Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Raúl Esparza

Stage actor and singer Raúl Esparza (b. 1970) is a noted performer in Broadway productions – both musicals and straight plays – who also ventures into film and television roles. He was the subject of a 2006 New York Times profile in which he revealed that, although he had been married to his high school sweetheart since 1993, he was bisexual and engaged in same-sex relationships. While he and his former wife remain close friends, Esparza revealed that he was involved with an unnamed male actor at the time; he and his wife quietly divorced in 2008.

Raúl stars in a new Broadway musical Leap of Faith (see video clip at end of post), which begins previews April 3 at the St. James Theatre. Esparza has received numerous Tony award nominations, among them his portrayal of flamboyant Philip Salon in the Boy George musical Taboo (2004), as Bobby, an empty man devoid of connection, in Stephen Sondheim’s Company (2006), a lazy and snarky man in Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, and an aggressive movie producer in David Mamet's Speed the Plow. He played the role of Riff Raff in the Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show. Esparza is widely regarded for his versatility on stage.

His work on film includes Sidney Lumet's Find Me Guilty and Wes Craven's My Soul to Take. His television credits include roles on Medium and Pushing Daisies. As well, he has recorded the audio-book for Stephen King's Under the Dome and performs as a singer in concerts from coast to coast.

Company is the story of Bobby, a charming single man, who is unable to commit to a relationship and who may have questions about his own sexual identity. Raúl’s own romantic conflicts were far deeper than that of the character he played and had no easy fix; he was no longer truly married, but not entirely separated. Still, the parallels were striking.

Esparza's separation from his wife came after finally acknowledging that his attraction to men wasn't something transient. It's a journey he observed in his stage character as well: "I think the real thing that Bobby is going through is that he’s trying to grow up, and that means accepting things you can’t change, and it also means that in spite of all the messiness and failure you make a choice to love someone and live your life in the way that’s right for you. It’s messier than the pretty picture you painted for yourself. I had a romanticized idea of what it means to be an adult: all husbands and wives who love each other get to stay together forever – love is enough."

The following video is of his performance of Being Alive (Company’s Broadway revival) from the 2007 Tony Awards broadcast.

Raúl Esparza plays con-artist Jonas Nightingale, who finds himself stranded in a backwater Kansas town, attempting to separate the locals from their cash by holding a revival meeting. The musical is based on the 1992 film that starred Steve Martin, and the familiar story line channels such classic dramas as Elmer Gantry, The Rainmaker (and its musical version 110 in the Shade) and The Music Man.

Here Esparza sings Step into the Light from Leap of Faith, which opens on Broadway April 26 (previews begin April 3):