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Last night I took my mum to see Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice‘s beloved musical, EVITA, based on the life of Eva Peron. This particular national tour is based on the 2006 London and 2012 Broadway Michael Grandage staging and exceeded all expectations.
To begin with, Michael Grandage‘s staging is perfect because of its simplicity. Major props and sets are not needed and would have been a distraction from the star of the show. Covering an eighteen year time period, the stage is just that – a stage and canvas for Evita’s life. The one set piece of significance is the balcony of the Casa Rosada and again it does not distract from the show’s iconic song (“Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”) but only draws further attention to its star with its simplicity and beauty.
|Photo by Richard Termine|
I would be very amiss to not mention the sensational lighting design by Neil Austin. In keeping with Michael Grandage’s simplistic staging, Neil Austin’s lighting design is sheer perfection and yet at times almost steals the limelight (pun intended). One interesting observation is that with the majority of the scenes lit to give the illusion of natural lighting streaming through the windows, you as the audience are drawn into the world of EVITA as an observer not able to get too close to the main cast. Perhaps because of the anti-Peronist slant you are better off putting some distance between yourself and Eva Peron. I for one wanted to slug Eva for the callous ways she dismissed both her latest flame (at the charity benefit) and Peron’s Mistress.
As anyone who has heard the soundtrack of EVITA or seen the 1996 motion picture starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas will attest – this has to be one of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most poignant and hummable scores. Personal favorites going into the show included: Another Suitcase in Another Hall, I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You, She is a Diamond, and Money Keeps Rolling In. All four songs lived up to my expectations and then some! A song that surprised me with how much I liked it was The Art of the Possible and for that new found favorite I give credit to the choreographer (Rob Ashford) and dancers/singers (in particular Sean MacLaughlin as Peron). Funny enough, for the same reason (choreography), I was disappointed with a favorite song, Good Night and Thank You. There were times when Eva and her lover would lean against the door and it would sway under their weight and I was left wanting to giggle for all the wrong reasons.
And what about the three stars of the show? I cannot even begin to give them enough praise.
|Photo by Richard Termine|
I had previously seen Josh Young (Che) as Marius in the 3rd national tour of Les Miserables when he threatened to break all hearts, male or female, with his heartbreaking rendition of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. Amazingly enough he has grown leaps and bounds vocally since (didn’t know that was possible). His voice had me sitting up taller in my seat from the moment he sang, O what a circus!, and I was in amazement of his performance until his last line at the end of act two. The standing ovation he received was well deserved.
Sean MacLaughlin (Peron) was last seen in Los Angeles as Raoul in the closing cast of the national tour of Phantom of the Opera when he likewise broke hearts with his rich vocalizations and gorgeous looks. At last night’s performance I kept wishing that Peron had more singing opportunities but trust me Sean took advantage of each line he had. In particular his second half of She is a Diamond and his altogether too brief reprise of You Must Love Me were cause for the only tears of the night and perhaps that means he was the one character I felt something for (aside from the Mistress, a supporting ensemble track). His dancing was sharp, masculine, commanding, and assured in The Art of the Possible. His performance was altogether too brief.
Caroline Bowman (Eva Peron) whom I have never had the pleasure of seeing live was fantastic as the title character. She was believable in all stages of life — as the fifteen year old Eva (with her exuberant energy) just as well as the thirty-three year old First Lady of Argentina (with her sophistication). Her singing voice was strong and her performance appeared effortless from start to finish.
Gentle readers, I cannot recommend this national tour highly enough. Get your tickets whether for the last weekend here in LA (at the Pantages), San Diego (starting next week), in the OC (this winter) or one of the tour’s many stops through the US of A. For tickets, visit the official website. And please let me know what you think after seeing the show! Cheers!