Sunday, November 25, 2012

Don't Cry for Evita

The first revival ever of Evita on Broadway opened this past spring. As someone who tries to see as much as he can, I'll admit it was never on my radar to see. I watched some clips, I saw it on the Tony Awards and nothing called for me to see it.

I'm in my 40s. I didn't move to New York until 1987. I missed the original production (though I do have a shout out to it in one of my books). I saw it a few years ago at the Helen Hayes Theater in Nyack and enjoyed finally seeing it live. But I always thought something was missing in the production that took so long to return to New York.

I was wrong.

There is much to love in this production. The moment it started I was taken in by the film footage used of the actual Eva Peron. The set is absolutely stunning with lighting that gives beautiful depth as actors can be seen far upstage in shadows. The dancing...all those tangos - so wonderful to watch. The cast members that I have seen playing leads in other musicals that took ensemble roles in this show goes to show how much New York actors wanted to do this show. And one of my nieces seeing it with me (who is studying sound design at Penn State) gave me a full lesson on the intricate sound design used.  

Max von Essen with my nieces after the show.
We attended a matinee the day before Thanksgiving and was told that Ricky Martin would not be on at the TKTS window. I knew I wanted to see Max von Essen go on as Che and lucky for the audience there that day - we saw an amazing performance. I have seen him in Les Miz, Dance of the Vampires and so many other shows. The man continues to work on his craft surpassing what he has done previously. A voice that soars and never tires as he belts out all of that music that Che must perform. Yes, we saw people leave when they knew that Mr. Martin would not be going on - but boy did they make a mistake.

I've also seen Michael Cerveris in numerous shows and always enjoy him in all that he does. Rachel Potter had a beautiful voice as the Mistress and I would have loved to hear her sing more and more.

And now to the title character. I have to just say that going on a matinee, I had hoped to be seeing Christina DeCicco in the role. I had seen what the critics had done to Elena Roger and read so much about her on the internet about her small voice. But there is more that critics did not mention. Once you get past the fact she is not the usual powerhouse one sees in the role - something happens. This tiny framed woman begins to grab you. She has such power in that small body and still knows how to command a moment. You witness the journey of Eva from a young woman to a ruthless leader. She has subtle glances that shows how she is capable of getting what she wants. No, her voice is not a huge booming sound. Yes, she sings all those high notes that are in the score. It's just simply a different type of voice than what we are accustomed to hearing. I also think because she is not a New York 'star' in the role - we do not find ourselves always watching her. Perhaps when Ricky is on, audiences are always watching him. (I myself couldn't take my eyes from Max when he was on stage.) Maybe it is a bad thing when the title character doesn't demand your constant attention or maybe it is the mark of a giving performer. 

I say take the chance and see for yourself the next time you are in New York. 

Lastly...I got center orchestra seats from TKTS. The entire back of the orchestra section was empty. I'm not sure I've ever seen that in a Broadway house before - especially around a holiday with so many tourists in town. I found it sad, yet I know that is a huge theater to fill. I'm also pleased that producers have kept it running even when critics were not the kindest to the production.

And yes...I'd still love to get back and see Ms. DeCicco in the role at some point. Just to see how a different woman would convey Evita in this really beautiful production.

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