November 27, 2004

Evita

This afternoon my family went to see the touring stage show of Evita at the Auditorium Theatre downtown (and then completed the evening with dinner at Mia Cucina in Palatine).

I've seen the movie before, and I'm quite familiar with the music, but I'd never seen it staged before. Fortunately, this company didn't fall into the dangerous trap of mimicking the movie; for good or bad, most of the scenes were pretty different. (Trying to restage the movie would have been nothing but a complete disaster---the media are too different, and the production would suffer.)

One recurring shtick involved a huge screen that descended over the rear of the stage. A projector at the back of the stage put up images from the actual Perón regime, and some video footage from that era as well. They were used throughout the show to great effect, especially in "Buenos Aires" and "Rainbow Tour". Unfortunately, the digitisation was of very poor quality. Rather than looking grainy (which might've been ok), it just looked like someone tivoed the History Channel and forgot to set the quality high enough. Which was really really too bad. I know that higher-definition is possible, and they really should have used it.

The clear low point of the show was the two "tango" dancers. First appearing at the earthquake charity fundraiser, they danced as Juan and Eva sang "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You". Which is basically a rhumba, but whatever. What they danced was not anything like a tango or a rhumba; the dancers had no connection with the floor or each other, or anything else for that matter. That includes, say, the music. And as the rest of the onstage cast moved off (the various onlookers from the benefit), these two continued dancing all over the stage while Juan and Eva sang. There was no reason for them to be there, the dancing wasn't good, the dancing didn't relate to anything, and they were very distracting. They then had to reprise this role during the requiem montage at the end of the show. Simply dreadful. I'm not that picky---they didn't have to dance a proper tango or anything (although I think a good, y'know, Argentine tango would have been welcome at some point during the show), but in this case having them there was definitely worse than having nothing there at all.

Most disturbing moment in the show goes to the following lines in "A New Argentina":

PERON
It's annoying that we have to fight elections for our cause
The inconvenience--having to get a majority
If normal methods of persuasion fail to win us applause
There are other ways of establishing authority

SECRET POLICE
We have ways of making you vote for us, or at least of
making you abstain

Lines that I remember thinking of as "things that fascist regimes do" when I saw the movie back in the mid 90s suddenly strike rather a lot too close to home.

The show itself basically has three real parts, with three or so very minor parts and a chorus. Eva (Kathy Voytko) and Juan (Philip Hernandez) were great, though I'm not sure I'd say they were better than their movie counterparts. (Voytko was a better-trained singer than Madonna, but Madonna had the advantage of sound studios and re-takes.) Che (Bradley Dean) wasn't bad, but he definitely wasn't as good as Antonio Banderas; this guy used a trained singing voice at the wrong places and busted out the shouted or spoken line in a really awkward way. Of the remainder of the cast, I really liked the performance of "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" by Perón's mistress (Kate Manning); I have never seen good, strong singing so successfully blended with convincing verge-of-tears acting. And the chorus itself is a bit more featured in the stage show than in the movie, with many of the harmonies much richer and easier to discern.

Love, love, love the costumes. The rest of the technical work was generally decent, although solo lines from the chorus were not all very audible (some miked and some not), and there were a number of minor lighting miscues (which you'd think they would have ironed out over the last few weeks of performing in this venue).

Overall, I was very glad to see the show, and I do recommend it. Its faults are minor and its strengths... strong. Sadly, its Chicago run ends tomorrow. Maybe it will come back! Or maybe you can catch it in another city. Most of the cast and crew should be the same. :)

"The only difference in the game of love over the last few thousand years is that they've changed trumps from clubs to diamonds." --The Indianapolis Star

Posted by blahedo at 10:39pm on 27 Nov 2004
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