Saturday, August 29, 2015

theatre review - EVITA - Tuscany Theatre Company - August 21, 2015

Javier Stefano De Vita and Allyson Igielski
Photo: Lisa Webb / Southwest Shots Photography
"Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical Evita is a fairly well-known show that follows the story of a real life woman's rise to power and fame. Tuscany Theatre Company in Gilbert recently closed their two week run of this show with an energetic production that featured a capable cast and good direction with very fluid staging and lively choreography. Evita follows the real story of Eva Duarte, a poor girl in Argentina who rose to power and fame in the 1940s by calculating, scheming and even sleeping her way to the top. She would eventually marry Juan Peron, who at the time they met was a Colonel but who would be elected as Argentina's President, making Eva Argentina's first lady. Narrated by Che, a young man who has no respect for Eva and Peron's devious and sometimes illegal ways behind their rise to power, Evita is an interesting history lesson about a young poor woman who gets caught up in the struggle for fame and success. Director Andrea McFeely assembled a more than capable cast for this production. Allyson Igielsk was quite good as Eva. It is a difficult part to play, requiring a transformation from gangly teenage girl to calculating, assured woman along with the skill to pull off some intricate dance steps and the ability to demonstrate Eva's declining health. With just a few wig and costume changes and good acting and vocal skills, Igielsk pulled it off, even managing her way quite well through the parts of the score that are extremely rangy, sometimes requiring Eva to scream or screech her lyrics. Her scrappy take on the part also allowed us to see that there was still some roughness present in Eva even as she ascended to power. Javier Stefano De Vita was just about perfect as Che... McFeely's staging incorporated Che into many scenes as either a participant or an onlooker, and De Vita had the appropriate facial expressions and body language to demonstrate the seething frustration and even humor he saw at the events unfolding around him. The role of Peron doesn't have a lot of layers but Chris Chavez created an effective portrayal, including showing Peron as a romantic, caring person. Also, both De Vita's and Chavez' Latin American accents added a nice touch of authenticity to this extremely large cast of almost all white American actors....McFeely’s blocking on the fairly small stage was quite good. Her exceptional take on “Perone's Latest Flame” was perfectly staged with succinct dance movements from the whole company. She crafted an energetic "And the Money Kept Rolling In" and, with assured music direction from Karli Giles Kemper, delivered some lovely choral work from the large children's choir as well as the ensemble in the finale...Corrinne Mann’s choreography was varied, energetic and upbeat with Latin inspired movement and an emphasis on the tango...Evita is a pretty good musical, albeit one with a few shortcomings...Though the book has several weaknesses, making us connect the dots between scenes one too many times to fill in the gaps due to no major dialogue being present. The show also doesn't have the strongest ending; we are simply told what happened to Evita's body but nothing about Peron’s fate....Tuscany Theatre Company's production featured a talented cast, excellent direction and showed the passion, power and romance not only behind the story of both Eva and Peron's rise to power but the people of Argentina as well."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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