sing comfortably in her lower register as well.
Noteworthy songs were her soulful interpretation of “Nothing Compares with You” and a poignant rendition of “Imagine,” again accompanied by DeBrock on guitar. She added “Imagine” to her show after the Boston Marathon bombings.
For her encore Espinosa sang “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. It’s a song that seems to have become the ubiquitous encore song choice for Cabaret performers these days. But since she actually sang the song in the show that made it famous, Espinosa could be forgiven as she masterfully demonstrated why she was chosen to play Elphaba — it’s not a song just any singer can pull off, but she did and then some.
For what she called her “real for real” last song, Espinosa sang a delicately rendered version of “Look Around,” the title track of her CD, which is from The Will Rogers Follies. Encouraging audience members to take care of each other, she dedicated the song to a friend who had committed suicide without his friends even knowing that he was troubled.
Though it was a rather somber conclusion to an evening filled with levity, it spoke to the authenticity of a performer whose love for humanity seems to be as large as her passion for music.
Click here to read the full review.
"One of the best environments for serious music fans in town!"Cabaret Guest