Review Roundup: EVITA at New York City Center
On November 13, New York City Center kicked off its Gala Presentation of Evita, running through November 24. Directed by Sammi Cannold, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock-opera musical follows the controversial ascent of Argentina's renowned first lady.
The production stars two actors in the title role. Maia Reficco, award-winning Argentine actor and recording artist, plays Eva age 15 - 20, and Solea Pfeiffer (Almost Famous, Hamilton), last seen at City Center in Songs for a New World, plays Eva age 20 - 33. The cast also features Jason Gotay as Che, Enrique Acevedo as Perón and Philip Hernandez as Magaldi.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Jesse Green, The New York Times: Cannold's production, with its additional symbolic superstructure and shaky use of the stage, is often too fragmented to produce the effects the show's creators intended. I am not really endorsing those effects; deliberately or not, they give moral status to characters who don't deserve it, just by letting them sing. Cannold undercuts that, forcing us to confront our complicity in enjoying them as entertainment. But of course, in the process they become less entertaining. As Eva, Pfeiffer - an Eliza in "Hamilton" who also made a splash in the Encores! Off-Center production of "Songs for a New World" - bears the brunt of this problem. She looks and sounds smashing throughout, but fully comes into her own only in the second half, when a concrete if interior conflict - Eva's health - emerges. Acevedo is vocally lustrous.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: Cannold's staging is stuffed with fascinating details. Notice how Eva gradually moves higher and higher during "A New Argentina," from the floor to a rolling staircase to, eventually, the top of the stairs-indicating her rise to fame alongside Perón's ascent to power. Young Eva appears again in "Another Suitcase in Another Hall"; when Eva gives Perón's mistress (Maria Cristina Slye) the door, she can't help but see herself in the slip-clad girl. How many times must Eva have been unceremoniously kicked out by women just like her? Che (Jason Gotay), the story's narrator, is portrayed not as the communist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, but rather as simply an Everyman; now, he's more of a Greek chorus, a commenter, and perhaps even the voice of Eva's conscience. And at the beginning, during Evita's funeral, mourners gather beneath the famous "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" sparkling-white ballgown-a chiffon-covered cenotaph to a woman her critics believed was just an empty dress.
Elysa Gardner, New York Stage Review: Evita has always been, for me, Andrew Lloyd Webber's most thrilling, least cloying musical, the one in which his score transcends melodic clichés and melodramatic impulses to provide real tension, beauty, and theatricality. The story of Eva Duarte Perón, Argentina's controversial First Lady from 1946 until 1952, when she died in her early 30s-around the same age at which the even more iconic title character in Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar ended his time on earth-also feels distinctly timely right now, given its focus on the glamorous wife of a polarizing populist with dictatorial leanings.
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Both Pfeiffer and Reficco have lovely singing voices. Only at the top of their range is the strain noticeable, and each voice turns metallic. No one ever said Evita had talent, except for promoting herself. A devastating joke in this revival is how much Acevedo's Perón resembles a raven-hair Sean Spicer. He's even given a couple of tangos (choreography by Emily Maltby and Valeria Solomonoff), which only help to stress the impression of amusing incompetence. Gotay's Che is more bemused narrator than future revolutionist. When Lloyd Webber's music calls on him to deliver a traditional Broadway ballad, Gotay obliges. When that music turns to soft rock, he resorts to unsupported yelling.
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