BWW Review: BIG POWER IN SMALL PACKAGES by Guest Critic Anne Shoemaker
Big Power in Small Packages -- by guest critic Anne Shoemaker
Evita was one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's more controversial shows, depicting Argentina's beloved Eva Peron as a swindler, cheat, and power-hungry woman, willing to sleep her way to the top. Even when they made the movie almost 50 years after Eva's death, drastic rewrites and additional songs were made simply to film in Argentina. It's interesting to me how the attitude towards women in power have, in some respects, changed, but words like conniving, manipulating, whore, and the like still get tossed around; during intermission, I enjoyed a poignant, and a little heated, discussion of the parallels of this play in our current presidential race. Good theatre provokes discussion, and Spotlighter's Theatre put on a powerhouse of a musical that is very topical today.
This is a BIG production- emotionally and vocally demanding, the dance choreograpy and ensemble numbers are larger than life, and i was surprised how well it worked, with some minor exceptions, in such an intimate space as Spotlighter's. Director Fuzz Roark utilizes every nook and cranny, and the show flows remarkably well. He pushes the big cast with infectious energy and clear respect for the material, while musical director Michael Tan does a superb job with an almost impossible score and limited musicians, delivering solid work from his performers.
Becca Vourvoulas (Eva) is a presence on stage, defining the "star quality" so needed for the role of Eva Peron - you can't take your eyes off her, and she's a terrific dancer to boot. She really hits her stride in the second act, portraying a vulnerability and realness to Eva that was much appreciated from this "acting comes first" reviewer. Rob Wall (Che) has an absolutely beautiful voice, and does the score justice and then some, but I would have liked to have seen more fire from someone as volitally charged as the infamous revolutionary suggests.
Most notable performance of the evening was the portrayal of Juan Peron by Bart Debicki, blending the dual qualities of militant tough guy and tender husband with a lovely voice and great delivery. Also, a nice surprise by Claire Iverson as Peron's mistress.
Props must be given to lighting designer Al Ramer for setting the mood so well, and the live music was beyond appreciated. For a little space, you packed a punch. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and have had the score stuck in my head since Friday. Thanks a lot, guys.
EVITA continues its run through May 15th at the Spotlighters Theatre, 817 Saint Paul Street in downtown Baltimore. For more information or to reserve tickets, call 410-752-1225 or visit www.spotlighters.org.
Anne Shoemaker is a noted Baltimore actress and guest critic for Baltimore Broadwayworld. Photo credit: Spotlighters Theatre/Chris Aldridge, CMAldridgePhotography