Thursday, May 10, 2012
LITTLE ROCK The two singers joining the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Associate Conductor Geoffrey Robson for a pair of “Wicked Divas” pops concerts this weekend at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall say they aren’t really divas.
And neither they nor their program is all that wicked.
Emily Rozek and Eden Espinosa have both played Wicked witches — Rozek as Glinda in the Los Angeles production and Espinosa as Elphaba on Broadway and in the Los Angeles and San Francisco companies.
“I’m used to the title. It’s kind of fun,” Rozek says. “We always do a funny thing as part of the show, that we’re not really divas — but we like to pretend we are sometimes.”
“When I’ve done this concert in the past, I talk a little bit about my own interpretation of the word ‘diva,’” Espinosa explains. “And instead of the negative connotation, I like to put a positive spin on it, saying that it’s ‘a powerful confident woman using the gifts that she’s been given, doesn’t compromise or settle for anything less.’
“So if that’s the definition of ‘diva,’ maybe I am one.”
(“Diva,” by the way, means “goddess” in Italian. “Ah,” Espinosa says. “Something I didn’t know. I like that.”)
The program ends with three numbers from Wicked. Rozek sings “Popular”; Espinosa sings “Defying Gravity”; and together they sing the musical’s finale duet, “For Good.”
“Eden is one of my favorite Elphabas,” Rozek says. “We’ve played it together a lot [in Los Angeles and San Francisco], I don’t even think I could count [how many times]. I’m very much looking forward to spending some time together.”
The concert format is a construct into which organizers can plug any number of former Wicked witches, Espinosa says, so neither she nor Rozek got much choice in what they’ll be singing.
“I just go where they tell me and sing what they tell me,” she adds with a laugh. “The show is set for other people; maybe the original people that did ‘Wicked Divas’ had some input on what songs they wanted to do.
“When I first did this concert, I had to learn almost all of it. I didn’t know any of the songs besides the Wicked ones and ‘No More Tears’ [a 1979 Barbra Streisand-Donna Summer duet]. I had to learn the song from Ragtime [‘Back to Before’] and the Liza Minnelli number [Kander & Ebb’s ‘Ring Them Bells’] and the one from Spamalot [‘Diva’s Lament’].
“It was kind of a fun experience for me to add some material to my repertoire and sing some songs that I’d never done before.”
“There’s music from lots of different shows, which is fun,” Rozek adds. “It gives the audience a whole spectrum of musical theater — things that are playing now, things that are closed — and usually the compilation goes over really well and people really enjoy it.
“It’s not a whole evening of Wicked, but being the witches who’ve played it, we bring it up a lot and we talk about it and we bring ourselves to the stage and our experiences.”
Her own solo parts of the program include “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady, “Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera and “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic.
The orchestra will play the Overture to Gypsy; orchestral selections from Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen; I Hear a Symphony: Symphonic Sounds of Diana Ross, arranged by Steven Reineke; and “Over the Rainbow” from the movie The Wizard of Oz.
Rozek says it helps a lot to be doing the concert with somebody she knows.
“I did this concert a couple of months ago with a girl I had met for the rehearsal, and it went very well. We’re professionals, we’re used to going on with people we don’t know,” she says. “But [there’s] a lot of banter and ad-libbing in the show, and so it does help to have camaraderie between the two [singers].”
“I’m just happy to come to a city I’ve never been to and perform with Em again, and just show everyone what we’ve got,” Espinosa adds.
8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, Robinson Center Music Hall, West Markham Street and Broadway, Little Rock. Acxiom Pops Live! Series. “Divas” Emily Rozek and Eden Espinosa; Geoffrey Robson, conductor
Sponsor: Aristotle Tickets: $20-$65, $10 students and military, Sunday matinee free for K-12 children with paid adult (501) 666-1761 arkansassymphony.org
Weekend, Pages 36 on 05/10/2012