BWW Reviews: A Surprising Lackluster and Out of Sync National Revival of EVITA at the Denver Center
Experience the passion and seduction of Andrew Lloyd Weber's and Tim Rice's elegant masterpiece at the Buell Theater now through January 26th. Directed by Tony and Olivier Award-winner Michael Grandage and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Rob Ashford, this is the first new Broadway production of the seven-time Tony Award-winning musical, EVITA, since it debuted on Broadway more than 30 years ago. Eva Perón used her beauty and charisma to rise meteorically from the slums of Argentina to the presidential mansion as First Lady. Adored by her people as a champion for the poor, she became one of the most powerful women in the world - while her greed, outsized ambition and fragile health made her one of the most tragic. EVITA tells Eva's passionate and unforgettable true story, and features some of theater's most beautiful songs, including "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" and "High Flying, Adored."
For me personally, this is Andrew Lloyd Weber's and Tim Rice's best work next to Jesus Christ Superstar and I have adored this musical for decades. While I did enjoy the incorporation of historical footage of the actual funeral procession of Eva and the sensational other historical filage from that era, I was a surprisingly shocked and disappointed by this production that seemed to be lacking in excitement and drive. I am not sure which leg of the national tour that Denver is positioned, but the show just felt tired and devoid of the fiery passion that is the Argentinian spirit. A perfect example of this was the choreography that was clumsy; and there was not a single dance number that was in unison (which for a former dancer was a little maddening to watch). There were also a lot of golden opportunities that were missed in the staging and the decline of Evita seemed rushed and didn't have that emotional pull that I have witnessed in other productions. Memorable numbers included Buenos Aires, I'd be Surprisingly Good For You, Another Suitcase in Another Hall, A New Argentina, High Flying, Adored, And the Money Keeps Rolling In.
I'm not sure if it was this higher altitude that has humbled many a singer or the fact that she never truly understood her iconic character but Caroline Bowman's performance as Eva left a lot to be desired. While she did sing pretty, she was never able to convey the fierce drive, determination and arrogance that was the phenomenon of Eva Peron. A perfect example of this was her interpretation of one of the most celebrated female songs in musical theatre history which came off a little forced and lackluster. Also the decision to hold that monumental pose for a brief second took me aback (Seriously?....I have seen drag queens hold that pose longer!). While Don't Cry For Me Argentina was not my favorite, she did completely rock Buenos Aires and I felt that was her highlight song in the show. Her counterpart, Peron (played well by Sean McLaughlin) was also a little flat and unfortunately forgettable and he never truly exuded that strong leader that this historical figure was. Oh thank heaven and praise Argentina for Josh Young as Che. With his astounding voice, dynamic performance, and broad shoulders, this actor carried the entire show with his charismatic charm from beginning to end. Whether protagonist, antagonist or narrator, he proved himself the true star of the show and his relatable and down to earth ease drew the audience in and took them on the journey. His voice was remarkably gorgeous and soared to impressive heights that brought down the house in The Money Keeps Rolling In.
However - upon further reflection, consideration of our mile-high altitude that I recently witnessed take down a major recording artist, and conversations with many attendees that thoroughly enjoyed the production; I may have been a little too harsh and put the "critical" in "critic". I still stand by my opinions and observations of the show, but decide for yourself, because at the end of the day - if even one audience member is moved by the performance then isn't it what this crazy field is all about?