Theatre Thursdays: Evita National Tour Review

Evita- Revival LogoOnce upon a time, I more or less swore that I wouldn’t see the Evita tour. I love the show and had never seen it live, but I was insulted that the producers claimed the show needed to close on Broadway due to a lack of qualified leads, while still immediately making plans for a tour. I stuck to my one-man boycott and refrained from buying a ticket. That is, until I got an e-mail offer for $30 orchestra seats and found a third row, limited view ticket. My resolve weakened by the promise of being so close to the action for such a low price, I bought the ticket.

Did the production manage to pierce through my jaded disposition? Read below to find out! Continue reading

Nicole Scherzinger needs to be in the next TV musical.

Sorry for the super blunt title, but I see no need to pussyfoot around the issue.

With last night’s live performance of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood and inspired by Broadway.com’s article casting pop stars in other Rogers & Hammerstein shows, I started thinking about pop stars I’d like to see in the next TV musical (if they become a thing, and I hope they do). It wasn’t long before the obvious answer came to me:  former Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger.

Nicole Scherzinger 2Now, if you’re not familiar with Nicole, you may find this notion a bit surprising, but she’s actually quite the obvious choice if you look at some of her performances in the last few years.

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Theatre Thursdays: The Show Must Go On…

…unless your high-profile celebrity cast member is leaving. Then the show apparently can’t go on. Nope, not at all, not even possibly. At least this is what I seem to be hearing from the announcement that Broadway’s Evita revival will be closing when Ricky Martin, Elena Roger, and Michael Cerveris leave the show.

Despite earlier claims that the show would re-cast and continue on with new leads when its opening cast departed (you know, like ANY OTHER open-ended production) Evita‘s producers have decided that the show simply can’t be done with anyone else in the leads. According to producer Hal Luftig:

“Our extensive search for a new cast presented the significant challenges of not only replacing a high-caliber trio of stars but also synchronizing the schedules of potential replacements with that of the production,” said Mr. Luftig. “Despite going down the road with a variety of artists, the planets have simply not aligned for us to engage the right talent at the right time. Therefore, we have made the decision to end this incredible journey on a high note on January 26 with our original stars intact.”

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Theatre Thursdays: ‘Evita’ New Broadway Cast Recording Review

The cast recording for the current Broadway revival of Evita has hit shelves and I bought my copy last Friday which means I get to review it for you! (Well, it started out as a review then kinda became stream-of-consciousness writing of my feelings as I listened)

First the cover art. I’m not super in love with it. I don’t like the straight up placement of the images next to each other, it’s not particularly creative or visually interesting. I don’t like that Elena is smaller than Ricky and Michael and seems to be squeezed in between the two and above the title. I do like how symmetrical the design is and the dusty yellow tint of the image. This is the cardboard sleeve the case rests inside. The cover on the actual CD booklet is nicer, in my opinion. It’s a simple image of what looks to be a poster painting of Eva which would have been used on someone’s homemade banner. Not exactly this, but similar.

The recording opens abruptly with the announcement of Eva’s death. It’s the only recording I know of to do this, the Original Broadway Cast Recording opening with the “Requiem” music, same for the Highlights recording with Florence Lacey. The only other recordings I’ve heard which include this announcement (The film soundtrack with Madonna and UK Tour Cast with Caren Lyn Manuel) open with the sound effects of a cinema which are interrupted by the announcement. I kind of like it. It’s stark and instantly catches your attention and sets a tone for the experience. The cast singing for Eva is good, but I guess any cast recording is going to sound sparse to me in comparison to the fullness of the movie’s chorus which I just love.

“Oh What a Circus” starts up and Ricky is doing well. It’s less exciting than former versions, including Antonio Banderas’ performance in the film, but this has more to do with the tempo seeming slowed slightly than Ricky’s performance. I really like the orchestrations though.

Max von Essen sounds good in “On this Night of a Thousand Stars”. I think I was hoping for a little more but maybe I’m just not a fan of tango singing. I know he said he did his research and is trying to bring as much as he can to do justice to the real Augustin Magaldi so many kudos to him. Ooh, I like the way Ricky sang “Why don’t you be the man who discovered her?” It sounded like there was a period after each word and had a little funk to it. Elena has such fire in this song, I love it.

Elena owns “Buenos Aires”. Always and forever. “Set me humming” sounds so fantastic when Elena sings it! Ooh, new lyrics for Che. So much more worthwhile than that random polo match he used to talk about. Oh no, there’s that polo match…well it seems to have a bit more context here at least. Ricky sounds thoroughly American while delivering these lines, though. Not in love with Elena’s final vowel there. “star qualitEEEEEE”

Charity Concert and I’d be Surprisingly Good for You: Finally got to hear Michael! So many rolled r’s. Not as comically overdone as Bob Gunton’s but they didn’t exactly sound natural. He and Elena sounded great together though, love their dialogue.

Rachel Potter’s voice is beautiful in “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”, but I’ve always felt the role of the mistress is overrated. She doesn’t affect the plot really at all and while it’s nice (from a production’s standpoint) to have a female cast member besides Eva have a song (no others do) I prefer the movie’s decision to give this song to Eva. I frankly don’t care about this girl and since she’s never heard from again I feel it makes this song something of a throwaway in terms of relevance.

Peron’s Latest Flame: I don’t like the lack of space between the men’s insults and declarations of “Dangerous jade!” Still love this song though.

Rainbow High: One of my favorite songs! Elena’s uniqueness continues to shine in this song. Feh, there’s that diction on “quality” again. I may not get used to it.

Rainbow Tour: I think I’d prefer it if Michael weren’t putting on an accent. I know I’ve been whining about Ricky sounding so American but I may actually prefer that to Michael’s dialect. Speaking of, Ricky sounds great here. This might be my favorite song of his.

I’m so glad “You Must Love Me” is included! I always loved it in the movie and I think the love between Juan and Eva may have been ignored in previous versions of the show. This song solidifies it. I’ve seen interviews with people who knew the Perons and they commented that the love between them was real and visible so I feel it’s important to show it, rather than presenting their marriage as a business contract (though there was certainly an aspect of that).

Overall I’m happy with this cast recording. While I can see why many people are unhappy with Elena’s voice I love it. There are parts where I prefer other women in the role but overall I really love her on this recording. Ricky Martin and Michael Cerveris do very well but I don’t really love either of them. The changes are interesting and I like them for the most part. I may not feel this way had I been a lifelong fan of either the original Broadway or London cast recordings, however, so my opinion must be taken as one who was first in love with the movie for years before investigating the show.

Theatre Thursdays: Tony Performances

I know Lady Saika already talked about the Tonys last week, but since I missed them and had to watch the performances on youtube I wanted to post them and talk about them a bit.

Revivals

Godspell‘s performance was nice and lively, but I kinda wish they hadn’t gone out into the audience. It just didn’t seem to work and felt uncomfortable watching the cast try so hard and the audience just kind of passively watch without (many of them) rising from their seats. Hair managed to pull it off a bit better a few years ago though, so I don’t know why this year’s attendees weren’t more receptive.

Follies I’ve never seen, though I very much want to. As such, I can’t say whether this number is indicative of the overall tone or quality of the show but I will say that if I weren’t already interested in the show this individual song may not make me want to see it. It’s funny and performed well but doesn’t tell me enough of the story or tease out enough interest to make me say “Ooh, I want to see more of that!”

The Jesus Christ Superstar revival. I love this show so much but I truly am not excited about this revival (BTW can we have a “woot woot” for Jesus’ presence on Broadway right now? Two shows at once!) Josh Young is very talented, as are the featured singers, but a show like JCS is so done and done and done that for me to want to see it on Broadway (at Broadway prices, especially) it’s gotta be pretty standout from the Community, Regional, and School productions that I could see easier and cheaper. Nothing about this presentation draws me in and I’m just kind of scratching my head over the costumes. I do like the way Jesus is overpowered by the singing though, kind of representing his own actual words being lost to what everyone else says about him.

You surely know by now that I’m super excited for the Evita revival and I love their performance. I wish Elena were featured more prominently though. Ricky Martin does very well though he seems a bit too…normal? I do my best to keep an open mind when celebrities are cast in musicals since so many people hate them on the principle of stunt casting so I don’t want to be too critical. He really does do very well but somehow he’s just not what I expect from Che. Like Enjolras, I want Che to be dynamic, someone who can stir me to revolution, and I just don’t know that I feel this way for Ricky. I wish they would have performed “Buenos Aires” and let Elena show off since she wasn’t nominated, or done “A New Argentina” which would showcase both Elena and Ricky, who I’m sure they want to expose as much as possible, but perhaps they didn’t since both those numbers were performed when the original production opened.

Porgy and Bess I honestly know nothing about, but Audra McDonald is a goddess so you know it’s good when she’s there. (Though if she’s gonna be singing to a swaddled baby, it’s cruel to not have it be “Your Daddy’s Son”) This performance definitely interests me in seeing the show someday, perhaps not running right out for tickets, but definitely on my “Try to see it if I can” list.

Originals

I’ve been really interested in Once and I think this is a beautiful performance. The show seems so different in presentation than most of what’s on B0roadway. It’s not so bombastic, the music is of the people, the choreography is simple but effective, and it just seems like an honest musical. This performance makes me even more interested in seeing the show. I get a feel for the tone and can kind of see some of the story.

Nice Work if You can Get It is not a revival but not exactly original either. The score is put together from the Gershwin songbook and the story is, if I remember correctly, based on a short novel. To be honest the only reason I want to see this show is for my favorite actress Jennifer Laura Thompson who’s playing a featured role. Still it looks good and I know nothing of the Gershwins’ work (Bad musical theatre fan! Bad!) so I’m glad to get something of a crash course in their work. The performances here are nice and give me hope that I’ll enjoy the show even when Jennifer is not on stage.

When I first heard Ghost was made into a musical I thought “Oh God, what next?” After seeing some clips though I got into it. The music sounded good and most shockingly I liked the projected sets (something I typically abhor) but I don’t know how well this number showcases the musical. It seems pretty muddled and I have no idea what’s going on except for knowing the movie.

Oh Raul Esparza, you are so talented. What do I know about Leap of Faith? Little. What’s my interest in seeing it? Almost none…prior to watching this. It’s so lively! From what I hear it’s entirely gospel music which will certainly be a turnoff for some people, and maybe 2+ hours of it will prove to be a turnoff for me, but this performance makes me excited for the show. I’ll definitely wait for a tour though.

Oh Newsies, how I love you! All i ever wanted from the movie was for “Seize the Day” to be a longer song and now it is! Unfortunately it’s longer thanks to an instrumental/dance break and modified but not really new lyrics. I still prefer the original. Still, this choreography is damn impressive and I can’t wait to see the show. If you’ve not yet seen the movie, BTW, I highly recommend it. It’s an incredibly enjoyable watch and features a young Christian Bale with a terrible New York accent.

Theatre Thursdays: Evita and the Legend of La LuPone

With Evita currently running on Broadway for the first time since the original production closed its doors in 1983, the role of Eva Peron is once again on New Yorkers’ minds. The role is indelibly linked (perhaps to a fault) with Patti LuPone.

When I say “to a fault” I don’t mean to imply that there was anything wrong with Patti’s performance. I didn’t see it, considering the production shuttered before I was born and she had vacated the role even before then. What I mean is that any actress playing this role, especially on Broadway, is going to be judged against how much she does or doesn’t live up to what people remember or think they remember about Patti’s legendary, star-making turn in the role.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this is because of Evita’s current leading lady, Elena Roger.

 

As I mentioned before, Elena is leading this revival on Broadway after already doing so on the West End where she received immense praise from critics and audiences for her portrayal of Eva Peron. Since opening the Broadway production, however, things have been quite different. I didn’t follow much press regarding the revival once it opened so I was shocked when Tony and Drama Desk nominations came out and Elena was passed over for both. After that surprise I went on to learn that Elena’s Broadway performance has received a fairly negative response from critics and audiences. On a message board I frequent two users who’ve seen the show commented that her performance was disappointing, one of whom saw her in the London production and loved her but said that her performance now lacks the subtlety and charm it did in London.

Why did this happen? My thoughts are that it may be due to Patti’s lasting influence on Evita on Broadway. Perhaps the revival’s director, Michael Grandage (or even Elena herself) was aware of the almost oppressive imprint left by Patti and tried to pump up her performance in response. From what I understand based on word of mouth and the Original Broadway Cast Recording, Patti’s Eva was brassy almost to the point of being crass, with a spitfire personality. Once I remember reading an opinion from someone who compared her performance to Elaine Paige’s in the original West End production as the role having been “Wicked Witched-up” by going from Paige’s comparatively subtle role to Patti’s ambitious take.

Of course this is only a thought. The real reason for the change (if it was indeed a conscious change, which may or may not even be the case) could be something else entirely, but I do think it’s interesting to wonder about.

Theatre Thursdays: Christina DeCicco Appreciation Post

 

As I mentioned in my Evita post Christina DeCicco is one of my favorite Broadway actresses (I almost had to correct myself and say “musical theatre actresses” but then I remembered that she finally made her Broadway debut and can be classified as a Broadway actress, yay!).

I first heard of her when she joined the Touring Production of Wicked as Glinda. Now let me say that when it comes to Glinda I have some high standards and specific things I want to see in an actress so just because she played Glinda did not mean I would instantly love her. The fact that she played Glinda with intelligence, heart, and ambition was what made me love her.

As always when I fall in love with a performer I mined for recordings of Christina in other shows and found that she had played many roles I loved and played them very well.

After Wicked Christina played Eponine at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

As per usual, she knocked it out of the park. Her Eponine was strong and capable and not so pathetic as I think the role can sometimes come off.

Her next role of note was Cindy Lou Huffington in the Off-Broadway production of The Marvelous Wonderettes, a role she took over from Victoria Matlock who played Elphaba opposite Christina’s Glinda in the Wicked tour! I know little of this show other than it was about a group of four former prom queens who made a little singing group to perform pop hits around their town and that Christina got to show off some of her amazing vocals:

(Love how cute you are, love that incredible control over your vibrato)

(Seriously. This video. Don’t tell me you aren’t impressed with the power coming out of this little lady)

Well, hopefully I’ve done Christina some justice with this post. Maybe now you’ll see why I’m so very unable to decide when to see Evita because this young woman is just such a phenom.

Please visit her official website for more info, pictures, videos, etc:

http://www.christinadecicco.com/