Around The Town

Five Reasons Why Lempicka is an Artistic Feat

By: Iris Wiener

April 23, 2024: Rachel Chavkin’s quite unique stamp on the trope of theatre is on fine display at Broadway’s Lempicka, a beautifully constructed musical about an artist whose story is not quite as enormous as the elements that abound on stage. Matt Gould and Carson Kreitzer’s biomusical follows the life of Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka (Eden Espinosa), a young artistocrat who found her passion and purpose in her art while fleeing the upheaval of the Russian Revolution with her husband (Andrew Samonsky) for exile in Paris. She eventually meets prostitute/muse Rafaela (Amber Iman) who becomes the catalyst in her quietly iconic career. An artistic feat in and of itself, here are five reasons why Lempicka is a worthy experience:

By: Iris Wiener

April 23, 2024: Rachel Chavkin’s quite unique stamp on the trope of theatre is on fine display at Broadway’s Lempicka, a beautifully constructed musical about an artist whose story is not quite as enormous as the elements that abound on stage. Matt Gould and Carson Kreitzer’s biomusical follows the life of Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka (Eden Espinosa), a young artistocrat who found her passion and purpose in her art while fleeing the upheaval of the Russian Revolution with her husband (Andrew Samonsky) for exile in Paris. She eventually meets prostitute/muse Rafaela (Amber Iman) who becomes the catalyst in her quietly iconic career. An artistic feat in and of itself, here are five reasons why Lempicka is a worthy experience:

1.    Chavkin’s direction is head-turning in the number of riches at any given turn. Lempicka is simultaneously reminiscent of the dark sensuality of Hadestown and the exciting unpredictability in Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812. With “Don’t Bet Your Heart,” Lempicka meets Rafaela (who soon becomes her lover), to a colorful, erotic piece that soars. George Abud is a masterful scene-stealer as Lempicka’s male chauvinist, tyrannically brutal mentor Marinetti. Chavkin’s staging is especially sensational and energizing in Marinetti’s rock-infused “Perfection.” The magnetic mounting of the ensemble genius “Our Time” is begging for its moment on the stage of the Tony Awards. 

2.    Riccardo Hernandez has created a stunning set filled with multi-functional rotating steel platforms, staircases, cables, and balconies which serve to fill the spaces of St. Petersburg to Paris, from a brothel to an underground nightclub, to Lempicka’s studio sanctuary, and of course, art galleries. Coupled with Bradley King’s clever, Deco-neon lighting, the design is an incredulously intricate web. 

3.    Raja Feather Kelly’s eccentric choreography explores a number of genres and keeps audiences guessing in a refreshing manner not often seen on Broadway stages. The tone is brilliantly set in each piece, whether in balletic form, ballroom sways, voguing, contemporary drills, or mechanical marching sequences in the cerebral points focusing on the militaristic vibe of the scene; most every number is surprising in its energy and intricacy. 

4.    Paloma Young’s costume design is innovative and as varied as the multitude of styles and eras Lempicka embodies. The corsets and pointed bras add an avant-garde edge to militaristic and edgily alluring numbers, while period, upper-class dress and jewels at once demonstrate the class consciousness of Lempicka at various stages in her life. 

5.    The performances in Lempicka are thrilling in their vastly different styles. While Tamara de Lempicka is arguably not the well-known artist that the musical purports her to be, Eden Espinosa’s huge, commanding voice begs audiences to wonder why they’re uninformed about the artist’s multi-faceted story.  She pulls audiences in from her first entrance, as she delivers “Unseen,” hobbling onto a Los Angeles park bench in 1975 as an old woman. Her prologue quickly swirls back in time as she becomes a 19 year-old readying for her wedding in 1916 Russia, where the Polish-born beauty is marrying Tadeusz Lempicki, a Russian nobleman, much to his family’s despair. Samonsky plays Tadeusz’ internal struggles and unhappiness with clarity and rigor. With his stunning voice he manages to keep audiences somewhat empathetic with his journey, as irredeemable as it often seems. 

Amber Iman and Eden Espinosa. Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman.