Reviewed by Tony Annicone
North Shore Music Theatre’s fourth musical of their 62nd season is “Evita” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. This rock opera is about Eva Peron, bit actress, mistress and wife to Argentine dictator, Juan Peron. This show is a collage of Eva’s rise to power and her early death. It is a look at a woman loved by the poor, hated by the rich and powerful and who was not above taking matters into her capable hands, whether it be charity funds, colonels on the rise to political power or, finally, political power itself.
The show concentrates on the second wife of Peron as she talks her way to Buenos Aires and then proceeds to sleep her way up the ladder, becoming a celebrated actress. Evita also became the spiritual leader of the nation rising from nothing to become one of the most famous figures in the country’s history. Director/choreographer Nick Kenkel and musical director Mark Hartman pick the best performers for each of these roles and Nick’s keen insight to these characters gives the North Shore audience a Broadway style musical close to home. Bravo to Bill Hanney and his production crew for keeping production values for this musical at the highest level possible. The scenic design is by Bert Scott while the original costumes are by Christopher Oram.
Nick’s blocking and choreography of this large cast is astounding as is the musical direction of Mark. Some of the many dances include tangos, the aristocrats stylized movements, as well as the soldiers dynamic marching movements which are all executed wonderfully. Heading this cast is Briana Carlson-Goodman who is sensational as Evita. She entrances the crowd while acting, singing and dancing up a storm in the title role. Briana creates a memorable character and displays the transition from her younger days as a poor girl to her dying scene at the end of the show. Her rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” is mesmerizing and breathtaking, leading to a thunderous ovation. Her other numbers are just as dynamic from the bouncy “Buenos Aires” with excellent dancing from the chorus to the seductive “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You” with Peron as well as fantastic tango to it and to the exuberant “Rainbow High” to the final lament as she is dying. Briana will make you forget any other Evita that you have seen. Her high G’s are phenomenal, too. Che is wonderfully played by American Idol finalist and Tony Award nominee Constantine Maroulis. He learned this huge role in nine days! This character is the narrator and moves in and out of scenes commenting on Eva’s behavior. Constantine’s tenor voice soars in his many numbers including the gorgeous “High Flying Adored” to the upbeat “Oh What a Circus” and the high energy “And the Money Kept Rolling In” with the chorus doing a fabulous dance to it. One of the funniest numbers is the duet with Briana called “Goodnight and Thank You” with Eva’s many lovers. They keep appearing with her with the most hilarious being the one with his pants unzipped played comically by Matthew Chappell.
John Cudia gives one of the best portrayals of the underwritten role of Juan Peron. His unbelievably strong voice also soars in his duets with Briana and especially in “Rainbow Tour”, “Art of the Possible”, the chess number with the army fighting with each other, and “She is a Diamond”, his powerful closing number. John has the honor of being one of the only actors to have performed the Phantom and Jean Valjean on Broadway. He excels in this role, too. These three leads are fabulous in their roles. Tall, dark and handsome Nick Adams plays Magaldi, Evita’s first lover whom she uses to get into show business. Nick displays his incredible tenor voice in this role. His breathtaking number “On This Night of 1000 Stars” has his top notes soaring off the scale which wins him thunderous applause. Nick more than delivers the goods in this role. Playing the mistress is Julia Estrada who displays her glorious soprano voice in the beautiful and emotion packed ballad “Another Suitcase, Another Hall” when Eva and Peron throw her out of his room. Both Nick and Julie make the most of their stage time and make you remember them due to their stellar performances. Kudos also to the hard working chorus who deliver the goods with their strong vocals in the electrifying “A New Argentina” which closes Act 1, “The Rainbow Tour”, “Santa Evita” and the rousing money song. 10 year old Isabella Carroll’s crystal clear voice is heard in “Please, Gentle Eva” which is very poignant and moving. Haven Pereira plays it at alternate performances. I have many fond memories of this show, having appeared in it with Liz Calloway back in 1986. So for a magnificent Broadway style musical in Massachusetts, be sure to catch “Evita” at North Shore Music Theatre before Evita, Che and company dance their way out of town.
EVITA (26 September to 8 October)
North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham St, Beverly, MA
1(978)232-7200 or www.nsmt.org