Friday, November 1, 2013

Post-Modern Classic Evita Returns to Pantages in High-Flying Style - by Mark Share

It's been more than 30 years since Evita won the Tony for best musical with its mash-up of Cinderella and Machiavelli. The rags-to-riches heroine marries her prince/dictator and demands of her servants, "Christian Dior me" and "Machiavelli me." The musical never makes up its mind about Eva Peron, the first wife of Argentina's fascist dictator Juan Peron. The show portrays her at different times as naïve or scheming, victor or victim, sweet or psychotic ("She'll simply take control as you [political opponents] disappear"). But all the messiness makes it a highly-entertaining diva performance, like a deranged Scarlett O'Hara.

The original production, which played when it came to LA at the now-demolished Schubert in Century City, was notable for its abstract and minimalist set designs. The musical tackled an odd subject - a forgotten and minor foreign political figure. There were songs about politics, plus a sort of Greek chorus with an anachronistic Che Guevara commenting on and mocking Evita. The usual big lovers' duet was wryly replaced by an ode to a marriage of convenience, which is summed up the title, "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You." 

The current revival, which began in London in 2006, moves away from post-modernism into a more traditional "Broadway" production. There are now representational sets. Che loses his guerilla fatigues and seems, instead of Che Guevara, to be a generic man of the people. So, while this production loses the weirdness of two historical people, Eva Peron and Che Guevara, from different times engaging in a song-battle of wits over whether fascism or communism is the way to go, there is a new problem in trying for realism --it makes no sense that Eva would bother talking for a minute to this one cranky constituent.

The performances are all first-rate as one has come to expect and appreciate in the Broadway/L.A. shows, including Caroline Bowman alternating with Desi Oakley as Eva Peron, Josh Young as Che, and Sean MacLaughlin as Juan Peron. 

Evita. Lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber - see their stars in the pavement in front of the theater. Now through November 10, 2013 at the Pantages. The performance schedule for EVITA is Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm. Tickets:

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