Exit Exclusive: Eric Anthony Lopez talks Chicagoʼs Revival of Terrence McNallyʼs MASTER CLASS, Cast Recording & Future Plans
23-year-old Broadway favorite Eric Anthony Lopez, who is currently starring opposite Janet Ulrich Brooks (Chicago Premiere of Peter Morgan’s The Audience, Divergent,) in Terrence McNally’s MASTER CLASS in Chicago, for which he received rave reviews from The Times, Chris Jones of The Chicago Tribune, BroadwayWorld & StageCinema Magazine.
Lopez’s notable stage credits include Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of The Opera (Hal Prince, Dir), GRAMMY Nominated Broadway Inspirational Voices (Michael McElroy, Dir.), Crazy For You (The 25th Anniversary @ Lincoln Center), Puccini’s Tosca (London’s New Wimbledon Theatre), Elijah (Australia’s Sydney Opera House). Lopez’s 201a studio album 21 & Counting (featuring a Love Never Dies duet with Tony Award Nominee & Phantom Icon Rebecca Lucker) is available on iTunes.
You received rave reviews for your work as Tony in Master Class. What was the process like on your first straight play & how has Tony changed throughout your time with McNallyʼs play?
What a change this was for me. This was my first time creating something versus just replacing, being in the ensemble of an opera ect. I second-guessed myself a lot in the beginning of rehearsal and then finally like anything else settled in. I felt the freedom to create my own TONY under the guidance of our director Nick Bowling & Assistant Director Leah Riant. Tony is cocky opera student…. who was accepted to participate in Maria Callaʼs 1971 Master Class at The Juilliard School in New York. He is cocky and thinks he has it all. Heʼs overcompensating. Everything I hate & loath about performers.. people really – I throw into this role on the exterior. Walking around like “oh Iʼm the shit”, “little snide facial expressions/remarks/nuances” – everything I caʼt stand (Eric laughs). Every single human walking the earth has insecurities… so I let that show when Maria Callas is breaking Tony down. I am the only character besides “Maria Callas” who talks directly to the audience. My Tony is ever so slightly different every night and depending how Iʼm feeling I will bring that into the show with me.
I will say — I walked into the first day of rehearsal completely intimidated… I was brought in from New York.. the only cast member not from the Chicago community & I felt people were expecting something or I something to prove. It just hit me there oh my God I have to work alongside one of Chicago beloved actresses… I hope she doesnʼt think I suck (Eric laughs). Our leading lady Janet (Ulrich Brooks) made me feel comfortable and at ease the second I met her. I love getting to play with her every night.
Q: What was it like working opposite the beloved Chicago veteran Janet Ulrich Brooks in Master Class.
Janet leads are company with such grace, authority, passion and confidence. Sheʼs a true powerhouse. Itʼs such an education for us younger folks to watch a seasoned actress, someone with her resume/accolades, holding that space and being front and center and driving our show as seamlessly as she does. Iʼve learned so much. Iʼm happy to have her friendship — and you know just watching her work everyday/getting guidance from her whenever I needed it has been the greatest gift. Iʼll miss our pre half hour call talks in her dressing room.Sheʼs the best. I adore her.
Q: Favorite thing about Chicago & what youʼll miss about MASTER CLASS?
The people. Always the people. Iʼve grown especially close to the men I share the stage with — Ray [Hutchison] & Stephen [Boyer]… and of course our leader Janet [Ulrich Brooks]. Later in the process when we moved into the theatre Iʼd loved getting close to dresser Liz Bendure (or as I like to call her – Elizabethah) & our house manager Emma. My character doesnʼt come in until the top of Act 2 and I have a delayed call but I would come and spend it hanging with them. The best memories are always the ones backstage. I got to spend thanksgiving with my stage manager Luci (Kersting) and her husband. Such a treat. I will definitely miss the company and production team but I know I have some friends in Chicago now!
Hear The 23-year-oldʼs “Recondita Armonia” from TOSCA at Featured in McNallyʼs MASTER CLASS, Now on iTunes:
Q: Youʼre originally from Long Island, NY & hit on AMERICAN IDOL when you were just 19. Your small suburban hometown of “Shoreham-Wading River” must be extremely proud & supportive.
Iʼm not sure I have the answer to that. I havenʼt lived there since late 2014 but my brother & mother do. I will say…When I first hit on FOXʼs American Idol a year or so after my High School graduation — which was my first thing..my debut really into the business — It wasnʼt the grand homecoming that one would expect (Lopez laughs). Nothing happened.
The local restaurants, shops & schools ect didnʼt host any celebratory watch parties or go out of there way to advertise it. It wasnʼt really discussed & mentioned frankly — for whatever reason & the executive producers over at the network & other contestants who placed the same as me on the show noticed my communities dismissive response. What I will say is during the few times Iʼve been at my old High School for example (only to see a school event that my little brother David was in) Itʼs always really sweet when a really young kid or a mom comes up to me and says my story/path inspires them to get in the business. So I love and appreciate that. Theyʼre definitely people & former teachers/classmates who have reached out to express that they are happy for me.
The district is under new administration from what I understand — I hear that the energy & culture has really changed for the better — and thatʼs a good thing. Itʼs also 2018 — things are different. I wish I didnʼt focus so much on peopleʼs approval at that time.. but I was 19, fresh to the biz & growing. I encourage people to just save their money, pay there bills and keep it moving.
Q: What are you most proud of?
I would like to think Iʼm still a laid back, nice guy who works tremendously hard & supports other artists.. Men and women..Iʼve always been one to take risks daily to get to where I want to go and I wasnʼt handed one single thing. Every opportunity, everyplace Iʼve traveled to for work, people Iʼve worked with — is because of my own efforts & persistence. The joy is doing the work, everything else is gravy. Iʼm proud that the foundation of my career wasnʼt built on someone elseʼs success. I wasnʼt handed endless funds at 22 from my parents to go abroad & find myself. Every time I went abroad I was working. It was for business. So when people say “Youʼre so lucky youʼve been to x y z, in my head I thank the composers – I wouldnʼt have experienced anything without the work being there first.
Iʼm also proud that Iʼve been late maybe once in my professional career in entertainment. There are a lot actors that want to work — showing up to work late drives me nuts and is beyond unacceptable. I live by the saying 10 min early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable.
And third. As the great Laura Benanti says “ Iʼm so glad my career wasnʼt predicated on being beautiful”. I donʼt have the luxury to just sit back, give a half assed vocal & rest in the fact that Iʼm handsome all will be excused. Frankly – I have to walk onstage and sing extraordinarily and tell a story. I have to try to be different. Thatʼs the reality of showbiz. Iʼm glad that the body of work I have already isnʼt because Iʼm a model or something.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about your next job (which I understand youʼve been given instruction not to say) & what advice would you give to young performers aspiring to do what you do for a living?
The people. Always the people. Making new friends and memories. Not only am I working on a dream job but Iʼm so excited for the people Iʼll be working with.
Advice: Go for it. Work on your weaknesses & not your strengths. Listen to people whoʼve been to what you WANT
TO BE. & save your money & be nice to people. Youʼre not above anyone. (Eric laughs) Iʼm SO BEYOND grateful & lucky to do what I do. Be loyal & cherish the people who take a chance on you!