Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Eyes"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"Evita"

Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Choreography, and Harold Prince's Original Direction Reproduced, by Larry Fuller

Sets, Costumes & Projections Designed by Timothy O'Brien
Lighting Design by Richard Winkler
Sound Design by Abe Jacob
Production Stage Manager Greg Hirsch

Eva...................Natalie Tore/ Ana Maria Andricain
Che..................................................Raoul Esparza
Peron..........................Raymond Jaramillo McLeod
Magaldi.................................................Tom Flynn
Peron's Mistress/Young Eva.......Angela Covington
Marguerite a Tango Dancer..............R. Kim Jordan
People of Argentina, as well as:
Mario a Tango Dancer/Sloucho..............Amir Levy
Press Secretary/General.......................Scott Blanks
General............................................Charlie Marcus
General...........................................William Glinsky
General................................................Steve Hogle
Eva's Mother................................Mary C. Sheehan
Eva's Sister/Dream Eva....................Kathryn Blake
Eva's Brother...................................Charlie Bergell
Sloucho............................................Kevin Bernard
First Lover..........................................Neil Badders
Maid......................................................Tara Tyrell
Make-up Lady/Eva's Sister.........Lauren Thompson
Nurse/Eva's Sister...............................Karen Farrell
Papal Admiral.....................................Sterling Clark
Raquel Baldwin, Lesley Blumenthal, Pam Bradley,, Catherine Chiarelli, Bill E. Dietrich, Jeffrey Drew, Scott Hayward, R. Kim Jordan, Heather McFadden, Halden Michaels, David Roberts, Ray Rochelle, Anna Simonelli, Matthew Sipress, Meaghan Adawe McLeod

ORCHESTRA:
Keyboard..........David Thompson
Keyboard II..........Shawn Gough
Guitar...............David Shoup
Bass...............Randall klitz
Drums..............Aaron Russell


When I said I had just seen "Evita" my friend immediately replied, dryly, "And a little bit of Brecht doesn't go very far at all, does it?" for he knew I'd hate it. After all, I think of operas as concerts with plots, I thought "Joseph And The Et-Cetera" a cutsie Christian kiddies' show with elephantiasis, and I had to give up listening to "Standing Room Only" every Saturday because I couldn't stand the thought of hearing the faux-emotion of that faux-Puccini "Music of The Night" another ghoddamned time. And yet my friend was wrong, and I can't decide whether I actually liked "Evita" because this cast could act instead of just sing, or because it was the last and best time that Tim Rice had anything to do with that awful Sir Andrew.

When "Evita" was first in London so was I, but although I saw sixty plays those ten weeks I missed it, so the tour that's at the Colonial was the first time I got to see what all the fuss had been about that summer. And here I must say I'd been given what I thought were bad seats --- 4th row, on the right-center aisle --- but they turned out to be excellent. This is a full-stage, complicated production, and I'd normally rather be back in row 12 or so to see the entire action at a glance. But it's also dominated by a two-story-high movie screen with projections of grainy, old-looking, grey-and-greyer movie clips and slides that maybe fill in some of the real woman's real life --- and no doubt shrink the mere people scurrying about below it to little Ken & Barbie dolls with body-mikes. However, from the 4th row those people are actually People, and half the time the projections were either irrelevant or invisible, because my attention was glued to them. And more often than not Natalie Toro stood at the edge of the stage right in front of me and (you'll have to take my word for this) looked me right in the eye as she sang. Who cared what was on that big silver screen above her?

For those like me who have avoided the play and the movie up till now, let me say it is simply a quick and breezy documentary of Eva Duarte's career from entertainer and prostitute to wife and almost vice-president to Juan Peron, the fascist dictator of Argentina during and after World War II, all of it sung-through in stimme-sprecken stolen melodies harnessed to a driving heavy-metal orchestration. As biography it is swift and sleazy, as history it is swift and shallow, and as political satire it is tepid. That last is surprising because the whole story is narrated by an acerbically cynical Che Guevara whose manner and nuance say much more than his words about Eva's successes or her failures.

But the staging, and the performances, are excellent.

As Juan Peron, Raymond Jaramillo McLeod is a big, solid opera singer imposing even when silent. As with most Fascist dictators, he is more a dress uniform that a person, but even with so little time centerstage, his face embodies a rapacious lust for power that makes you believe he could dominate a country.

But if Peron is all quietly confident power, Che is a peripatetic little dynamo. Raoul Esparza speaks more than sings, with venom in every coldly objective comment, dipping into the action occasionally to swell a scene, or to incite beatings from fascist bodyguards when his gadfly commentaries offend. Elastic and electric, he is all over the stage.

But nothing, not dictator nor revolutionary, not stylized ranks of effete or military critics, not the long-suffering yet adoring poor, ever quite steals centerstage from Natalie Toro's tiny powerhouse of Evita herself. Her yearnings at fifteen, her quick climb from bed to ever more expensive bed, her awareness of crowd-power, her triumphs and humiliations as ambassadress, and her sickness and death --- all come alive in now tiny, now powerful singing and an intensely expressive face. Sitting so close, I found it work to tear attention away from her to look at another actor elsewhere.

So maybe it wasn't Tim Rice as writer-librettist after all that caught me. Maybe it wasn't Larry Fuller's choreography, or his faithful reproduction of Harold Prince's original Broadway staging, or the interplay of Richard Winkler's bold lighting with Timothy O'Brien's sets, costumes, and projections, or Abe Jacob's tastefully comprehensible sound design, or Kevin Farrell's direction of music from a synthesizer duo plus rhythm-section, and it certainly wasn't the dying-fall music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Maybe I just liked seeing all those human beings doing such a great job together, live on stage.

Love,
===Anon.


"Evita" (till 1 August)
COLONIAL THEATRE
106 Boylston Street, BOSTON
1(617)426-9366

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