As is usual for me, I went to the show not knowing very much about it. I’ve always thought I’d love musicals growing up but didn’t have a lot of exposure to the arts in my little farm town and as a result never really sought them out until recently. So, I knew Madonna played Evita in the movies and that the movie was something people either loved or hated. I think that is probably true with this musical in general.
Let me get this out of the way: I think the show gave me a headache. It wasn’t the performance of the show that did it. It was the show itself. Its really kind of stupid and boring. I will likely never see it again unless someone else I know performs in it. Again, this is not a criticism of the CCM folks at all. I can’t imagine the show being performed any better than it was. But it will certainly go towards the bottom of my list. I didn’t connect with it at all and I was only moved once during the show and it had nothing to do with the content. More on this later.
Alaina Mills, the actress who played Eva Peron, was flawless. Her voice was spot on, her acting was not over the top but felt authentic, and she carried herself like a true pro on stage even when her hat kept falling off. She was really really good.
But Pierce Cassedy, who I saw this past summer in “Down Home Country” at Kings Island on several occasions absolutely without any question stole the show as Che tonight. Che’s role is pivotal to advancing the plot and keeping the audience engaged, which given the lack of hooks in the songs and rather depressing and mundane subject matter is a chore. But Cassedy used his sense of humor and timing, expressive face, and piercing blue eyes (pun intended) to carry this show especially in the moments when Eva was off stage. The fact that he could do this with the wonderful cast he was starring with is a huge accomplishment in itself. I like to feel something when I attend a show; nothing in the show did that for me but I felt a lot of pride – even though I really don’t know him very well – seeing this young man who I watched all summer transform into this real life theatre star before my very eyes.
I want to be clear; I don’t want to take away from anyone else in the cast. The ensemble danced well, sang well, and did a nice job of supporting the main players. And while the role of Juan Peron often consisted of the actor just waving his arms towards the audience (especially through the first act), I found no fault with Chris Blem’s performance or interpretation of the character. He had a great voice and he seemed to be a gifted actor. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great performances of Michelle Berkowitz, who played Juan’s mistress in a brief but wonderful moment in the show as well as the hysterical performance and great vocalizations done by John Riddle as he played Augustin Magaldi.
The staging was well done, the orchestra was so good I often times wondered if what I was hearing was recorded, the audio mixing was better than most shows like this I’ve seen, and I found the theater to be a beautiful venue. Apart from disliking the content of the show, I had an excellent time and I can’t wait to go back and see “Rent” in February in the same building.
We are so fortunate to have CCM in Cincinnati. I can’t wait to discover more of this super talent at both CCM and Wright State in the next several months. Congrats to the cast and crew of “Evita” for a job well done.
“Evita” plays at CCM’s Corbett Theater through Sunday. Click on the Box Office for ticket info.