Wednesday, March 2, 2016

reviews - EVITA - Phoenix Theatre

Michael Sample and Alyssa Chiarello
photo: Erin Evangeline Photography
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 20th.

"...Under Robert Kolby Harper’s inspired new direction and the energetic choreography of Nicole L. Olson, Phoenix Theatre premiered a new production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical this past weekend, and it bursts with theatrical invention. That’s what makes this Evita so exciting...when Evita (Alyssa Chiarello) and the show’s one-man Greek Chorus, Che (Michael Sample) sing duets under Alan Ruch’s musical direction and their voices mount, then mount even further, there’s always that danger of things sounding less melodic and simply abrasive. But that’s exactly how Lloyd Webber wrote it...With Dave Temby’s inventive sound, Michael J. Eddy’s colorful lighting, Yoon Bae’s excellent scenic design, plus Adriana Diaz’s period costumes and Kelly Yurko’s hair and make-up, the marriage of all these components working together create a wonderfully new visual account on the Phoenix Theatre stage, and it’s one that is full of surprises....Alyssa Chiarello has grabbed the challenging role of Evita with both hands, and it shows. ...powerhouse vocals, Chiarello reaches those demanding heights of Lloyd Webber’s score in the way that even the British composer would admire. ...With his tall frame and the wide, padded shoulders of a military officer’s uniform, not to mention his exemplary voice and acting talent, Rusty Ferracane is an imposing and intimidating Juan Peron....But arguably, the show’s real star is the one we never see. Director Robert Kolby Harper is also a choreographer, and as displayed in the past, it’s Harper’s keen sense of rhythm and movement that gives this Evita the spark of life....someone who fully understands how to incorporate dance choreographed by another (Nicole L. Olson) into the narrative of a non-stop musical...You won’t be disappointed. " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's pop-rock musical Evita... is the story of a real life woman's rise to power and fame ... Phoenix Theatre's production of this crowd pleasing show features an energetic performance by Alyssa Chiarello in the lead role, good direction and choreography, exciting creative elements, and a superb orchestra conducted by Alan Ruch...Evita is an interesting history lesson about a young poor woman who gets caught up in the struggle for fame and success. While Evita is a pretty good musical, it is also one with a few shortcomings. It is almost completely sung, with only a couple of lines of dialogue. This requires the audience to connect the dots between some scenes in order to fill in the gaps in the plot...the characters never really make you care for them. Sure, Eva is from a poor family and yearns for success, but the manipulative way she goes about achieving it doesn't exactly make us sympathetic toward her...it also requires most of the cast, especially those playing Eva and Che, to scream or screech many lyrics. Fortunately, Rice's biting lyrics, Lloyd Webber's sweeping music and a second act that more clearly portrays the final years in Eva's life offset many of these shortcomings. Director Robert Kolby Harper has assembled a first rate cast as well as impressive creative elements. The energy of the cast, Nicole Olsen's striking, tango-fueled choreography, and the pulsating and driven orchestrations effectively mirror the Perón's energy and drive to power. ...Chiarello is more than up to the challenge, with remarkable singing and acting abilities on display throughout. Her powerhouse vocals never falter, with clear enunciation of every lyric and phrase and an ease in the way she navigates throughout the very rangy score. ...calculating yet passionate and a firecracker throughout, never faltering for a moment until her health begins to decline. Chiarello is sexy and seductive, tough as nails, while allowing Eva's vulnerability to make an occasional appearance. ...Michael Sample is just as good as Che and, considering he was a last minute replacement when the original actor was injured in rehearsals, that is even more impressive an achievement. His voice is extremely powerful and clear and his enunciation of every lyric is just about perfect. He is intense yet playful as the on-looker and narrator of Eva's story and shows the frustration and cynicism at what he sees going on around him. ...Yoon Bae's scenic design is simple yet striking, and Michael J. Eddy's lighting is excellent. ...Alan Ruch's music direction is just as impressive, with a combination of rich vocals from the entire cast and sharp, distinct playing by the orchestra. While Evita has some shortcomings, they are outweighed by the driving score and the performances. Phoenix Theatre's exceptional cast and first rate creative elements make this a production for any theatre-lover looking for a big, bold musical or anyone interested in experiencing the passion, power, and romance behind the story of Eva Perón's rise to power."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

--Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

"...Phoenix Theatre’s new production of “Evita” features a stellar performance that literally happened by accident. Carlos Encinias was originally cast as Che...But when he was injured late during the rehearsal process, Michael Sample...got a last-minute promotion to leading man. And oh boy does he make the most of the opportunity....Phoenix Theatre’s production, starring Alyssa Chiarello in the title role and directed by Robert Kolby Harper, is appealing and well crafted. Even so, it is often a fine line that separates an exhilarating night of theater and one that’s is merely “pretty good,” especially in a musical, where all of aspects of the show — the singing, acting, dancing and more — have to catch fire. In this case, there are three elements that might prevent discerning theatergoers from enjoying “Evita” to the fullest: the high notes, the scenic design (or lack thereof), and the wigs.
Chiarello....falls victim to those high notes....the screeching effect is enough to make the listener blanch. Chiarello is also the primary victim of the unmistakably fake wigs....Yoon Bae’s industrial-style set...looks like it was recycled from “Rent”....These complaints may sound minor, but they are glaring...there is plenty that is pleasing about this “Evita.” ....lovely choreography by Nicole Olson that incorporates everyday gestures and reflects the social reality of the characters, from the stiff-backed soldiers to the put-upon “descamisados,” the “shirtless” working class...."  - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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