Raul Esparza, Brooke Shields to star in 'Leap of Faith' at Ahmanson Theatre
The new musical "Leap of Faith" has landed two impressive stars for its debut in September at the Ahmanson Theatre.
Four-time Tony-nominee Raul Esparza and actress Brooke Shields will play the lead roles in the musical about a fraudulent faith healer who is stranded in a small Kansas town. The show is based on the 1992 Paramount Pictures release of the same name starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger.
In the last 10 years, Esparza has become a popular and versatile leading man on Broadway. His most recent Broadway appearances include the revival of David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow" two seasons ago; the 2007 revival of Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming"; and the 2006 revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Company." His Tony nominations were for all of the above-mentioned productions as well as the musical "Taboo" in 2003.
The actor performed in a recent workshop production of "Leap of Faith" in New York that was seen by Michael Ritchie, the artistic director of Center Theatre Group.
Shields, the former child actress of "Pretty Baby" and "The Blue Lagoon," has recently spent much of her time in television, starring in the NBC series "Suddenly Susan" and "Lipstick Jungle." On Broadway, the actress has stepped into roles as replacements for productions including "Wonderful Town," "Cabaret," "Grease" and "Chicago."
A spokesman for CTG said that Shields will play the role of Marva, a waitress in the small town. The character was played by Lolita Davidovich in the movie version. Actress Kendra Kassebaum will play the role of Esparza's sister, which was originated in the movie by Winger.
Rob Ashford, the Tony-winning choreographer, will direct the musical. In an interview from New York, he said Esparza has all the right qualities for the lead character. "It's a character who has a darker underlying internal life, which Raul can do. Plus he sings the heck out of it."
Ashford, who will also be choreographing the show, said the look of the production will evoke a drought-stricken Midwestern town. The original score brings together gospel-inspired music with country-western style songs.
When asked about plans to eventually bring the show to Broadway, Ashford replied: "That's the plan and that's the hope, to come to New York."
Multiple Oscar-winner Alan Menken has written the score for "Leap of Faith," with lyrics by Glenn Slater. The book is by Janus Cercone, who wrote the screenplay for the film.
"Leap of Faith" is set to open the Ahmanson's 2010-11 season, with a run from Sept. 26 to Oct. 17. Ritchie has stated that there are no specific plans yet to bring the show to New York but he added that the show has Broadway potential.
-- David Ng
Photo: Raul Esparza in the Broadway revival of "Company." Credit: Joseph Sinnott / PBS
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