Galileo / Meeting Raúl Esparza

Last night, June 4, 2024, I had the extraordinary experience of witnessing a brand new rock musical preview here at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, before it hopefully heads to Broadway NYC...the musical is GALILEO, based on the controversial life of famed historical Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, book by Danny Strong, songs by Michael Weiner and Zoe Sarnak, directed by Michael Mayer...starring one of my all-time favorite, four-time Tony Award nominated, critically acclaimed musical theatre actors, Raúl E. Esparza, who many of you might recognize as "Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba" from one of my all-time fav TV series, LAW & ORDER SVU!!
The show is running through June 23 and I highly recommend it to both musical theatre fans and history/science buffs....beautiful theatre, staging/lighting design/production, great orchestra, entertaining, educational, and moving book, score, and songs, wonderful performances by the entire cast, and I must say, RAUL ESPARZA did not disappoint, NOBODY does it better and he is SPECTACULAR. This is an actor's actor and a singer's singer who lives for his craft and excels beyond measure at everything he does...watching him live from the 2nd row was a master class in everything I've ever loved about the stage since I was a child and inspired me to be on it myself...witnessing his process in action is a true revelation to behold...not a moment is wasted, every movement, breath, note, and syllable is delivered with unwavering, passionate precision and laser-sharp focus, working that entire stage, playing off the other actors like skyrockets in flight, making you laugh and cry and all points in between in equal measure, expressing the entire galaxy of the moon, sun, planets and stars that makes you feel he IS Galileo, SO exhilarating!! Almost superhuman in his ability to sustain all this at the highest level night after night, committing and surrendering to each moment like it's the first time...simply the BEST of the BEST!!
After the show, I went out to the courtyard where I was told some of the actors would be exiting, but I did not expect Raul Esparza to be one of them. There were only a few of us audience members out there, most of who knew some of the other cast members, and just as I was about to leave, Raul came out, dressed in flip-flops, jeans, a sweatshirt, and a baseball cap, and began taking pictures, signing programs and chatting with folks. His demeanor was so relaxed, personable, and friendly with everyone, and I realized this was an opportunity I did NOT anticipate...
When it was my turn, I extended my hand, introduced myself, and said, "Hi Raul, I'm Kimberlye, I'm a big fan. Please forgive me, I'm kind of speechless right now, I am so incredibly moved by the show and your performance". I'm sure I sounded like a total fangirl dork. Raul couldn't have been nicer and so I piped up, "I played 'Marta" in 2 different productions of COMPANY" (the Tony Award-winning Stephen Sondheim musical for which Raul was nominated for a Tony award in the 2006 revival, for his portrayal of the leading role "Bobby", which Raul nailed like no other before or after him!), and then suddenly I had his rapt attention.
"Really? Where did you perform it?" I told him "Here in Berkeley, at the Live Oak Theatre, many years ago, and in high school!" Raul looked at me incredulously and gasped, "In high school?? You did COMPANY in high school??" I laughed and said, "I know, right?! I was only 14! And I ended up moving to New York!" I neglected to add "And I never got married, probably because COMPANY traumatized me for life, lol!" (That groundbreaking show, set in New York, had some pretty controversial, racy subjects for impressionable teenagers to be tackling in the '70s.)
Raul asked me, "Are you still performing?" I nodded, and then I said this..."Yes, I am...as a matter of fact, I have a gift for you, Raul. Something to thank you for all the years of wonderful entertainment you've gifted me and so many others. I'd like to share some of my art with you."
I reached into my bag and pulled out my SOLILOQUY EP and business card and handed it to him. Raul accepted it, looked at the front and back cover of the EP, and said, "Wow, this is your work? Did you write these songs as well?" I nodded yes, and he said, "I am really looking forward to hearing this, thank you so much!"
We were two artists discussing our mutual history and sharing our work. It was one of the most unexpectedly rewarding and satisfying moments in time I have ever experienced. As much as I wished our conversation could have continued longer, I realized I needed to wrap it up, others were waiting, and so I said, "May I take a picture with you?" "Of course!" he said, and I waved at anyone in line and said, "I have many talents, but selfies are not one of them, can someone please help me?" 😂
A nice gal took this picture of us (he's still clutching my SOLILOQUY EP, awwww) and then it was time to take my leave and go back out into the real world. Raul made a point of putting the EP in his bag, thanking me again, and telling me again how much he was looking forward to listening to it. I asked him, "May I give you a hug?" I didn't plan to do that, it just came out. He smiled and opened his arms, and we embraced as real friends might do.
It is just so gratifying to meet an artist whose immense talents and dedication to his craft you have admired for so many years and to find out he's such a genuinely cool and authentic dude off stage as well. The definition of a class act. Thank you, Raul Esparza, for your entire body of work, last night's lightning rod performance, and that wonderful exchange. I hope you enjoy your stay in the SF Bay Area, and that the rest of the run is a HUGE success! The sky truly is NOT the limit! Soar ever higher and higher! And I sincerely hope you enjoy SOLILOQUY. Say hello to my beloved New York City for me, and to another hundred people that got off of the train, I miss it all SO much...it's still the center of the world!!
GO see GALLILEO while you can, FB peeps, before it hits The Great White Way!! https://www.berkeleyrep.org/shows/galileo/

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