It’s tough to take on one of the best well known musicals out there. Thus, I was intrigued when I found out that the Gallery Players, a small theater company in Brooklyn, were tackling a blockbuster like Evita. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is a beast, it places unrelenting demands that require skilled singers, which is no small task for any company.
Evita, follows the life of Eva Peron. It shows her beginnings, from a poor family to her rise to fame. Still today, many Argentinians revere Eva. After sleeping her way to the top, Eva meets Juan Peron, a military leader who is on the verge of becoming President, by whatever means necessary. With Eva by his side, Juan is able to secure his rule, allowing Eva to become the First Lady. During her tenure, Eva accomplished a lot; most memorably aiding the impoverished through her foundation. However, Eva’s heath is on the decline, which limits what she can get done.
This musical needs a strong ensemble of actors to pull it off. Luckily, the Gallery Players found actors that were up to the challenge, Carman Napier plays Eva. Napier gains momentum as the play progresses and turns in a fine performance. In the first few scenes, she seems to have a little trouble finding the rhythm. She seems just a beat behind. But this is short-lived and by act two, Napier is full throttle and delivers consistently. Her voice is strong, and her acting even stronger. Dale Sampson plays Che, who narrates and haunts Eva throughout the play. Although he sounds a bit nasally at times, Sampson has a great vocal range that lends itself well to the role. His interpretation of Che is unique, which is always a plus. Equally effective are Jonathan Mesisca (Juan Peron) and Glen Llanes (Magaldi). These two can really sing and round out the cast well.
I found the choreography by Elyse Dave Hart to be interesting. The actors execute most of it well and it adds a nice polished feel to the show. Director, Mark Harborth makes great use of thee space, exploiting every inch available. I loved that this production, used actual footage of Eva Peron projected onto a blank newspaper cleverly held up by Sampson during “Rainbow Tour.” My only slight qualm was the microphone they used during “Don’t Cry for me Argentina.” It caused a weird reverberation that added extra sounds to Napier. It was like we heard he beautiful voice once and then we heard this echo shortly after, which takes the audience out of the moment. But like I said, it is a minor issue as the microphone is only used then.
My hat goes off to the wonderful chorus that rounded out the ensemble. With only five main characters, a lot of work falls on the ensemble to bring this piece to life. They rise to the occasion and literally never miss a beat. Simply put, Evita rarely hits a bad note and delivers high quality in the heart of Brooklyn!
Evita plays now though May 17th at The galeery Players, 199 14th St. www.galleryplayers.com Running time 2 hrs with one 15 minute intermission.