On the Red Carpet: ‘She’s Here. She’s Queer.’ Lempicka Has Arrived | Playbill

Opening Night On the Red Carpet: ‘She’s Here. She’s Queer.’ Lempicka Has Arrived

Plus, Dylan Mulvaney, J. Harrison Ghee, Sara Bareilles, and other stars walked the red carpet.

Nicholas Ward, Alex Aquilino, Kyle Brown, Julio Rey, Eden Espinosa, Jimin Moon, Stephen Brower, and Michael Milkanin Tricia Baron

Composer Matt Gould could not keep from getting emotional on the red carpet of Lempicka, the musical that he’d been working on for 14 years, which finally opened on Broadway April 14. “It's a childhood dream come true to get to be here on Broadway doing a show about a queer artist,” Gould said with tears in his eyes. “This is the stuff we dream about as kids, making art here in this space.”

The artist in question at the center of Gould’s musical is Tamara de Lempicka, an Art Deco painter who was one of the leading portraitist of her time—she found fame in a profession dominated by men, she pioneered the female gaze in art, and she was openly bisexual. For the theatre artists who made a show about her, opening night for Lempicka was a moment for queer joy to take center stage, or as choreographer Raja Father Kelly put it with pride, “It's time. She's here. She's ready. She's queer. And she's gonna give it, leaving no crumbs.” Read the reviews for Lempicka here.

As the cast and creators walked the red carpet, where the step and repeat was a large-scale image of Lempicka's Autoportrait, they noted how hard-won this moment has been. For Eden Espinosa, who plays Tamara, it’s been 20 years since she’s opened a Broadway show. “It is very profound for me,” she said, adding that though she had doubted herself over the long years of being part of the show, those doubts have vanished. “Feeling in my power, feeling confident. Not feeling like, ‘Oh, I don't know if I can do it’…I feel like we've arrived at this place, where I'm like, ‘Yeah, I got this. I know what I'm doing, I know this role, I know this woman. I know the character I've created.'”

READ: Eden Espinosa Has Been Waiting a Long Time for a Role Like Lempicka

The cast and creators of Lempicka may be experts on Tamara de Lempicka, but how well do they know other female artists? Watch below as Playbill quizzed the Lempicka team on, Is it a painting or a pop song?

On opening night, the creators of Lempicka looked back on the work they’ve done over the last 14 years. Book writer Carson Kreitzer says that in the last four weeks of previews, “We put in changes every single day that we had rehearsal time. And the show is absolutely the strongest thing it's ever been.”

The reason Kreitzer has stayed with the show for so long was because she felt that, even though Lempicka takes place primarily in Paris in the 1930s, the story had a pulsing relevancy—especially for those in the LGBTQIA+ community. “This woman knocked down doors at a time when it was very dangerous to do so,” said Kreitzer. “But we are, unfortunately, landing in a time when things are becoming dangerous again, for people trying to live their lives as their true selves…We're in a time when we need these stories of resistance and fierceness and pride more than ever.”

Tony-winning director Rachel Chavkin described Lempicka as a “vulnerable” work for her. “Its values of womanhood, of power, of survivalism, of queering a space, queering a marriage…I just think it's extraordinary,” she said, as the cast members from her show Hadestown waved from across the street of the newly named Chavkin Way.

Natalie Joy Johnson Heather Gershonowitz

Lempicka is not the only real-life figure portrayed in the show. Natalie Joy Johnson plays Suzy Solidor, who in life was a lesbian and the owner of her own nightclub. In the show, Suzy provides a refuge to the queer community in Paris. For Johnson, who has been with the show for 11 years, Lempicka is special because it allows the actor to be authentically herself.

“I don't know that I will ever find another role that is so perfectly me,” said Johnson, who is expanding her stage role to beyond the show. In addition to playing Suzy, every Thursday night, Johnson will lead a cabaret at the nearby Freaky Tiki. “To be able to kind of marry both of those together, being onstage a gay nightlife icon and then to be doing that in real life now—the marriage of that is truly something I've been dreaming about for years. So the manifestation is, I could not be happier.”

Tony winner Beth Leavel is the only main cast member who is entirely new to the show for Broadway. But she wanted to make her Main Stem return in Lempicka because she had never seen or heard anything like it. Leavel plays the Baroness, a patron of Lempicka. "I love doing original work that has never been done on Broadway before," she enthused. "So knowing that I'm creating something that will be seen in New York for the first time is why I became an actor. And I did the show because of its originality, because of the amazing score that I heard. And Tamara de Lempicka's story. She needs to be celebrated. She needs to be learned from and about.”

And sure, with every opening night, it means it’s time for the critics and the general public to have their say about the show. But for Amber Iman, who plays Lempicka’s lover and muse Rafaela, she’s maintaining her own joy by silencing all the outside voices. “I literally do not care [about] reviews,” she said. “If I can get up every morning and be like, ‘I'm giving 100 percent. I'm taking care of my body. I'm taking care of my voice, my instrument. I am being kind to my collaborators.’ That's what I take away…At the end of the day, I'm proud.” In other words, this woman is unbothered.

READ: Amber Iman on Readying Lempicka While Advocating for Black Women on Broadway

Below, see more images from the Lempicka red carpet, including starry guests Dylan Mulvaney, J. Harrison Ghee, Sara Bareilles, and others.

Photos: Sara Bareilles, Jesse Eisenberg, More Celebrate Opening Night of Lempicka on Broadway

The cast of Lempicka also includes Andrew Samonsky as Tadeusz Lempicki, George Abud as Marinetti, Zoe Glick as Kizette, and Nathaniel Stampley as the Baron.

The company's ensemble includes Alex Aquilino, Lauren Blackman, Stephen Brower, Kyle Brown, Holli’ Conway, Abby Matsusaka, Jimin Moon, Khori Michelle Petinaud, Ximone Rose, and Nicholas Ward. Mariand Torres is the standby for Tamara de Lempicka and The Baroness, with the company rounded out by swings Veronica Fiaoni, Michael Milkanin, Mary Page Nance, and Julio Rey.

The production features scenic design by Riccardo Hernández, costume design by Paloma Young, lighting design by Bradley King, sound design by Peter Hylenski and Justin Stasiw, projection design by Peter Nigrini, hair and wig design by Leah J. Loukas, make-up design by Kirk Cambridge-Del Pesche, music supervision and arrangements by Remy Kurs, music direction by Charity Wicks, orchestrations by Cian McCarthy, and casting by The Telsey Office's Craig Burns. Peter Duchan is serving as creative consultant, and Cody Renard Richard is production stage manager.

The musical has played two earlier runs, in 2019 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and in 2022 at La Jolla Playhouse. Espinosa starred in both earlier productions, both also directed by Chavkin. The work was also developed at the National Alliance for Musical Theater's Festival of New Musicals in 2016.

Seaview and Jenny Niederhoffer are producing, with Sue Wagner, John Johnson, and Jillian Robbins serving as executive producers.

Below, see the cast of Lempicka take their opening night bows.

Photos: Company of Lempicka Takes Opening Night Bow

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