For the life of me, I don’t understand why Evita is actually a well-praised commodity in the musical theatre canon. All of these years and so many productions later…and maybe I am starting to get it, but I don’t necessarily agree.
I guess its original Broadway outing, with Tony-winning turns from Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin, meant audiences everywhere can forgive the dubious quality of the material. I mean, I know I would. And while I am the first person to question Andrew Lloyd Weber’s legacy as a talented composer, I can admit that Evita quite cleverly pulls from a variety of genres and some songs can make there way into my current iPod playlist ("Buenos Aires").
With the Gallery Players production, running until May 17th, I think I got it. This production, like every other one I’ve seen in the past, removes the subtext of the show. On face value, Evita is about Eva’s rise to Argentinian power through a combination of her “charm” (mainly, her vagina), her status as Juan Peron’s arm candy and…well, looking fabulous. Hilary Clinton, Eva Peron was not.
But, as prominently told through the filter of narrator/stand-in Che, we’re not supposed to treat Eva as your typical rags-to-riches story when it is start-to-finish RIDICULOUS. Che knows that - half of his songs are straight-up mocking her and giving side-bitch face - and the production itself should know that. When Evita is tolerable and occasionally great, the production is in on the joke and laughing along with Che’s snarking, only temporarily buying into Eva’s bullshit when the moment calls for it (i.e "Don’t Cry for Me Argentina").
When Evita is insufferable, its because there is no grittiness to be found and we’re being fed a serious account of a unplausible story, one that would be ripe for parody…but is actually not a parody. And that is just the WORST.
The Gallery Players’ Evita will only reaffirm what you probably already feel about the show, good, bad and/or indifferent. But the experience isn’t entirely unwatchable because The Gallery Players always make the most out of a limited budget/production values…and they have the good sense to play to some of Evita’s strengths, like the killer dancing one would expect from the "Buenos Aires" number.
The star of the show is Dale Sampson, who makes for such an amazing Che, you would have thought he was conceived in a petri dish for the purpose of playing the role. His take on the character is "post-modern sassy bitch” and it works impeccably. Dale is the best damn Che I’ve ever seen and the show bottoms out when he is not on stage owning everything. Another gem in the cast is Monica Bradley, a Jenny Slate look-a-like playing the mistress, who’s "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" is so pretty-sounding, the character and song is worth keeping (I always found that scene to be totally expendable). Take note of these peeps because they’re going places! Hell, see them now before you have to pay $150 to do so.
Tickets Provided by the Production
Photo Credit: Scott Cally