Evita: A Mixed Bag
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Cabrillo Music Theatre is bringing to Thousand Oaks their most recent season including a production of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita that is playing two weekends from now through the 23rd of October. But is it worth the steep price of $79 for Orchestra seats? [Rear Mezzanine seats can go as low as $34.]
|David Kirk Grant, Joshua Rivera, Veronica Gutierrez, Cassandra Murphy. Photo by Ed Krieger.|
|Marc Ginsburg & Cassandra Murphy. Photo by Ed Krieger.|
Let’s start with the production’s positives:
- Leading man, Marc Ginsburg, is a vocal powerhouse whose high notes and energy had the audience applauding on opening night long before he had finished singing “And The Money Keeps Rolling In”.
- Leading lady Cassandra Murphy was captivating as Evita and especially killed it during the second act.
- Choreographer Cheryl Baxter made some unique choices which were well received such as using rocking chairs during “The Art of the Possible” although unfortunately her choreography was also a source of disappointment (see negatives below).
- The ensemble was fabulous with good energy, great dancing skills and they were able to work around several major technical errors on Opening Night without batting an eye.
- Tango dancers Joshua Rivera and Veronica Gutierrez were phenomenal. They nearly stole the show and most definitely stole the scene during “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You” meaning stars David Kirk Grant and Cassandra Murphy (Peron and Evita) were but background filler — not an easy feat considering the stars’ strong voices.
|David Kirk Grant & Cassandra Murphy. Photo by Ed Krieger.|
And now for the show’s negatives and questionable moments:
- I could not figure out whether Director Roger Castellano was basing his production after Harold Prince’s 1979 Broadway production with Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone (using the famous bed in “A New Argentina” and dressing Che in a guerrilla uniform) or Michael Grandage’s more recent 2012 Broadway Revival that had Ricky Martin as a more obscure Che in civilian clothing and a more forgivable portrayal of Evita (Elena Roger) as saint versus villain.
- The production would be difficult for anyone who is unfamiliar with the background story of Evita and Juan Peron to follow the musical or understand what is happening with regards to Evita’s health problems, the Eva Peron Foundation, etc. It is also hard to understand why the two Peron henchmen are attacking Che during a couple key scenes if you don’t know Harold Prince’s vision of Che as Guevara.
- Choreographer Cheryl Baxter‘s major failing was during “A Waltz for Eva and Che”. Here was a chance for leading lady Cassandra Murphy to showcase her dance skills and for Baxter to unveil chemistry between Che and Evita, especially after the amazing tango by ensemble members Joshua Rivera and Veronica Gutierrez earlier in Act One. To put it simply — there was NO waltz and NO chemistry.
- Speaking of the lack of chemistry, there was zilch chemistry between David Kirk Grant and Cassandra Murphy and perhaps it is because all the small moments shared between the lead characters from previous productions were missing and also “You Must Love Me” was addressed not to Peron but the citizens of Argentina.
|Joshua Rivera & Veronica Gutierrez. Photo Credit: Veronica Gutierrez/Instagram.|
Shout outs to the following cast members:
- Marc Ginsburg (Che) stole the show and owned every one of his musical numbers.
- Cassandra Murphy (Evita) was both gorgeous of face and voice. Her “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” and “Lament” were heartbreaking.
- Isa Briones (Mistress/Ensemble) was perfectly vulnerable and her vocals during “Another Suitcase In Another Hall” was one of the most memorable numbers during Act One.
- I cannot say enough about the amazing Veronica Gutierrez whose tango dancing had us mesmerized.
If you would like to catch Evita at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, there are still 7 more performances: Now through 23 October 2016.
Tickets: $34-$79, Ticketmaster or Box Office
Location: Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
Parking: $8 (cash only)
Appropriate Ages: 12+ (adult language and situations)
Special Performances: Thursday @ 7:30 & Signed Performance on Friday @ 8:00.
Disclaimer: I had my ticket comped for review purposes but all opinions are my own.