If you're up for a rousing night of colorful costumes, dancers that blow the roof of the theater, (and singers, too, of course) and a political story that seems to ring with relevance in these celebrity-turned-politico times, there's "Evita" at Actors' Playhouse.
This is the third go 'round for the company The first was in 1994 when the theater was producing shows in Kendall, and the second revival was at the Miracle Mile playhouse in 2000. That production was nominated for 12 Carbonell Awards that season.
David Arisco's direction has this show moving at a clip. There's never a pause, or a lag, and we move through Eva Peron's rise and, eventual fall, swiftly. It's a difficult task to get everyone on board with such a large cast, but the commitment here is noticeable, and the energy from the actors on stage is what helps this difficult show be a crowd pleaser.
The birth of "Evita," the musical, was actually born from a 1976 concept album. Webber and Rice had created it as a follow up to the similar "Jesus Christ Superstar." "Evita" came to life on stage in 1978, directed by Hal Prince, then on to Broadway in 1979 with Patti LuPone in the role of Eva, and Mandy Patinkin, playing Che, which ingrained their character portrayals for future actors of the roles forever.
Arisco, who announced during his curtain speech that he ran out and bought the "Evita" album stays true to the show's roots, as you can almost see the album tracks as the songs flow from one to the next. Interestingly, this was the first time I realized in all of the times seeing "Evita," (almost too numerous to count) that there is but nearly no spoken lines, except for when Juan tells his wife she is dying. In this production, that line seemed to stand out.
Actors' Playhouse's Eva is born in Los Angeles, living in New York, Colombian-American actress Andrea Pilar, who takes on the vocally demanding, and then some, role. Pilar's Eva is tough as nails, and is going to get her way no matter who she has to topple. The actress sets this tone right from the start.
Eugenio Vargas as Che brings a boyish smarminess to the antagonistic narrator and voice of Eva's detractors. The baritone of Samuel Druhora brings a vocally strong interpretation of Juan Peron.
Kelly Ziegler as Peron's Mistress who gets her bags packed when Eva moves in sings a shy and woeful "Another Suitcase in Another Hall." Joshua Dobarganes brings out the "ham" in the character of Magaldi, the one hit lounge singer.
Following the three-week English-language run, the same "Evita" cast will perform a three-week Spanish-language version. (While there have been other shows performed at the Playhouse for Spanish-speaking audiences following standard English runs, this will be the first time the same cast, especially all the lead actors, will remain in the Spanish language version. The cast will begin rehearsals next week for that later run while performing in the current production.)
The huge ensemble in multiple parts deserves a mention as chorus and dancers: Nicole Coffaro, Diana D’Ambrosio, Brent D. Kuenning, Taylor Hilt Mitchell, Francisco Padura, Brian Varela, Vicky Campadocino, Yanet Felipe, Jonathan Fleites, Vivian Garcia-Lopez, Santiago Garza, Lauren Horgan, Victoria Lauzen, Michael Leyte-Vidal, Amanda Lopez, Hugo E. Moreno, Brandon Osorio, Nicolette Quintero, Phillip Andrew Santiago, Ryan Townsend, Alexandra Van Hasselt and Hollis Williams. Rodrigo De La Rosa, also in the ensemble, will be dialect coach for the Spanish-language version.
Ron Hutchins's choreography is thrilling, and his authentic tango staging are scinntaninly hot. David Nagy is the musical director in the pit with musicians Karen Nagy, Martha Spangler, Julie Jacobs, Chas Reskin, Andrea Gilbert, Stan Spinola, and Sandy Poltarack. Oh, the thrill that a live orchestra brings to the score!
Gene Seyffer is the tech wizard, who has the turnable moving furniture and sets on and off without a glitch. Jodi Dellaventura, props and set dressing, Eric Nelson, lighting design, Shaun Mitchell, sound design, and Ellis Tillman, costumes, bring it all together.
"Evita" at Actors' Playhouse in English through November 26, 2017. The production will then run November 30 – December 17, 2017 in Spanish. Performance times vary. Tickets for week nights and matinees are $57, and on Friday and Saturday evenings $64. The theatwe offers 10 percent off all weekday performances for seniors and $15 student rush tickets to any performance 15 minutes prior to curtain with identification. Discounts are based on availability. Single tickets may be purchased through the box office at 305-444-9293 or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org.