R is for Raúl Esparza. Sondheim Emcee, and Taboo Song and Dance Man.


Raul Esparza was born the year Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” debuted on Broadway. Exactly 50 years after the musical opened, Esparza is the host and organizer for the starry online concert celebrating Sondheim’s 90th birthday, tonight at 8 p.m.

Esparza played Bobby in the 2006 revival of Company, one of the nine Broadway shows in which he’s starred, and one of the four for which he was nominated for a Tony. Those TV viewers who know him only as Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit might be surprised at some of the taboo roles he’s played on stage, including Taboo, a musical with a score by Boy George and a book by Charles Busch.

Cabaret, 1998 revival

A nearly unrecognizable Esparza as the 2002 replacement for the Master of Ceremonies

The Rocky Horror Show, 2000

tick, tick….BOOM, 2001

By Jonathan Larson

In his Obie-winning performance in this first staging of Larson’s pre-“Rent” musical, Esparza portrayed Jonathan, the composer’s alter-ego, a character just turning 30 years old. Here he sings “Why”

Taboo, 2003


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 2005

Hushabye Mountain

Company 2006 revival

In his Tony-nominated role, Esparza portrays Bobby, who has just turned 35.

Someone is Waiting

Marry Me A Little

Poor Baby leading into Barcelona

Being Alive

The Homecoming, by Harold Pinter, 2007 revival

Esparza was nominated for a Tony for his performance in this play by Harold Pinter, the first of four non-musical plays in which he has performed on Broadway.

Speed-The-Plow, by David Mamet, 2008 revival

Another Tony-nominated performance, opposite Elizabeth Moss and  Jeremy Piven (who quit in the middle of the run)

Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard, 2011 revival

Esparza portrayed Valentine, a mathematician, who is a modern-day descendant of the brilliant 19th century mathematician named Thomasina. The play alternaes between the two eras, and we see Valentine use a computer to complete the calculations she was doing in 1809 by hand

Leap of Faith, 2012

In this musical, Esparza portrayed Jonas Nightingale, a con-man evangelist who is forced to re-examine his wicked ways.

At the 2012 Tony Awards

“Leap of Faith” closed after 19 regular performances.

Road Show, 2019 Encores! Concert

“Leap of Faith” was Esparza’s last musical on Broadway. (In 2012, he started his six seasons in the Law and Order TV series, with time out for only a couple of New York plays.)   Last year, he performed in the City Center Encores! concert version of Sondheim’s Road Show, portraying one of the real-life Mizner brothers. Wilson Mizner was a con artist, womanizer, drunk, jack of many trades including celebrated Broadway playwright (!) and screenwriter

“For doing musical theater,” he said, “this is the best of the best of the best of the best.”

He also starred in Theresa Rebeck’s delightful comedy Seared, as a temperamental chef.

Take Me To The World

Raúl Esparza sings “Take Me To The World” from Evening Primrose as part of the concert he organized “Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration,” April 26,2020.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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