Every Sunday evening, Broadway actress Eva Noblezada slips away from the Walter Kerr Theater to a cozy theater-district venue less than a mile away. There, at The Green Room 42, she steps onto a raised platform, orders a drink, and introduces herself, shedding the beloved stage characters she’s inhabited: the young Vietnamese mother, Kim, from Miss Saigon; Éponine from Les Misérables; and, starting tonight, Eurydice from Broadway’s new musical Hadestown.
Here, the 23-year-old performs as herself. The show, Eva Noblezada: Ballad of a Broadway Twenty-Something, has been sold out for over 19 weeks, and features a lineup ranging from bluesy ballads to radio mainstays like Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” and Hozier’s “Take Me to Church.” A few weeks ago, near the end, she announced a mashup of musical-theater songs. Her Hadestown costar Reeve Carney was seated in the back of the venue across from his mother. He gestured to her: Hit record. Around the room, people held up their cameras. All eyes on Eva.
Starting tonight, Noblezada co-stars in the folk-opera musical Hadestown, from director Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812) and singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell. The show follows two mythological couples: Orpheus and Eurydice (Carney and Noblezada), and Hades and Persephone (played with godly charisma by Patrick Page and Amber Gray). Eurydice is a survivor, haunted by a menacing wind and fleeing hunger, yet her scrappiness saves her time and again. So when food and heat are scarce in a version of Depression-era New Orleans—and her newly betrothed, Orpheus, mistakes musical inspiration for sustenance—desperation forces her hand into a deal with the devil. Eurydice descends into Hades’ hyper-industrialized lair, with her beau close behind. The show recreates the myth for contemporary viewers while seamlessly weaving in front-page issues of workers’ rights, unionization, and borders. (As a dive into its folksy milieu, check out an early rendition of Patrick Page’s “Why We Build the Wall.”)
As Eurydice, Noblezada embodies a Charybdisian magnetism on stage, so alluring it feels dangerous. “She’s like a shining, open-channel powerhouse,” says Carney, who’s seen Ballad of a Broadway Twenty-Something at least five times.
The Mexican-Filipina actress earned attention in 2013, when, at 16, she was a finalist at the National High School Music Theater Awards. Noblezada sang a rendition of Ghost’s “With You,” which caught the attention of casting-director Tara Rubin. At the time, the San Diego native was heading into her senior year at a performing-arts high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. In her free time, she’d record songs in a makeshift recording studio on Photo Booth Video. But seven months later, thanks to Rubin’s guiding hand, Noblezada moved by herself to London to star in the West End revival of Miss Saigon. It was the January before her high-school graduation. She’d never traveled internationally before.
Now, nearly five years later, Noblezada reflects on that time: “I was at my first fitting for Miss Saigon, and I’m standing there in a bra and panties, and the woman who designs the costumes is circling me like a vulture,” she tells the audience at The Green Room 42. “She says, ‘We’ve got to do something about her arms. They’re far too big. We’ve not got enough fabric to cover her stomach.’…For a 17-year-old who didn’t know yet who she was, and had never thought she wasn’t good enough in that way—down the slide we go.”
Noblezada developed bulimia during her West End stint, which took her briefly offstage. She credits her friends and therapist for helping her crawl out of those low moments. “I was so young,” she tells me over breakfast. “I had no idea who I was as a young woman, what I liked or disliked, how to navigate being a leading lady at 17.”
After our interview, she’s heading to another costume fitting. She’d love to bleach her hair for Eurydice. (Spoiler: She did not.) Instead, her Hadestown costume will end up slightly resembling this Friday morning getup: a simple gray long-sleeve tee underneath a used leather jacket, which she proudly snagged for $10. “Eurydice is most like me because of her grit,” Noblezada explains between coffee refills. “Kim was not me at all. I think that’s why I was so exhausted playing her.”
While in London, she also started dating British classical-singer Leo Roberts, who played Les Misérables’s Inspector Javert down the street; he’s now her husband. She admits they’re a stagey couple. They practice British and American accents together. Her alarm is “Wait for Me” from Hadestown. “Just the other day, he woke up first and was like, ‘I’ll make you breakfast,’” she says. “And he’s singing [Oklahoma’s] ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning’ with a loud-ass voice.”
After her West End stint, Noblezada transitioned Kim to New York City for the show’s 2017 Broadway revival. She earned a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical, and caught the eye of Chavkin. “I was blown away by her work,” the director says now. “Eurydice is a funkier character [than Kim,] but the toughness of her—Jesus Christ—the strength of her in Kim has its relevance in Hadestown. Obviously, Eva’s talent is unimpeachable, but what’s so rad about her is it’s matched with equal intelligence and self-awareness,” Chavkin says. (She’s notably the only woman directing a Broadway musical this spring.) “We had wildly sophisticated conversations about shaping the character. I’m not saying that compared to other 23-year-olds, [but] compared to any performer.”
Noblezada explains how she imagines her characters as colors. Eurydice is a cosmic blue. “I think of stars and space, but also of her backstory of survival, turmoil, and heaviness,” she says. She imagines herself as red. Why? “Because I’m an asshole!” She laughs. “Red’s a confidently blazing color, spicy, but also angry and irritable.”
Next month, Noblezada will make her screen debut in Yellow Rose, a dramatic feature film about a Filipina Texas teenager, Rose Garcia, who dreams of pursuing country music. (The film, co-starring Dale Watson and Tony winner Lea Salonga, premieres at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.) I ask what advice she’d give herself at 17, Rose’s age and the year she first embarked to London. “People will tell you that you’re not thin enough, pretty enough, prepared enough, that you haven’t trained enough if you haven’t gone to college,” she says. “That you don’t deserve to be where you are. But I would tell my younger self that you absolutely deserve to be where you are.”
Hadestown opens tonight at the Walter Kerr Theatre.