Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
In the title role, Julia Estrada is excellent, looks great in a succession of beautiful costumes elegantly designed by Brenda Phelps, and certainly possesses the voice to sing the show's music extremely well. I saw this performer to fine effect in a production of West Side Story a couple of years ago, and she is just as good here. Her vocalizing of "Buenos Aires" early in the show is a stunner, and she also shines in the exciting "Rainbow High," as well as hitting all the notes thrillingly in the first act finale, "A New Argentina." If her overall portrayal lacks some of the usual moving moments at the end of the show, it is more a factor of the production getting in her way than any lack of acting talent on her part.
Angel Lozada does well as Che and, like his costar, he sings his big numbers very well, with his duet with Estrada, "Waltz for Eva and Che," being a definite highlight. The only thing missing from his performance is the cynicism that personifies this character. But Lozada is a terrific singer and his swarthy good looks are just right for the part. Similarly, Ryan K. Bailer is a fine Juan Péron, suitably astute and commanding, and he partners Estrada's Eva just perfectly.
In smaller roles, Marlena Lopez Hilderley shines as The Mistress, delivering a moving rendition of "Another Suitcase in Another Hall," and Julian Alvarez is almost too good (and too good looking) for the part of Magaldi, the first man to help Eva in her assent to the top. His performance of "On This Night of a Thousand Stars" is quite memorable. In fact, just about everyone in this production excels and they execute Charlie Sutton's notable choreography splendidly.
Director Daniel C. Levine keeps the show on the move and adds some fine directorial touches that enhance the musical overall. This Evita also looks extremely polished, with the turntable set (wonderfully designed by Jack Mehler, who also supplies the brilliant lighting design) working ideally in supporting the director's vision. The talented musical director Evan Roider and his offstage band are unable to overcome the sound problems.
Perhaps, later in the run, the sound problems will be remedied, as there is a very good staging of Evita present, with a talented cast and stylistic design and interesting direction to back them up.
Evita, through October 28, 2018, at A Contemporary Theatre of Connecticut, 36 Old Quarry Rd., Ridgefield CT. For tickets, please visit www.actofct.org or call the box office at 475-215-5433.