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Evita is so much more than "Don't Cry for Me,
Argentina." Not that the song isn't extraordinary. It is. Even those who
haven't seen Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's pop opera about the amazing life of Eva
Peron know the tune, a cultural touchstone of the late 1970s.
More than 25 years after it opened in London, Evita remains as vital and vibrant as ever. The show's new touring production is under the supervision of Hal Prince, who directed the original in London and the Tony Award-winning Broadway edition, too.
What a way to learn South American history, through Lloyd Webber and Rice's most hummable, most memorable score. Those catchy, dramatic tunes, along with Prince's inventive, minimalist staging and a real-life main character who has the guile of Cruella De Ville, make for a stage experience nothing short of thrilling.
It helps to have talent that's up to the challenge of the piece. Kathy Voytko as bad girl Eva Peron, the poor yet ambitious teen who literally sleeps her way to fortune, fame, and, finally, to being the first lady of Argentina, captivates. Though her singing voice may not rival other famous stage Evas Patti LuPone or Elaine Paige, she clearly becomes the role. As the revolutionary Che (a character reminiscent of Che Guevara), Eva's nemesis, Bradley Dean matches Voytko note for note and scowl for scowl. Playing the narrator/Greek chorus role that's as key as the title character, Dean elucidates the story of Eva's rise and fall with passion and panache.
The supporting characters are equally exciting. As dictator Juan Peron, Philip Hernandez reveals a lust for power that equals his wife's. Gabriel Burrafato serenades beautifully as tango singer Magaldi, Eva's first conquest. And, as Juan's mistress who's tossed aside at Eva's arrival, Kate Manning shows great emotion singing the show's second best number, "Another Suitcase in Another Hall.''
Under musical direction by Kevin Farrell, the orchestra does the famous score justice, nicely complementing the clear voices among the leads and chorus. Tim O'Brien's luscious 1940s-era costumes give Evita a vivid sense of time and place, as does his clever set design, a two-level arrangement backed by a screen on which photographs of the real Juan and Eva Peron and Argentina's citizenry are screened. Seeing the actual political figures alongside the actors brings a tangible urgency to Evita, injecting a sense of immediacy long after the history has been played out.
In this production, choreographer/director Larry Fuller does a good thing in faithfully re-creating Prince's original vision. Like its predecessors, this Evita is classic.
San Francisco, March 18, 2005 - Leslie Katz
|Evita - Musical Excerpts and Complete Libretto Piano/Vocal/Chords Vocal Selections (Arrangements for piano and voice with guitar chords). 72 pages. See more info...|