By Gary Murray
Starring Caroline Bowman, Josh Young and Sean MacLaughin
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Choreographed by Rob Ashford
Directed by Michael Grandage
Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most lauded composers of the modern era of Broadway musicals. Some of his works have been Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, Phantom of the Opera and Sunset Boulevard. Evita first hit the boards in 1976 and has been running on some stage ever since. The latest Broadway revival is a part of the Dallas Summer Musicals season and plays at the Music Hall at Fair Park through 4/27.
The play opens with an old movie newsreel of the death of Evita Peron also known as Eva. While real images of the event spills on the screen, the entire company performs the very dark “Requiem”. It sets the mood that this work will ultimately be a tragedy. Che (Josh Young) sings the song “Oh, What a Circus” where he lays out the reality of the situation that is the ascension of Eva (Caroline Bowman) in the bustle of the city. The play almost becomes a history lesson as it entertains.
The first big number is “On This Night of a Thousand Stars” where Magaldi (Christopher Johnstone) becomes the first person stepped-on by the woman. The idea of sleeping one’s way to the top is shown with the song “Goodnight and Thank You.” It is clever and witty without being over sexual.
Easily the best moment from the first Act is “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” where Eva expels the mistress from Peron’s life. In a small role of the mistress Krystina Alabado just steals the moment. She has a bright lilting voice and draws the entire audience into her pain and pathos. It is a brilliant instant that shows not only the struggle of the individual but in a larger context, the struggle of the nation.
Act One ends with “A New Argentina” with Eva and Peron becoming man and wife. And like all good tragedies, it is also the beginning of the end.
The Second Act starts with the most iconic image of the work. Peron (Sean MacLaughin) delivers “On the Balcony if the Casa Rosada” a musical moment that showcases his full-throated voice. It also shows that Eva plays to be the puppet master behind his government.
Easily the biggest moment of the entire work is “Don’t Cry for me Argentina.” Under the massive skills of Caroline Bowman, this is the shining diamond of the play. With a sparkling dress that glows to the back row, the young actress delivers the song in a way that makes it feel fresh and new. It is truly the highlight of the entire production and the best reason to see the show.
“The Rainbow Tour” mixes stage and filmed images to show the world tour of Eva throughout Europe. It is also the beginning of her downfall, with some of the other world leaders not that impressed by the woman. By the time the play gets to “Eva’s Final Broadcast” she is a defeated woman, struggling to cement her legacy while cancer ravages her body. It is also the point where the play should have ended. The last two songs “Montage” and “Lament” feel as if they are tacked on just to fill out the work.
Josh Young as Che is truly the star the work. On stage almost the entire production, he is the voice of the people and the man who sees the façade behind the woman. He delivers song after song with a strong voice and acting chops that equal the best of Broadway. This is an actor that everyone expects to see much more of in the next few years.
The play is another work by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. These two are billion dollar franchise players and Evita is the top of their game. The mixture of rock opera and tragedy give the play a grand scale. It is a testament to the work of both artists.
The overall look is a massive scale on the level of a major Broadway non-touring production. The backdrops are spectacular and the balcony becomes the focal point of the work. The scenic and costume designs by Christopher Oram deliver a production that fills every inch of the proscenium arch with a magical glow. Director Michael Grandage gives the audience an epic Broadway spectacle.
Evita is a strong musical experience that is yet another diamond in the crown of the Dallas Summer Musical Series. It is a show that should not be missed.