Amaya Braganza Brings A Dream Home in “HADESTOWN” | The South Pasadenan | South Pasadena
Amaya Braganza was sixteen when she saw Eva Noblezada in the original Broadway production of “Hadestown”. Being a young, Filipina actress herself, she very much looked up to Noblezada and says that seeing her as Eurydice was inspiring. “I remember the minute the show ended I was like, I need to be in this. I had never seen a show quite like that in terms of the poeticism of the music and the lyrics – and also just the story, how relatable it was in terms of the world that we live in now. It was inspiring to see such a strong female character on stage and I said, “this is my dream show. It is my dream role. And one day, I believe I’m going to be in it.” Well, ladies and gentlemen, looks like she spoke it into reality because here we are a mere four years later and Braganza has been tapped to be the new Eurydice in the national tour of “Hadestown” which starts a two week run at the Ahmanson Theatre on October 4, 2023.
“Hadestown” is a dazzling, wildly inventive musical based on the Greek myths of Orpheus, Eurydice, Hades, and Persephone. Writer Anaïs Mitchell started with one inspired song that eventually turned into a concept album that grew into a Tony-award winning Broadway smash. Set as a folk opera with textures of pop, jazz, New Orleans second line, the show takes the audience on an electrifying journey – one that Braganza is thrilled to be on.
She hails from Fullerton and grew up in various OC cities where she got her start at the ripe old age of five while performing at the Curtis Theatre in Brea. It was there, along with her two performing sisters, that Braganza found her love of the theatre. She trained further at Center Stage Studios in Aliso Viejo and attributes a lot of her passion for performing to her teachers there. “They helped me grow into the performer I am today,” she says, “and that’s where I started my professional career because it led to my first Broadway audition.” Her best friend at the studio, Mia, was the one who insisted she audition for a Broadway production of “Annie”. Braganza explains, “I owe a lot to her. She and her family paid for my flight, my hotels. I wouldn’t have even known about it because I didn’t think of it as a career at that time. I was so young. But I ended up booking it and I’ve been working in the industry ever since. I love it. It’s what I love to do.”
She was ten years old when she booked “Annie” and her family was fully supportive. Her mother and one of her sisters moved to New York with her for the run of the show. Her mother is a teacher and homeschooled her there while her Dad stayed in California with her eldest sister who was in high school at the time. They returned to California after the close of “Annie” but were soon back in New York for a Broadway run of “The King and I.” This time, her younger sister was also in the cast. “That was just so much fun,” she says. “It’s a dream getting to perform – doing what you love and getting to share that experience with the people that you love as well. So that one was especially special for me. I’m very blessed to have two super talented, amazing sisters I look up to.”
In fact, the three of them have a singing group called “The Braganza Sisters”. “We grew up singing together, doing harmonies, singing in front of our family members. We thought we might as well – what if we just try to make a career out of this? Because we love singing, we love making music and we love doing it together.” They write their own music which she describes as pop/indie that fuses together their theatre background and growing up between Southern California and New York City.
Which brings us to “Hadestown”, which she’s been in rehearsals with the past few weeks and is eagerly anticipating the Los Angeles run. “It’s just such a dream. I’m super excited to be on the show!” Braganza now lives full time in New York City, attending Fordham University, and recently worked with “Hadestown” director, Rachel Chavkin, on an Off-Broadway show called, “How to Defend Yourself” at New York Theatre Workshop. “I sent subtle hints – it was like an inside joke – that I really wanted to be in the show,” she says, laughing at herself. But lo and behold, one day, a little over a month ago, she got the call to come audition. She booked it about a week later and is now about to open in what amounts to her hometown. “When I saw my first city was L.A., I was ecstatic. I’m very excited to do my launch in my hometown. I have a big Filipino family so I already have like 50 family members and family friends coming opening night. So it’s just super exciting to share a role that means so much to me with people that are so dear to my heart who have helped me become the person that I am today. I just feel very grateful to be giving that back with a community that I cherish so much.”
She is now the second Filipina actress to take on the role and the significance isn’t lost on her. “Playing this role has been a dream of mine for so long. Eurydice is a very special character. Growing up in the industry, especially as a person of color, you don’t really see a lot of roles like this that showcase the strength within being a woman. She’s very much a fighter and a survivor. And I think she’s very special, and it’s rare as a person of color to have the opportunity to play such a strong and empowering female character.”
Even though she was very familiar with the score, singing it in your bedroom and performing the role are of course two very different things and the learning curve has been fast and steep. “obviously it’s a lot, especially leading a show as well. And the blocking is just learning everything from scratch. But I just have great support from all sides, the team and the cast. I do I feel good so far,” she says.
And what has surprised her about finally playing Eurydice? “The vulnerability within her and how strong that is – the ways in which she opens up. Because it takes a lot for her to open up and break her walls. And I think it’s very special to tap into that and tap into the times where she does open up – and seeing that strength and independence that she holds. So just tapping into those sides of her and learning what that looks like for her, you know, to be open? That’s exciting. It’s exciting to play.”
It’s a show that she has loved since her first encounter with it four years ago but being in it has given her an even deeper appreciation for the music. “I’ve never heard anything like this on Broadway before – the poeticism of the music and also the important themes and the way it relates to our world today. Even though it’s based on Greek mythology, I think it’s very modern in its themes and how it touches on climate change, immigration – it’s very much timeless but yet also hopeful. Because they both tell the truth, the haunting truth of the world that we live in and that they live in, but also hope for a better one.”
She recites the line she says always gets her – “It’s in Living it Up on Top when Orpheus says, “to the world we dream about and the one that we live in now.” It’s both haunting and it also brings hope for creating a better one. I think what’s so special about this show, is that idea of community and collectivity, not only with the people on stage, but also with the audiences as well. I was working a lot with Rachel last week. And we were talking a lot about connecting with the audience and always making eye contact and talking to them – it’s very much a conversation with the audience and I think it’s just very special to have that. And also with live theatre to be in the same room and experiencing the story at the same time is very much a special experience and just really sharing that moment as a community and as a collective on why we tell this story. It’s something that I hope audiences will get and also very special just to share that experience with one another.”
This is must-see theatre and is only in town for two weeks. So grab your seat now to see Amaya Braganza starring as Eurydice in “Hadestown”. She is joined by Lana Gordon as Persephone and Will Mann as Hermes. Matthew Patrick Quinn and J. Antonio Rodriguez continue their roles as Hades and Orpheus, respectively. The Fates will be played by Marla Louissaint, Lizzie Markson, and Hannah Schreer. The Workers Chorus will feature Sevon Askew, Jamal Lee Harris, Courtney Lauster, Daniel Tracht, and Racquel Williams.
“Hadestown” runs through October 15, at the Ahmanson Theatre. Tickets are available through CenterTheatreGroup.org, Audience Services at (213) 972-4400 or in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Offices (at the Ahmanson Theatre) at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012. Performances run Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.