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McLean Community Players Evita

By • Jul 14th, 2008 • Category: Reviews
Evita
McLean Community Players
Alden Theatre, McLean, VA
$17/$14 Students and Seniors
Through July 26th

McLean Community Players has a hit on their hands with their ambitious production of Evita. MCP has managed to breathe some new life into a show that’s been around for three decades. The sold out show had an enthusiastic crowd singing the praises of the hard-working cast and crew, and with good reason: everyone gave 110%. In fact, the orchestra sometimes gave 200%, which was a struggle for the listener. Despite strong voices all around and body microphones on nearly all the performers, it was extremely difficult to hear any of the lyrics. In such a lyric-heavy show, with a major storyline filled with history, romance, and politics, we need to hear the words. MCP might consider reducing the number of instrumentalists in the pit; they were wonderful, but overwhelming.

Star Jennifer Lambert embodies the role of Eva Peron, from her humble beginnings to her rise to fame and finally, to her tragic early death. Andrew Lloyd Weber’s music for Eva is far from simple, a rollercoaster ride of vocals, with each song requiring at least a two octave range. Not of all Lambert’s vocalizations are successful, sometimes becoming a little too piercing in the top range to be considered lyrical. Perhaps this was a deliberate choice on the part of Musical Director John Edward Niles, to give Eva a rough edginess in her top notes, helping her to cut through the orchestra. It might not be the best choice, because Eva needs to have those levels. Lambert’s low belting was fantastic and she was absolutely shining in her middle range. She gave unrelenting energy in a very demanding role, and handled even onstage costume and hair changes with style and grace. Kudos to her for attempting something different with the signature song, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina. Instead of using it more selfishly as a star vehicle, as the real Evita might have done, Lambert made it a conversation piece. She talked directly to the crowd, intimately, and it was packed with meaning and emotion.

Perfectly cast as her leading man, Patrick McMahan is a magnificent Juan Peron. Often this role is overlooked and under sung. Not here-McMahan is a powerhouse of talent, with terrific range (rich baritone to gentle falsetto), good looks, and an innate charisma that Peron clearly had. It is easy to imagine him ruling a nation, and winning the heart and hand of Argentina’s rose. He and Lambert have marvelous chemistry.

Randall Jones as Che Guevera wasn’t quite the right type for his role. Despite a good effort and a nice singing voice, his Che lacked passion. He needed to be vicious, smoldering, dynamic and sympathetic all rolled into one, and didn’t quite meet the expectations.

Smaller roles were well filled by Jen Faulconer as Peron’s cast aside mistress, and Mark Gray-Mendes as Magaldi, Eva’s original meal ticket to Buenos Aires. Faulconer had a pretty and focused sound, and Gray-Mendes had nice tone and an engaging stage presence.

The Aristocrats were a great comic relief, with the elegant lords & ladies of Argentina in crisp tuxedos and glittering gowns…moving as one unit of Lemmings, complete with deadpan expressions and in sync singing. 

Highlights included The Art of the Possible, Rainbow High, Another Suitcase Another Hall, And the Money Kept Rolling In, and Don’t Cry for Me Argentina. The ending montage was done tenderly and hauntingly, filled with nuanced performances from Lambert & McMahan that gave the audience chills. 

The two hour production, directed by husband and wife team Pamela & Kevin McCormack, maintained a brisk pace throughout. There was some problematic choreography…sometimes it’s best to restrict the major dance numbers to the strongest dancers. There were three excellent female dancers on the stage and it would’ve been gratifying to see them doing the intricate and creative choreography alone, without the bustle of less experienced bodies around them. Some of it was lost in the crowd, and in the desire to utilize everyone. Some of the ensemble numbers were clean; others were a little messy. The set was minimal, and scene changes were handled well by cast members.

Most of the costumes by Richard Battistelli were spot on, colorful and appropriate for the culture. That said, there were a few ladies running around in what appeared to be Renaissance festival attire, which didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the performers. Eva’s gowns, gloves, and jewels were gorgeous and befitting her character.

Special accolades to Lynne Glikbarg and Bob Zeigler, who did beautiful and thoughtful lighting design for the show. 

On the whole, there was a great deal of dedication and talent on the stage, and overall, Evita made for an entertaining and enjoyable afternoon of theater. 

Cast

  • Che: Randall Jones
  • Eva Peron: Jennifer Lambert
  • Magaldi: Mark W. Gray-Mendes
  • Juan Peron: Patrick McMahan
  • Peron’s Mistress: Jen Faulconer
  • Citizens of Argentina (ensemble): Jesse Baskin, Bob Bender, Anna Brotman-Krass, Ryan Green, Earle Greene, Blake Haines, Thomas Harton, Maribeth Jones, Sydney Kirwan, Takuma Koide, Anastasya Korol, Jim Lazar, Jeff Luke, Megan McCormack, Kathleen McCormack, Sam McCrea, Christina Miller, Pul Neiswander, Jonah Parra, Marion Preda, Steven Rice, Kate Roehr, Sivan Ryabinky, Joey Seiger-Cottoms, Kevin Seiger-Cottoms, Brandy Skaddan, Angelica Fallin Totten, Alexis Nicole Vasconez, George Willis, Maria Worthen, & Claire Yenson

Production Team:

  • Directors: Kevin & Pamela McCormack
  • Music Director: John Edward Niles
  • Assistant Director: Shayne Gardner
  • Producer: Mike Scott
  • Technical Director: George Farnsworth
  • Vocal Director: Lori Roddy
  • Stage Managers: Jerry Callistein & Douglas F. Yriat
  • Set Designer: Bill Glikbarg
  • Lighting Designers: Lynne Glikbarg & Bob Zeigler
  • Light Board Operator: Wendy Granat Humphries
  • Sound Design: Jerry Bonnes
  • Set Decoration: Dinnie Whitson
  • Set Construction: Bill Glikbarg, Bob Zeigler, John Downing, Mike Scott
  • Costumer: Richard “Bat” Battistelli
  • Properties: Bunny Bonnes
  • Makeup: Lynn Kleyla & Barbara Pruitt
  • Hair Styling Consultant: Jonah Parra
  • Photographer: K.C. Morrisseau Jr.
  • Webmaster, Playbill: George Farnsworth
  • House Manager: Columba Brumby

Orchestra:

  • Conductor: John Edward Niles
  • Piano/keyboards: Joe Gems
  • Electric Piano/keyboards: James Gibson
  • Flute Piccolo: Katrina Elsnick
  • Clarinet/Sax: Mitch Bassman
  • Clarinet/Sax/Basoon: Allen Howe
  • Trumpet I: Terry Bradley
  • Trumpet II: Curt Nette
  • Trombone: Chris Bradley
  • Drums: Arthur Garrison
  • Percussion: Jackie Bradley
  • Guitar: Rob Weaver
  • Bass: David Burelli, Stephanie Thornwell
  • Alternate Clarinet/Sax: Randy Dahlberg
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