'EVITA' Broadway National Tour Comes to Shea's in Buffalo June 10th; Stratford Festival Star and Tony Nominee Josh Young Recreates His Acclaimed Performance as Che
By Dennis Kucherawy, special to BroadwayWorld
It was like a scene from Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys." `I came from the people; they need to adore me /So Christian Dior me from my head to my toes.' What kind of a lyric is that?" kvetched lyricist Fred Ebb as he got into the taxi. "You remembered it," quipped his songwriting partner, composer John Kander, with a shrug. The song? "Rainbow High." The show? "Evita."
Memorable, indeed. Sometimes the "Evita" songwriting team of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber just can't get any respect, especially from two of the greatest in the business, who wrote such classics as "Cabaret," "Chicago" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman."
But they're just crying all the way to the bank, aren't they? Since the rock opera concept album was released in 1976 with Toronto's Colm Wilkinson as Che and Julie Covington singing the title role, it's become one of the world's most popular musicals. Madonna and Antonio Banderas starred in the 1996 movie adaptation and the song "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" became a smash hit.
On Broadway, the original production, directed by Hal Prince and starring Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin, won seven Tony Awards. It set a record, becoming the first British production to win a Best Musical Tony. Now, almost 40 years since the album dropped, the National Touring company of the 2012 Broadway revival will play Shea's Performing Arts Centre for a week-long run from Tuesday, June 10th to Sunday, June 15th.
It stars American singer-actor Josh Young as Che, reprising his critically acclaimed performance in the Stratford Festival production during the 2010 season. Christopher Isherwood of the New York Times called his performance "electrifying" and "mesmerizing"... with "a forceful presence and rich, handsome voice to match his glowering good looks." The next season, Josh's portrayal of Judas in Des McAnuff's production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" again was greeted with hosannas. It proceeded to Broadway where Young received a Tony nomination. His performance inspired rave reviews, including another from Isherwood in the New York Times: "He said Young gave "the standout performance," calling it "vocally lustrous and charismatic."
Ironically, one of the show's neighbors on the Great White Way was British director Michael Grandage's lavish revival of "Evita" starring Puerto Rican pop sensation Ricky Martin and Argentina actress Elena Roger. (The production originated in London in 2006.)
Although Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca," chart-topping star status was box office gold, the critics were not impressed. The New York Times' Ben Brantley said he was "thin voiced, polite, vaguely charming and forgettable." Comparing Martin to Mandy Patkin, Brantley concluded Martin's Che "is a subversive you could bring home to meet the folks."
According to critics of this tour, Josh Young in the touring company of "Evita" is the charismatic opposite. Gayle Kirchenbaum in the Chicago Theater Review, said while Ricky Martin was adequate, he was not stellar. By comparison, she wrote "Josh Young stars (in every sense of the word) ... This gifted young actor is the strongest reason to see the current production ... His vocal range is astonishing: From his deep, well-supported bass notes to a sweetly-produced falsetto that's both solid and clear, Mr. Young has the looks, ease and voice to make this role all his own... Indeed, the loudest applause came opening night for this talented young, star-on-the-rise."
"He is definitely going places," wrote Lynn Venhaus, in the LA News Dealer. "...Young takes command of a stage like few can ... He is a serious contender that we will see blossom before our eyes like Mandy Patinkin and Brian Stokes Mitchell." And David C. Nicholas in the LA Times called his performance "superb.... His soaring baritone, physical charisma and ambivalent reactions fill Che's shoes more rewardingly than anyone since Mandy, show-stopping in `And the Money Kept Rolling In.'"
Also starring in the national tour are Caroline Bowman as Eva, Sean McLaughlin as Peron, Christopher Johnstone as Magaldi, Krystina Alabado as Mistress and Desi Oakley as the alternate for Eva Perón.
Following the "Evita" tour, Josh is scheduled to star this fall in the Chicago world premiere of "Amazing Grace," a musical based on the true story of how the world-famous Christian hymn came to be. Press material says "The musical follows John Newton (Young), a musically talented young Englishman coming of age at a time when Britain sat atop an international empire of slavery, as he travels through a perilous high-seas voyage. It brings him to a transformative moment of self-reckoning." Performances at Chicago's Bank of America Theatre run from Oct. 9 to Nov. 2nd. Opening night is Oct. 19th.
In a review of an out-of-town tryout, Mary Fran Bontempo of the Philadelphia Bulletin gushed "Newton's transformation in love and spirit, as portrayed by young Broadway veteran Josh Young, left my eyes spilling over."
Josh Young has recorded two CDs: his first, self-titled CD, and his second, "Still Dreaming of Paradise," that includes his new arrangement of "Heaven On Their Minds" from "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "High Flying Adored" from "Evita." His performance of them earlier this month at Ryerson University's Tribute to Colm Wilkinson concert at Toronto's Koerner Hall thrilled the audience and were a highlight of the evening.
For tickets to "Evita" at Shea's Performing Arts Centre, please call 1-800-745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
About the Author
A veteran entertainment executive, Dennis Kucherawy has worked in film exhibition and live theatre on Broadway, in London's West End and in Canada. An award-winning journalist, he has covered the Canadian and international arts and culture scene for more than 35 years. His work has been published throughout Canada, the United States and in Austria. He has appeared on TVOntario as well as on various CBC Radio programs including "Sunday Morning" and "Morningside." His long and varied career also includes extensive work in business, government and politics, especially in areas of civil rights, tolerance, inclusion and culture. He is also a skilled classical and popular music pianist. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario, Dennis was born and raised in Welland, Ontario and now lives in downtown Toronto with his wife, Karen. He throws right and bats left.