So I finally revisit my old stomping grounds, The Village Theatre
in Issaquah, yesterday. Just like old times... Almost everything is just like I remember, from the people out front (and in the back by the loading dock) smoking, to the crappy parking choices.
Anyways, I went with my sister so I can finally see one of my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber
is still my alltime favorite ALW show though). There are only a few musicals left that I haven't seen live that I really want to see, and Evita
is right up there (along with Jesus Christ Superstar
and Into The Woods
), and I missed the Troika Entertainment tour that came through the Paramount Theatre
a few years ago. And even though The Village Theatre is only a small(ish) community theatre, over the past few years, they have really tried to ramp up their professional image to put on some quality product.
On with the show...
The set, though it never really changed, was pretty functional. I was surprised that there wasn't more to the set, but the show does have to cover a period of 20 years and multiple locations. The costumes were serviceable, nothing too stand out, and I'm glad that they went with the iconic white strapless look for "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." That was the only quibble that I had with the movie version (though the movie version's dress would be more realistic for giving a speech on the Casa Rosada balcony.) But this is theatre fantasy!
On to the good, dishy stuff. Che, played here by Louis Hobson, was the most riveting of the cast members. Everyone always thinks that Che is a secondary part to Eva, but his part is very integral, almost like the Emcee in Cabaret
. He was a find. I had this weird night where I had this dichotomy running through me if I should like him or not: should we sympathize with him and his plight for the poor working class, or should we hate him for his arrogance and his cynicism? He has a pretty good singing voice, only muddled in a few places (but it could also be the orchestra, enthusiastically directed by R.J. Tancioco, drowning him out, like it did with all the lead players at times). My only quibble with him is that he would sometimes put on a fake accent that was way too hammy and over the top. I don't know if that was a directing choice, or if he doesn't know how to handle accents well.
Eva, played that night by the understudy Kat Ramsburg, had a very nice singing voice. Unfortunately, she always had this slightly pissed off look on her face, especially during sequences where she was standing on stage while someone else was singing. Evita is a cold hearted bitch and ruthless, but probably not a complete sourpuss. There were a couple of moments when I notice her playing with her lipstick too much. You need more of that colorstay lipstick Eva! Also, though not a fault of the actress, she was a little too "zaftig" for me. I know I shouldn't take this into consideration, but it was a little distracting (especially in all those short sleeve or strapless gowns she had to wear, and in three scenes, being in nothing more than a slip of underwear). It took me out of the moment at times. I know this sounds really petty of me, but that was my impression, and I'm not saying that everyone would be thin and gorgeous (lord knows I'm not!), but the preconceived notion I have of my head of Evita was previously shaped by Patti LuPone<
. I wish that I could have seen Jennifer Paz (the Filipinolady seen with Che in the above picture) play the role also, but I don't think I can catch the show in time again to see it again.
The three other characters ranged from decent to over the top. Longtime Village Theatre player Eric Jensen was good in a thankless role of playing third wheel to the other characters as Juan Peron. Shanna Palmer, as Peron's Mistress, gets the even more unenviable task of being one of the only characters in musical history that I know of who's only job is to have five minutes of stage time and gets to sing her own solo song, only then to be never seen again. This character has always been weird to me; why they would set up a song to make you want to care for her character, that you shouldn't even invest time in caring about because she isn't even going to be around? I think the movie version made a wise choice to give this song to Evita so as to not waste a good song. So with 5 minutes of stage time, you would think you would want to give it your all to shine in the spotlight. Unfortunately, Shanna was pretty forgetful, and she was lost amongst all the background choreography (slow motion works fine for the movies and television, but it doesn't translate too well in live theatre, and was thusly very distracting). And finally, Michael Cimino as Migaldi was again over the top. Granted, he plays those characters often, and plays them very well (I loved his turn as the mad Dentist in Little Shop of Horrors
a few seasons back), but there is a fine line... I think it would have been better if he toned it down just a little bit (along with his bad hair, or was that the point?)
The accompanying ensemble all did a fairly good job (although, a little sloppy with some of the dance moves at times), though after working on so many shows with Village Theatre, I recognize all of Director/Choreographer Steve Tomkins signature dance moves. If I really wanted to, I could probably re-create them all right here in my den, but then I would be subject to an embarrassing YouTube video of myself circling the internet. And the only thing I hate more than seeing someone else embarrass themselves, is embarrassing myself.
So anyway, if you like shows without a happy endings, about near tyrannical country leaders who are ruthless for power, and happen to be in Issaquah (until the 22nd of this month) or Everett (from October 27 through November 12), be sure to stop by the good ole VT! Tickets are available through thier website
, or on Ticketmaster
So anyway, all in all, a very good show. Next up in my musical theatre must see list is the 5th Avenue Theatre
production of my favorite Stephen Sondheim