Theater Review: "Evita"

By: 
Ben Miles
AYME OLIVO as Eva Peron and the company in Musical Theatre West's production of Evita

In 1979, subsequent to a blockbuster run on London’s West End, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita,” playing on Broadway, became the first British musical to earn a Tony Award for Best Musical.

Now this biography set to melodies (Lloyd Webber, music; Rice, lyrics) is having a home-cultivated production at Long Beach’s own renowned Musical Theatre West (this is the second time “Evita” has been mounted by MTW). This latest staging of the breakthrough musical telling of the life of Eva Peron, as is typical of this theater company, is a success but with an exception. 

Directed by Larry Carpenter, with musical direction by David Lamoureux and choreography by Hector Guerrero, this “Evita” is an eye-pleasing spectacle. Though the marvelous scenic design goes un-credited, it sets the groundwork for the production.

Add to it Jonathan Infante’s sepia-tinted video footage of Eva and Juan Peron and the streets of Argentina in the mid 20th century; Steven Young’s quick-trigger lighting design; Tony Gagliardi’s wig work; and Karen St. Pierre’s dazzling costume design, and the stagecraft is in place for an extraordinary show. There is one exception: The sound design by Audio Production Geeks LLC is sadly distorted and at times indecipherable – a sorry condition to be had by a sung-through musical.

Nevertheless, in two hours (with one intermission), two acts and over two dozen song and dance feats, the performers – five principals and an army of dancing ensemble members, the show remains a stunner. Zachary Ford’s Agustin Magaldi, the Argentine tango and milonga singer is convincing as a Latin music celebrity. Ford’s rendition of “On This Night of a Thousands Stars” demonstrates the star quality of Magaldi as channeled by Ford. Ashley Marie is also notable in the role of Juan Peron’s mistress, and a standout as she performs “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”

As Che the revolutionary, Richard Bermudez is effective as the conscience of Argentine society. Bermudez’s vocal prowess is well exercised in various numbers, but his duet with Eva, “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You” is exemplary of his performance skill. Davis Gaines as Juan Peron provides the vocal chops and gravitas to nearly steal every scene in which he appears. Gaines’s duet with Eva, “Dice Are Rolling,” is especially ominous and portentous.

As Eva Peron, Ayme Olivo has the look and the grace to effectively embody Eva Peron. Unfortunately much of her performance is undermined by poor sound quality. Still in the signature song of the show, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” Olivo hits the proper notes and the soaring emotion required of the number.

“Evita” is a slightly flawed accomplishment, but it is remains a sight for audiences to see and appreciate.

Where: Carpenter Performing Arts Center - 6200 E. Atherton St.

Dates:

Friday, Feb. 17, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 18, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 19, 1 p.m. & 6 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 24, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 25, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 26, 1 p.m. 

Tickets: ​Start at $20 and are available at the Musical Theatre West Ticket Office, by calling (562) 856-1999, ext. 4, or online at www.musical.org.

ben@beachcomber.news

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