KPBS AIRDATE: SEPTEMBER 8, 2000
Here’s the plane truth: For the first time in umptysquat years, Starlight Musical Theatre has eliminated the annoying stop-action freeze frame. No more listening for the noise level, trying to determine if this one will be visibly green-lighted or will it be a red-light special, frozen mid-sentence and mid-song, to await the passage of an overhead aircraft. No more painstaking jet-tallies. The current production of “Evita” is now truly sung-through… right over the airborne din. In order to achieve this exalted state of genuine theater, we have to tolerate the minor visual annoyance of those expensive, cheek-slashing rock-concert mikes. But the focus of attention is back where it belongs — and with this production, Starlight may be regaining some of its old luster.
Director Brian Wells has risen to the occasion of Starlight’s 54thanniversary by bringing a horde of people onstage, and though some of them are less credible than others, their aggregate presence definitely increases the energy, let alone the volume, throughout. The leads are strong, but Act One is vocally and emotionally weaker and less engaging than Act two. Then, Joshua Carr’s revolutionary Che becomes more acerbic about Eva Per Ù n, the Argentine leader who, according to this version, unquestionably slept her way to the top. At this point, Leigh Scarritt really grabs onto the title role with the intensity and tenacity of a pitbull. Once she steps onto the balcony and wraps her voice around the famous “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” this show is solidly and unequivocally hers.
I have to confess, I’m not a big fan of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyricist Tim Rice, or their signature schmaltz. But I think this is one show of Lloyd Webber’s that has more than one song — even though the “Don’t Cry” theme pops up in the piece some five or six times. But there’s also a sad and sweet ballad, “Another Suitcase in Another Hall,” sweetly sung by the 15 year-old up-and-comer, Annette Desrosiers. And there is that clever political game of musical chairs, “The Art of the Possible.” I was sort of hoping they’d add in “You Must Love Me,” the new song written for Madonna in the overwrought film version, but this “Evita” hews close to the original.
Except for Scarritt’s fading and dying Evita, there isn’t much depth and dimension to the characterizations, but that’s as much a fault of the play as the production. This “Evita” is attractive, well dressed, well sung and quite solid, if not scintillating, and well worth seeing, especially in this pleasantly planeless form.
MUSIC, under and out:
©2000 Patté Productions Inc.