Now, normally, I'm extremely leery about national tours of long-dormant musicals. They tend to be long on ambition and short on talent. And big on disappointment. (And I know every word and every note of Evita, so I was especially worried. I'm that gay.) But tonight I was pleasantly surprised. Make that ecstatically surprised.
The production is a faithful re-creation of the original Broadway show with some notable improvements: 1) The orchestrations are more robust—almost to the point of being decadent—thanks to the miracles of computer enhancement and click-track vocals. Though the canned violins are a definite detraction. 2) The choreography is more ambitious, and—with a few exceptions—danced with expert, fiery abandon. 3) There is more emphasis placed on humanizing Evita, exploring the roots and manifestations of her class resentment and how it fueled her thirst for power and control. 4) The singing and acting are spectacular across the board:
• Kathy Voytko morphs expertly from the innocently ambitous Eva Duarte to the commandeering Eva Peron and even collapses tragically into herself as the sickly, dying Evita. Best of all, she has a crystal-clear voice that can belt and soar with the best of them—with the exception of a few weak mid-range money notes like those at the end of her brief solo in "The Art of the Possible." (Even better still, she's NOT that vowel-chewing, diction-swallowing harridan Patti LuPone.)
• Bradley Dean brings out the most fully realized Che I've ever seen. He ushers the character seamlessly between anger, condescention, bewilderment and admonition—with a powerhouse voice that's equally as versatile.
• Hunky Gabriel Burrafato is a sexy, smoldering Magaldi with a clear, pure Irish (Argentinian?) tenor that reverberates off every accoustically perfect wall in the Auditorium Theater.
• Philip Hernandez brings the requisite gravity to Juan Peron, adding a dose of humanity that reveals more of the dictator's inner conflicts.
• And minuscule Kate Manning all but steals the show with her plaintive—and hauntingly clear—"Another Suitcase in Another Hall."
Matt, of course, didn't like it. We have exact opposite tastes in musical theater (and music and movies and art and men). It's a good thing
The only downside to the evening—aside from the literally glaring incompetence of the spotlight operators—was the trio of dumpy suburban women sitting in front of us. Something about the opening of Act II set them off a-giggling, which evolved to not-so-hushed conversations, which evolved to digging through purses to find something—which brought them all this close to being bitch-slapped across the backs of their poorly coiffed, chubby little heads.
This production ranks among the best Evitas I've ever seen—and I've seen a lot of them. But it leaves Chicago on November 28, so get your tickets now (or better yet, stop by the Auditorium Theatre box office and buy them in person so you don't get