Evita Comes to San Francisco
Sovereign Entertainment's touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Evita is making its home at the Golden Gate Theatre through April 10th. Once again the theatre is ringing with cries of "Evita, Evita, Evita," although not quite as strongly as some of the recent productions I have seen. This seems to be a more "friendly" version of the Webber-Rice classic. This marks my 9th time seeing the musical version of Eva Peron's life, beginning with the original Elaine Page in London, to Patti LuPone in New York, plus Loni Ackerman in Los Angeles. There have been touring companies and two very good regional productions during the past several years.
The current tour is being supervised by Harold Prince with Larry Fuller, the show's original choreographer. I love Andrew Lloyd Webber's score and I think Tim Rice's lyrics are vibrant. The number "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" still gives me chills with those heartfelt words by the lyricist. The waltz melody sung by Eva and Che in the second act is still melodic, with the sharp exchange of Rice's lyrics. Fuller's original choreography of the upper class and the military is fun to watch. (For opening night, the producers had the children of the local Matthew Liebowitz vocal studio play the children in several scenes which included the lovely Santa Evita. These roles will be taken over by members of the cast for the rest of the run.)
Basically, however, the production is lackluster and a little tired, and the energy is lacking for most of the chorus. Kathy Voytko (Ariadne in Broadway's The Frogs, national tour of Phantom of the Opera playing Christine) starts out very weak and for some unknown reason reminded me of Barbara Stanwyck in Walk on the Wild Side. However, she gets into the character of Eva as she meets Juan Peron and is very good in the big song "Don't Cry For Me Argentina."
Bradley Dean (Broadway credits Anselmo in the recent revival of Man of La Mancha plus Jane Eyre and Harmony) gives an invigorating performance as Che. He has great vocal cords for the role. Philip Hernandez (Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in Les Miserables on Broadway) is imposing as Juan Peron, and he shows the character's inconsistent sides in the second act. He has a lovely, soft voice when singing "I'd Be Surprisingly Good for you." Kate Manning (on Broadway in A Year with Frog and Toad) as Peron's mistress seems to be like a pattern of Carol Baker in Baby Doll. Her big number, "Another Suitcase in Another Hall," is nicely done, however. Gabriel Burrafato (on Broadway Bombay Dreams) as Magaldi seems miscast and does not have that sexual aura when singing "On This Night of a Thousand Stars."
Evita's set design by Tim O'Brien, adapted by James Fouchard, is effective with the movie screen showing the real Eva Peron greeting hordes of persons in Argentina and highlights of her European trip that turned out to be a disaster of public relations. There are inferences of politics and religion incorporated into the set.
Evita plays at the Golden Gate Theatre, Taylor Street off Market, San Francisco through April 10th. Tickets range from $35 to $85th. For tickets please call ticketmaster 415-512-7770 or go to www.bestofboadway-sf.com. The Best of Broadway upcoming events include Sir Peter Hall's production of William Shakespeare's As You Like It April 5th through May 1 at the Curran Theatre and the pre-Broadway run of Lennon April 12 through May 14 at the Orpheum Theatre.