Reviews

Lempicka *****

By: Isa Goldberg

April 17, 2024: The scandalous, and dangerous life of art deco artist, Lempicka fuels this exciting new Broadway musical. And a smashing Broadway debut for the writers Carson Kreitzer and Matt Gould it is. 

Eden Espinosa and the cast of “Lempicka”.

By: Isa Goldberg

April 17, 2024: The scandalous, and dangerous life of art deco artist, Lempicka fuels this exciting new Broadway musical. And a smashing Broadway debut for the writers Carson Kreitzer and Matt Gould it is. 

Beginning with a fascinating and highly visual subject – the artist Tamara de Lempicka and her work; the art deco style and her grounding in Cubism; the political events that she survived; moving on to her open bisexuality – all contribute to this remarkable new musical. 

Sensitively directed by Rachel Chavkin, the first act climaxes with a lesbian love making scene that is as hot and sweaty as it is soft and sensual. It’s a brave undertaking – a musical about women that isn’t dull or vanilla. That makes us crave to know more about who the characters are, and what they do.

The Cast of Lempicka.

Stunning in her presence, Eden Espinosa’s Lempicka is earthy, womanly, simple. Her voice is as “clear and clean,” as the painter’s line. “The heartbeat beneath her skin” breathes every moment she’s on stage. So, watching her is magical – her sense of empathy, and warmth are palpable.

Most beguiling, and in a sexually provocative way, Amber Iman portrays Lempicka’s model, and paramour, Rafaela – a snazzy chanteuse. But her voice carries a lot of depth.

Another historical figure, Suzy Solidor, played by Natalie Joy Johnson, brings the two women together.  Johnson’s sophisticated blonde Suzy is a broad, a singer, and a slinky hostess of her lesbian nightclub, Vie Parisenne. 

That Rafael becomes the model Lempicka so famously painted brings the biographical tale to the turning point in Lempicka’s personal, and romantic life. 

Beth Leavel

To make sure that mission is fulfilled, Beth Leavel’s elderly Baroness leaves us speechless, as is her wont. It’s a truly affectionate role, and her final number, ‘Just This Way,’ is a torch song, for all time.

In contrast to the women, however, Lempicka’s aristocratic husband, Tadeusz, immediately comes across as a stuffed shirt and a spoiled grownup. In this role, Andrew Samonsky stumbles fully into the role of a man with minimal depth.  His face off with Rafael, in the song, What She Sees stands out for its emotional strength and vivid staging. 

In terms of historical reality, the book moves swiftly. Tracing Lempicka’s life from her marriage to Tadeusz just prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917, their escape to Paris, and their years there, until the beginning of WWII.  

Amber Iman and Eden Espinosa.

Act II opens in the heat of depression-era Europe, and the drifting winds of another war with Germany. In this opening scene, Arab-American actor George Abud portrays Marinetti – a seriously haunting character. Abud’s arresting portrayal of a venomous bon vivant, forecasting the advent of fascism bleeds with evil. It is an extraordinary performance.

Standing between the legs of the Eiffel Tower, as he is, Marinetti is posed to climb. In Riccardo Hernandez’s scenic design, all of the musical’s action – interior and exterior – is framed by this tower of iron, a trophy to the industrial age that demonstrated strength, power, speed, efficiency. 

Ironically, or not, that is what Lempicka so admired. Her portraits express that love of strength, and a sense of masculinity, which she found in the women she painted. It was her distinct style, identified by clean lines and clear imagery, and the luminosity of her women. 

Peter Nigrini’s projections give us a gallery overview of her extraordinary oeuvre. 

Edem Espinoza and Andrew Samonsky.

That the action moves swiftly is a credit to Raja Feather Kelly’s unusual choreography, which is graceful and tall. Dancers reaching with height, demonstrate the artists aesthetic of “line and form”.  

Fortunately, the show’s historical clock focuses around the art deco period – so visually exciting in design and fashion. To that end, Paloma Young’s costumes are extravagant and colorful. Espinosa, in shades of blue, appears luminous. 

Altogether an elegant musical, Lempicka is truly a highlight of the season.

Lempicka *****
Longacre Theatre
220 W. 48th Street, NYC
Open run
Photography: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman