The pop opera continues to impress with its music and lyrics, but this Golden Apple production cries out for stronger leads.
By Kay Kipling
I first saw Evita 25 years ago in London, and over the years I’ve seen it many times since. I’ve continued to be impressed by the Andrew Lloyd Webber music and often clever (perhaps occasionally awkward) lyrics by Tim Rice, even if the thrill of the idea of doing a pop opera on the famous/infamous First Lady of Argentina has worn off slightly.
It’s not a musical that allows for much innovation in staging. Or perhaps it could, but in my experience it never has varied much from the original carefully executed delivery—the swiftly moving line of Evita’s Buenos Aires lovers, the musical chair choreography of The Art of the Possible, as Argentina’s military men jockey for power. As directed at the Golden Apple by Kyle Ennis Turoff, nothing much has changed, and why should it if it works?
Still, there seemed a lack of creative energy on opening night. The ensemble cast is rather thin even for the small Golden Apple stage; a few more bodies are needed to suggest Argentina’s cheering masses.
What matters more, however, are the performances by the leads. Joey Panek scores surprisingly well as Che—surprising, at least, for those who’ve seen him on the Apple stage recently in a very different role as a young comedy writer in Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Panek delivers his Evita zingers with punch, and the scenes where he and Evita (Rachel Anton) finally get to confront each other are strong, as is the Che-led And the Money Keeps Rolling In number.
Joey Panek and Rachel Anton in the Golden Apple’s Evita.
Anton as Evita is not the package one expects after seeing the show and its marketing images countless times. Physically, she is not the petite and, eventually, frail type, and that works against her at times. She sings the demanding score well, but her Evita does not dominate the stage from the outset as she should. And she and Jorge Acosta as Peron have not had time to develop any chemistry in their numbers together, although it could happen later in the run.
Sarah Farnam does well in her brief appearance as Peron’s displaced young mistress; Armand Acevedo looks the part of tango singer Magaldi, who brings Eva to Buenos Aires, but his vocal delivery is less impressive.
At this point, Evita has some moments and some style, as Che says of the original woman. But one wishes for a stronger, more driving production.
Evita continues at the Golden Apple through March 16; call 366-5454 or go to thegoldenapple.com.