Don’t Cry for NCT. Evita is a dazzler, with Raleigh, NC native and Broadway star Lauren Kennedy and North Carolina Theatre Conservatory artistic director Ray Walker providing the sizzle, and a strong supporting cast fanning the flame.
Reprising the roles of Argentina’s flamboyant First Lady Eva María “Evita” Duarte de Perón (1919-52) and dashing Argentinean Marxist and Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto “Ché” Guevara (1928-67) that they played in NCT’s 1993 presentation of Evita, Kennedy and Walker are not just 18 years older, but better — much better. Their charismatic characterizations make the North Carolina Theatre‘s home-grown production of Evita a must-see musical that outshines some of the touring productions that pass through the Triangle.
NCT’s Broadway-style musicals, with local performers supporting stars imported from the Big Apple, Chicago, etc., provides invaluable opportunities for local talent, such as Lauren Kennedy, to perfect their craft, while royally entertaining Triangle theatergoers.
Kennedy can be sassy (“Buenos Aires”), sweet (“I’d Be Surprisingly Good for you,” sung with Jonathan Hammond as Colonel Juan Perón), and spectacular (“Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”), while Walker is acerbic as Ché, a gadfly who provides caustic commentary about the rise of corrupt Argentinean strongman Juan Perón and his immensely popular but spendthrift and equally corrupt wife Evita.
Also making the most of their moments in the spotlight are the suave Nick Duckart as third-rate night club crooner Augustin Magaldi (“On This Night of a Thousand Stars”) and the lovely English Bernhardt as the young Mistress whom Perón spurns after he meets Evita. Her plaintive heartfelt rendition of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” is a show-stopper.
1993 director and choreographer Tito Hernandez, who has reteamed with Walker and Kennedy for this robust revival of Evita, puts plenty of pizzazz into the show’s production numbers and superbly orchestrates the comedy and the tragedy that marked Evita’s meteoric rise and death from cancer at age 33.
Musical director Julie Bradley and the NCT orchestra provide animated accompaniment, scenic designer Chris Bernier‘s skeletal set makes a nice springboard for the action; lighting designer John Bartenstein helps direct the audience’s attention with subtle shifts in lighting; and Costume World of Deerfield Beach, FL and Casa Mañana Theatre of Fort Worth, TX and NCT resident costumer Ann M. Bruskiewitz have assembled an eye-catching assortment of period fashions to add authenticity to the proceedings.
But there are problems with the sound design by Brian L. Hunt and Eric Collins. It turns Ray Walker’s indignant screams at the Peróns’ excesses into banshee-like shrieks — but that should be an easy problem for Messrs. Collins and Hunt need to fix, and it’s only a very minor blemish on what is otherwise a superlative rival of, perhaps, Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice’s greatest musical collaboration.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 25th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review and Oct. 16th preview, both by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/10/25/1592191/demanding-evita-still-impresses.html and http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/10/16/1566471/broadway-comes-home.html (plus photo gallery: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/10/14/1566124/broadway-comes-home-101611.html), respectively; Oct. 17th Raleigh, NC WRAL-TV interviews Lauren Kennedy and Ray Walker: http://www.wral.com/wral-tv/video/10266481/#/vid10266481; Oct. 13th Raleigh, NC My Carolina Today interview with Lauren Kennedy and Ray Walker: http://www.mycarolinatoday.com/2011/10/evita/; Oct. 13th Raleigh, NC News 14 Carolina interview with Lauren Kennedy and Ray Walker: http://sandhills.news14.com/content/top_stories/648087/in-depth–lauren-kennedy—ray-walker–evita?ap=1&MP4; Sept. 23rd Cary, NC MMI Public Relations interview with Ray Walker: http://www.mmipublicrelations.com/podcasts/entry/ray-walker-discusses-north-carolina-theatres-upcoming-production-of-evita/; and Sept. 15th New York, NY Playbill.com preview by Andrew Gans: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/154593-Lauren-Kennedy-Will-Be-Evita-for-North-Carolina-Theatre-Principal-Casting-Announced. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Oct. 21st Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/10/lauren-kennedy-and-ray-walker-will-reprise-their-roles-as-eva-peron-and-che-guevara-in-“evita”-at-nct/.)
The North Carolina Theatre presents EVITA, starring Lauren Kennedy as Eva Perón and Ray Walker as Ché Guevara, at 8 p.m. Oct. 25-28, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 29, and 2 and 7 p.m. Oct. 30 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
NCT Box Office: 919/831-6941, ext. 6944.
Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/844915.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/831-6941, ext. 5204, or http://nctheatre.com/tickets/group-sales.
NCT BLOG: http://nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, NC (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio-describe the 2 p.m. Oct. 29th performance.
The Musical: http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/shows/evita/ (Andrew Lloyd Webber), http://www.reallyuseful.com/shows/evita/ (Really Useful Group), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evita_(musical) (Wikipedia).
Andrew Lloyd Webber: http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Lloyd_Webber (Wikipedia).
Tim Rice: http://www.timrice.co.uk/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Rice (Wikipedia).
Evita Perón: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eva_Peron (Wikipedia).
Ché Guevara: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.
To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.