Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 21, 2018

REVIEW: Williamstown Theatre Festival, Lempicka

Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, MA
through August 21, 2018
by Mary Fernandez-Sierra

A sumptuous world premiere musical performs at Williamstown Theatre in Lempicka, based on the life of Polish art deco artist Tamara de Lempicka.

Spanning the Russian Revolution, Parisian high life between the World Wars, and the decadent underworld of bar rooms and brothel folk, this musical tells the tale of one woman’s journey from destitute refugee to rising star of the art world.

From ensemble to leads, each performer in this production is outstanding, and the voices and musical numbers, even if one is not a fan of contemporary musicals, are stunning.

In the demanding central role of Lempicka, Eden Espinosa is superb. Her stage presence, singing and acting carry the show; she is a phenomenon onstage. Andrew Samonsky playing Tadeusz, Lempicka’s first husband, is equally brilliant. He strikes just the right blend of displaced aristocrat and outshone lover, giving as strong a performance as Espinosa. Onstage together, these two rock the house.

The sultry voice and presence of Carmen Cusack as Rafaela, Lempicka’s lover, provide a compliment to the main leads. The audience falls under her sensuous spell as much as Lempicka herself; their number “Stillness” is magical.

Nathaniel Stampley and Rachel Tucker as the Baron and Baroness, and Natalie Joy Johnson as Suzi Solidor add strong character performances and impressive vocals to an already amazing array of onstage talent.

Photo by Carolyn Brown
Vivid and creative choreography by Raja Feather Kelly ranges from beautiful stills of the ensemble in painting frames to speakeasy jazz moves –  dance seems to be everywhere, seamlessly interwoven throughout this show. Extravagant costumes by Montana Levi Blanco reflect Russian royalty as well as  impoverishment, swank Parisian style and California cool, all in a few hours onstage – truly a visual tour de force. Scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez reveals artistic genius: one leg of the Eiffel Tower, and we are in Paris, while doors, divans, platforms and even a bar room with a huge mirror spin the audience and the performers to many other settings.

Director Rachel Chavkin has done an amazing and imaginative job uniting a powerful cast, wieldy musical numbers and dizzying plot into a coherent and enjoyable if lengthy production (Act I runs one and a half hours.) Lempicka is a musical on the grand scale; bravo to everyone involved!