Tuesday, March 1, 2016

theatre review - EVITA - Phoenix Theatre - February 26, 2016

Michael Sample and Alyssa Chiarello
photo: Erin Evangeline Photography
Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 20th.

"Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's pop-rock musical Evita... is the story of a real life woman's rise to power and fame ... Phoenix Theatre's production of this crowd pleasing show features an energetic performance by Alyssa Chiarello in the lead role, good direction and choreography, exciting creative elements, and a superb orchestra conducted by Alan Ruch...Evita is an interesting history lesson about a young poor woman who gets caught up in the struggle for fame and success. While Evita is a pretty good musical, it is also one with a few shortcomings. It is almost completely sung, with only a couple of lines of dialogue. This requires the audience to connect the dots between some scenes in order to fill in the gaps in the plot...the characters never really make you care for them. Sure, Eva is from a poor family and yearns for success, but the manipulative way she goes about achieving it doesn't exactly make us sympathetic toward her...it also requires most of the cast, especially those playing Eva and Che, to scream or screech many lyrics. Fortunately, Rice's biting lyrics, Lloyd Webber's sweeping music and a second act that more clearly portrays the final years in Eva's life offset many of these shortcomings. Director Robert Kolby Harper has assembled a first rate cast as well as impressive creative elements. The energy of the cast, Nicole Olsen's striking, tango-fueled choreography, and the pulsating and driven orchestrations effectively mirror the Perón's energy and drive to power. ...Chiarello is more than up to the challenge, with remarkable singing and acting abilities on display throughout. Her powerhouse vocals never falter, with clear enunciation of every lyric and phrase and an ease in the way she navigates throughout the very rangy score. ...calculating yet passionate and a firecracker throughout, never faltering for a moment until her health begins to decline. Chiarello is sexy and seductive, tough as nails, while allowing Eva's vulnerability to make an occasional appearance. ...Michael Sample is just as good as Che and, considering he was a last minute replacement when the original actor was injured in rehearsals, that is even more impressive an achievement. His voice is extremely powerful and clear and his enunciation of every lyric is just about perfect. He is intense yet playful as the on-looker and narrator of Eva's story and shows the frustration and cynicism at what he sees going on around him. ...Yoon Bae's scenic design is simple yet striking, and Michael J. Eddy's lighting is excellent. ...Alan Ruch's music direction is just as impressive, with a combination of rich vocals from the entire cast and sharp, distinct playing by the orchestra. While Evita has some shortcomings, they are outweighed by the driving score and the performances. Phoenix Theatre's exceptional cast and first rate creative elements make this a production for any theatre-lover looking for a big, bold musical or anyone interested in experiencing the passion, power, and romance behind the story of Eva Perón's rise to power."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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