Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eden Espinosa @ The Ford - ME

Eden Espinosa performed her solo show ME, which had already sold out 4 nights at Joe's Pub in New York this winter, at the Ford Amphitheatre on Friday, July 24 in the second concert of Upright Cabaret's Wicked Summer Nights! Espinosa creates a sensation wherever she sings and this evening was no exception. Her set began Act II, which included an appearance by Grammy-winning Paula Cole; cute, petite Audra Mae, grand-niece of Judy Garland, was the Act I opener. There was a definite rock, pop feel to the evening whose theme was Lost Love, Found Love, Found Me.
Mae, an Oklahoma gal with a real downhome, folksy quality, performed 8 numbers and really revved up the audience for Espinosa. Her own composition "Sullivan's Letter" about a Civil War soldier was quite moving. She also offered "Joey, Joey, Joey", unusual and daring for a female singer, from The Most Happy Fella.
After the intermission, Espinosa, attired in black, made a rather unusual and unannounced entrance in the dark and began simply with a quiet, reflective love ballad "Gravity". With the second rousing "River Deep" followed by Dolly Parton's "Here You Come Again", she was off and rolling. Five songs followed. including "Lover You Should...", "I'm Gonna Be Strong" and the title of her cabaret "Me", which showed incredible vocal range, depth and stamina. 'Ballbuster' was a word the lady used herself to describe one of those songs, as she comically faked a collapse to the stage.
Ms. Cole was introduced and performed two of her hits at the piano: "I Am So Ordinary" and the catchy, popular "I Don't Wanna Wait" which was the hit theme of TV's Dawson's Creek. She briefly spoke of the precariousness of the music industry and was overcome by Espinosa's enthusiasm for her artistry. A touching moment for Cole and for us!
Espinosa returned to the stage energetically for the hand-clapping "Halo" and a tribute to Michael Jackson in duet with Ty Taylor "I Just Can't Stop Loving You". Onward and upward, we were treated to "Oh, City", a very grittily real "The Story" about the physical changes in one's appearance that reflect the emotional changes beneath. The finale was a super trio of songs: Audra Mae's fascinating "Ruby Shoes", a more slowed-down, pensive rendition of "Defying Gravity" and a return to her opening song "Gravity". Mae joined Espinosa on stage for "Ruby Shoes".
Espinosa spoke very little, but when she did, she revealed a very humane and caring side to her personality. What is most appealing about her comes through her magnetic interpretation of the music. She is a true artiste, reminding me greatly of the splendid Betty Buckley, who allows her instrument to carry her and her audience to never-before-visited places in the heart ... and soul.
Other musicians who complemented the evening were musical director Chris Bratten at piano, Jake Simpson on keyboards and vocals and terrific backup singers Debby Holiday and Nicole Marie Poynter. Kudos to Upright producers Shane Scheel and Chris Isaacson for another dynamite summer cabaret under the stars.
Stephen Schwartz will perform the third evening on Sunday August 23rd at the Ford at 7:30 pm, thrilling us with selections from his new opera Seance on a Wet Afternoon.
Stay tuned!


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