Turns out the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musicals that began as concept albums — Jesus Christ, Superstar and Evita — are the ones that hold up best. Sure, the schlock that is Phantom of the Opera still beats them all at the box office, but the other two seem to have something new to say with each major revival.
Director Michael Grandage’s latest revival of Evita, which was on Broadway in 2012 and is touring the country and playing at the Music Hall at Fair Park on the Dallas Summer Musicals series, solidifies this 1976 show as Webber’s finest work. It does that by going back to the original album and staying true to the creators’ original vision.
The most obvious way in which it accomplishes that is by changing the narrator character of Che from a revolutionary figure to an everyday, working-class Argentinian. Played by the powerfully voiced rising star Josh Young in this tour (on Broadway, it was Ricky Martin), Che keeps everything grounded. Maybe the Harold Prince vision of a revolutionary presence was there to remind the audience of Argentina’s political history, but as we’ve learned in the past few years from the uprisings in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere, the power of the ordinary citizen cannot be underestimated.
That’s also represented in the real-life titular character, Eva Duarte, whose rise from poverty to the position of wife of future president Juan Peron is quick and calculated. But this show never lets us forget that Eva Peron had a heart, too, and Caroline Bowman captures that beautifully. Her crystal performance of the balcony song Don’t Cry for Me Argentina is thrilling; but this production reminds that many of the narrative-driving songs in this show, such as Oh, What a Circus, Buenos Aires and The Chorus Girl Hasn’t Learned, are just as strong. This production also brings in the Oscar-winning song You Must Love Me, which was added for the 1996 movie version.
As Juan Peron, Sean MacLaughlin is a quietly powerful balancing force; you never once doubt his authority. Another standout is Krystina Alabado as Juan’s mistress, who is ousted by Eva and then gets the tearful number Another Suitcase in Another Hall.
The scenic and costume design (both by Christopher Oram) capture the era and mood, and the video projections are effective. Rob Ashford’s choreography always pays homage to the tango, even as more Broadway-style dancing is involved in some scenes.
Just like Eva Peron captured the adoration of a country, this revival will recapture your appreciation for the musical.