After 9 Years on Lempicka, Star Eden Espinosa Has a Tony Nomination to Show For It | Playbill

Tony Awards After 9 Years on Lempicka, Star Eden Espinosa Has a Tony Nomination to Show For It

Playing the title role in the new musical has earned the exciting belter her first Tony nomination.

Eden Espinosa Vi Dang

Eden Espinosa was one of the most exciting belters to arrive on Broadway in the early 2000s. In fact, this writer still has a vivid memory of hearing the then-newcomer sing for the first time, performing a roof-raising rendition of Stephen Schwartz's The Baker's Wife anthem “Meadowlark” at Joe's Pub that garnered a thunderous ovation.

The California native subsequently went on to Broadway success in Wicked (a thrilling Elphaba), Brooklyn (has anyone ever belted higher than she in “Once Upon a Time”?), and Rent (Maureen in the original Broadway run of Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize winner). In addition to her stunning vocals, Espinosa is also a passionate interpreter of lyrics, and her many talents recently brought the Broadway favorite her first Tony nomination for her performance as late painter Tamara de Lempicka in the long-gestating musical LempickaThe new musical from Carson Kreitzer and Matt Gould picked up three Tony nominations in all, including those for co-star Amber Iman and scenic designers Riccardo Hernández and Peter Nigrini.

Espinosa—also a sublime Trina in the national tour of the Tony-nominated revival of William Finn and James Lapine’s Falsettos—finds herself nominated in the Best Leading Actress in a Musical category, which also includes Maleah Joi Moon (Hell's Kitchen), Kelli O'Hara (Days of Wine and Roses), Maryann Plunkett (The Notebook), and Gayle Rankin (Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club).

On April 30, the morning the 2024 Tony nominations were announced—and just a couple days before it was revealed that Lempicka will end its run at the Longacre later this month—Espinosa chatted with Playbill about her first Tony nomination and what playing the role of the groundbreaking painter over nine years has taught her.

Eden Espinosa in Lempica Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

How did you find out about the nomination today?
Eden Espinosa: I was over at my besties' house, Nick Adams and Kyle Brown, and we had a little breakfast spread. We turned on CBS Mornings. We literally turned it on, and my face popped up on the screen! We didn't know they had started yet on there. I lost feeling in my hands. They were numb for about 20 minutes. [Laughs] I was there with them, and grateful to have love around me.

How does it feel to be nominated in such a jam-packed season?
It's an honor. It's an honor. I spent nine years of my life with [Lempicka]. The fact that we got to Broadway at all is the win for me. And this on top of it is just, you know, icing on the cake. It's such an abundant season with beautiful pieces. To be representing our show in this way, alongside our set designers [Riccardo Hernández and Peter Nigrini] and Amber Iman is a thrill.

You've been in the business for a while—what does it mean to you to get your first Tony nomination?
It means everything. The later part of my career I've been drawn to really, like, artistic pieces. Twenty years ago is when I originated [the title role in] Brooklyn. To have this piece come to Broadway, and to originate it, and to be recognized, is a dream. It's something you always want or hope for in your career. It honestly came at a point when in my heart and in my spirit, I didn't need it anymore—but it feels amazing to be recognized and to be honored.

Lempicka was such a complex person—I wonder what you've learned about yourself portraying her.
The beautiful thing about investing so many years in a piece is you get to come back to it at different points in your life. At this point, this iteration, at this time, for the Broadway production, the main thing that [Tamara de Lempicka] was teaching me was to take up space and don't apologize for it. I wasn't ready for that until this moment in my life. Don't apologize for wanting things, say you want it and go after it, take up the space, and don't make yourself small. That's the thing that has been really loud for me in this iteration.

Meet 2024's 1st Time Tony Nominees

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