note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
When Reagle says they offer Broadway shows at prices Broadway hasn't seen in years, it's not hype. They charge a third of the downtown ticket prices and they consistently deliver better shows.
"Evita" is back at Reagle -- complete with Broadway stars -- but the story here is the director. Kenneth Urmston has staged "Evita's" all over the world --- and in a half dozen different languages! ---for the past twenty years. So this one has an attention to detail that takes the breath away.
Urmston stages elaborate tableaux behind his principals as "scenery"; so, when Evita and Peron meet for the first time, the background freezes: a policeman stops in mid-stride, a child reaches for a balloon, and tango dancers bend over backwards --- and stay there. (Most productions freeze only the dancers.)
In Urmston's recreation of the original Hal Prince production (which Urmston stage-managed by the way) the delicious details add dimensions and sharp political commentary: the aristocrats who are stripped of their jewelry and fancy clothes disappear (as it says in Tim Rice's sardonic lyrics) into the crowd; Peron exhales a triumphant puff of cigar smoke after his military victory in the music chairs number; eyepopping staging and choreography for the chorus make the production numbers sizzle with energy.
Vincente D'Elia is a conspiratorial Che, drawing us in to share his caustic comments, and he gets to croon some high C's rock 'n' roll style in the high spirited Andrew Lloyd Webber tune "The Money Kept Rollin' In". Kerri Jill Garbis gives us a sharp-edged, social-climbing, and bravely unsympathetic Eva in Act I, turning the tables and making her sympathetic in the second act --- where she softens because cancer is the one enemy she cannot beat. Even Che is affected by her pathetic state, tenderly moving the microphone closer when she can hardly speak.
Ronald L. brown is a scheming Peron, but he too becomes human in Act II. He is so affected by Eva's illness that he can't even help her when she collapses. Bobby Matteau is a charmingly sweet Migaldi --- whom Urmston cleverly keeps around for the conclusion of "Good Night And Thank You". Bonnie Fraser gives a delicate, winning performance as Peron's child/mistress. Her "Another Suitcase" is one of "Evita's" highlights.
If you haven't experienced "Evita" this is the production to see. If you have, the Reagle "Evita" will surprise you. Every moment sparkles. Every inch of the stage radiates light.