‘Evita’ draws mixed audience reactions

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By Bob Evans

One of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s early musicals, “Evita” opened Feb. 5 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to a small audience, probably due to weather conditions and scare tactics from local media prognosticators.

Looking at available seating for future performances, only a few performances offer much to prospective patrons. That being said, opening night many empty seats could be seen in most areas of the Kauffman Center. Even the parking garage was severely short of the number of cars generally seen at the Broadway Series performances.

Evita” tells the story of ambition, greed, deception, but fails to depict the blood and vengeance to climb the steps to the royal palace. For those who do not know the story, the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice expose of Eva Duarte’s rise from poverty to cherished leader does not white-wash her dirty deeds.

“Evita” is part of the Sabates Eye Center’s Broadway Series and is locally hosted by American Theatre Guild (formerly Theater League of Kansas City). The show runs through Sunday, Feb. 10. Tickets to all performances are limited. To purchase directly, use the direct link to the box office. https://americantheatreguild.com/kansascity/evita/

For this tour, the staging is very strong with minimal set decoration and changes between scenes. The large projection mostly above the actors helps direct the audience attention while the lower area where the actors mostly perform can be darkened and sets change without notice. At times the projection seemed to compete with the performance, especially when some of the images of the real Eva Peron were on display to showcase her style and glamorize her similarly to a Hollywood star’s photo gallery.

For me, I am not totally familiar with how “Evita” has changed over the years. I first saw it in London before its premiere in the United States. I vaguely remember more about Juan Peron’s ambition as a war general who brutally defeated his adversaries as he rose to power. I did not see that in the current production. That stated, the production I saw was probably about 1979. So, my memory could be hazy.

This production, moves through the story at a fast pace with the action and music almost non-stop. Act I runs just over an hour. Act II, similarly runs just over an hour. The music is good, but probably the only song well-known, “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” builds on a refrain throughout the show’s score. Combine a good score with good voices and the show is a hit.

In my area, I heard mixed reactions from audience members. One said “Evita” is his favorite Webber musical. On my other side a woman complained that she did not care for the show and did not think it was worth ticket face value. Another said she should have stayed home to watch the State of Union address. Another said he thought that the show was very well done. So, “Evita” comes with really mixed responses.

As for the talent, the voices were all good. The best vocal comes early in the show, by Matthew Malecki Martinez, as a tango singer who takes a young Eva Duarte with him to Buenos Aires. The acting and dancing were strong. The costumes and the sound were good. The sets and choreography were interesting. The projection added a lot of dimension to the story and gave a good representation of who and how Eva appeared. When attending an event in the Kauffman Center, the sound quality is stunning. With “Evita” spoken and sung words are crisp and clear.

Tags: Evita review, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, American Theatre Guild, Kansas City, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Theatre

Images courtesy of merican Theatre Gui, Bob Evans and American Theatre Guild/National Tour "Evita"

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