Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
I must confess that I've seen Evita so many times, both onstage and on screen, that I know practically every line and lyric in the show. Even being this familiar with the musical, I was still enthralled by this production. Director Kevin Connors definitely gets everything right in staging this show and he has worked very well with both his actors and his designers. The set design by David Heuvelman is appropriately dark, with multiple levels, and proves to be highly functional, especially during the "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" sequence. The lighting design by Joshua Scherr frames the actors quite well, and costume designer Diane Vanderkroef does wonderful work, with her costumes for the soldiers/aristocrats proving to be a spectacular and surprising highlight during "Perón's Latest Flame."
The company of actors is uniformly fine, with the leading roles well cast. Christopher DeRosa is an unusually sexy Magaldi and he sings "On This Night of a Thousand Stars" splendidly. As Juan Perón, Donald E. Birely looks slightly too old in the early scenes, but truly comes into his own by the second half, with his "She Is a Diamond" and "Dice Are Rolling" numbers expertly and authoritatively performed. In the part of Che, the narrator/commentator of the show, Daniel C. Levine also takes some time to find his character. If he isn't quite the firebrand that this role demands at the start, he warms up with a powerfully sung "High Flying Adored" and manages to stop the show cold with his knockout singing of "And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)."
Still, every Evita depends on the lady cast in the title role. Music Theatre of Connecticut is very lucky to have Katerina Papacostas as Eva, and she proves to be this production's trump card. Among other virtues, she easily makes the transition from a young girl in the early scenes to the commanding figure who truly looks like she could rule a nation. Her acting is so fascinating that even during the moments in the show when other characters are singing, one is unable to look away from her. As for her singing, she knows just when to push the voice, making highlights of the fiery "Buenos Aires" and "Rainbow High," and she thrillingly hits all the high notes in her solo sections in the first act closing number, "A New Argentina." Katerina Papacostas is easily as good an Eva Perón as I have ever seen either onstage or on screen.
Musical director Thomas Martin Conroy excellently leads the four-piece band, making Andrew Lloyd Webber's music sound rich and terrific. With an able company of actors weaving in and out of the action, and making multiple costume changes, the stage is always full and teeming with life. Add in Katerina Papacostas' perfectly acted and sung Eva and this production becomes utterly riveting and an absolute must. It is highly recommended that you get to Music Theatre of Connecticut to see this Evita to experience a truly potent and expert staging of this great musical.
Evita continues performances at Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk, CT through November 1, 2015. For tickets, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com or call the box office at 203-454-3883.