An Evita That Will Sort of Make You Cry?
|Solea Pfeiffer as Eva Peron, photo @Sara Krulwich|
I can't believe I'm using Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice as examples of skillful dramaturges but Evita was everything that Akhnaten wasn't. Tim Rice was not afraid to paint his own picture of Eva Perón which mixed fact with fiction. Webber's music portrays the different facets of Perón-- her naked ambition in "Goodnight and Thank You" and her shiny charisma in the anthem "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." So I know that Philip Glass is a much superior composer to ALW, but Evita was engaging in all the ways Akhnaten wasn't.
|Maia Reficco as young Eva, photo @ Sara Krulwich|
Otherwise, Cannold follows the general Encores! format. There’s higher musical values than production values. The orchestra is in a raised platform while the singers sing on the lower half of the stage. A few stage tricks here and there give the illusion of an almost fully-staged musical. Maybe the most effective is the layered bed of flowers that suggests the massive outpouring of grief at Eva's death. Costume designer Alejo Vietti had Eva always dressed in white -- from lingerie to plain smocks to her famous Christian Dior gowns. The haphazard budget nature of these productions was betrayed by the barebones props and the sloppy, routine dancing. Talk about by-the-numbers choreography. It was a lost opportunity because ALW's music does have some catchy tango rhythms. And who doesn't love a good tango?
What Pfeiffer didn't have was the warmth and charisma that would make the absolute adoration of the Argentinian people for Perón understandable. Pfeiffer played up the cold, grasping parts of Eva's personality. She was excellent when te musical depicted her sleeping her way to the top as an actress and dispatching Juan Perón's mistress.
But I think the musical's Eva is more nuanced than Pfeiffer's Eva. Perón did inspire fanatical love and the musical attempts to show why -- her compassion for the poor, her rags-to-riches story that made her relatable to ordinary Argentinians. And this isn't Pfeiffer's fault but her face is rather aquiline and doesn't have the round, open, friendly look that Perón had (see above). The real-life Eva had a face that drew you in. Pfeiffer's energy is chillier.
Here is footage of Eva when she was dying of cancer:
|Gotay and Pfeiffer, photo @ Sara Krulwich|
So this Evita was not perfect, but it was well worth seeing. I didn't cry for Eva Perón, but I almost did. And that's a good evening at the theater. Performances run through Sunday. I got my ticket for a bargain on tdf.
In other news, I reviewed the farewell performance of several veteran Paul Taylor dancers for bachtrack here. An excerpt:
Esplanade needs no introduction; like Merce Cunningham's Summerspace or Alvin Ailey's Revelations, it's foolproof. The performance was at the quality we expect from Taylor dancers. All the famous moments were performed with brio; the running, the skipping, the the sliding, the leaps into each others' arms. So when the final curtain fell and the stage was awash with bouquets one wondered why Fleet, Khobdeh, Walker, Mahoney, and Kleinendorst were retiring (the last two on 13 December).
But I suppose that's the best thing one can possibly wonder at a retirement performance. These classy dancers left the stage before the stage left them.
Here is the curtain calls video I took of their farewells: