note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
Astonishing is the only word for it----that a tiny theater in Winthrop could reach for the stars and end up sparkling like the big boys is -- well -- astonishing.
In its 63rd (!!) season, Winthrop Playmakers is presenting "Evita", Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's last (and best) collaboration --- with all its intricate harmonies, flashy photography and elaborate costumes. The Winthrop Players pull it off (with only a few shortcomings).
The jewel in Winthrop's crown is a radiant Rebekah Turner (who wowed audiences in Arlington's "Side Show" last season) as Evita. Turner negotiates Evita's rise and fall with surprising emotional depth, giving a powerfully nuanced performance as the doomed First Lady. And she has gorgeous pipes, too! Director Ron Godfrey takes advantage of the small space at Winthrop to elicit real characterizations from his actors, where big houses have to go broad.
Godfrey gets an honest, emotional performance too from Adam Rosencrance as the master of irony, Che. ("Evita" is built on the stuff: the irony that the Perons bankrupted the country in full view the people; that Evita dies at the height of her popularity...The irony even continues after her death when Peron's second wife, Isabelle, not only gets to be vice-president but gets to succeed to the presidency when Peron dies.) Rosencrance isn't a grandiose Che as much as he is a desperate voice in the wilderness...and Rosencrance gets over the frustration in spades. His waltz with Evita crackles with the heat which burns within the two, as if he finally reaches her and she realizes, if only for a moment, what destruction she has wrought.
Peron, peculiarly, is played stylized and large...when everyone else is going small. Nevertheless Stephen Russo is an impressive presence. Godfrey takes a big gamble and it pays off in having Magaldi painted as a victim. Phil Patterson gives a sweet, touching performance as this singer who is genuinely shocked when Evita throws him over. Amanda Aldi gives a lovely portrayal of Peron's child mistress relegated to another town by Evita.
Susan Paino's choreography is all the more remarkable because she has several dozen people dancing on a dime. The ensemble delivers a stunning "Rollin' On In" and the two tango dancers pulse with energy in counterpoint to Peron and Evita's first meeting. Only the rocking chairs in "The Art f The Possible" need coordination.
Corbet Lunsford's musical direction (and his orchestra) are pitch perfect --- EXCEPT that they drowned out Che and Evita on a few songs on opening night (not an uncommon problem, alas). Once the orchestra finds the right balance with the singers, this "Evita" will be "high flying" indeed, because when you did hear the lyrics, you heard every word. Sharon Slatt's costumes could adorn any production of "Evita", even downtown, they're so sumptuous and Terri Lootens' lighting for Evita lit her from within in "Don't Cry for Me".
BRAVO, Winthrop Playmakers. What a circus. What a show!