Some gals look best in classic couture. After the messy, montage-filled Madonna’d movie of “Evita,” the 25th anniversary tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical returns to the strength of the original stage version. New stars may not emerge, as they did when Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin first took on the lead roles, but the work of an old master certainly is in evidence in this production, which re-creates Harold Prince’s savvy, in-your-face staging.
After all, Prince took a concept album and, with a dare and flair Eva Peron would have envied, gave this outlandish idea for a musical shape, dimension and credibility.
He also gave it a heightened sense of style that suited its subject, infusing the Lloyd Webber-Rice popera with a theatrical interpretation that was bold, brazen and sardonic. A scene of musical rocking chairs represents Peron’s rise to power; a series of revolving-door episodes depict the turnstyle-ishness of Evita’s social climb; an adagio between Che and Evita acts as a charisma faceoff; and, of course, there’s that balcony entrance in a luminous white gown in which Evita sings “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” with the audience becoming part of the adoring masses.
These theatrical strategies work just as well this time around. (Prince still hasn’t managed to make some of the transitions between numbers quite so seamless — the problems of staging from an inflexible LP score persist — and the last moment of the show, between Che and Peron, is oddly awkward and ineffective.)
This tour is being supervised by Prince, with Larry Fuller, the show’s original choreographer, reproducing his own movement as well as Prince’s 1979 direction. But those hoping for breakout stars may be disappointed with the professional but hardly revolutionary perfs of the leads.
Kathy Voytko plays Evita with steeliness and sings strongly, but her character’s charms and humor are not what they could be. Bradley Dean as a cigar-chomping Che is earnest, energetic and has great pipes but lacks the playful passion of the all-knowing narrator. However, he effectively rises to the dramatic demands of “And the Money Kept Rolling Out.” Philip Hernandez makes Juan Peron a complex smoothie and shows his conflicting sides on “Dice Are Rolling.”
Tech elements are solid: James Fouchard’s tour-friendly version of Tim O’Brien’s original stark, versatile set makes Richard Winkler’s stylish lighting all the more necessary and vital. Orchestra, however, sounds small and over-synthesized.
Prince’s idea was that this wasn’t just a show about a South American dictator and his glam wife but rather an exploration of the masterly manipulation of the media. He artfully peppered his staging with a fevered blurring of politics, celebrity and religion. Though it’s been a quarter-century since Evita raised her bejeweled arms to the deluded and desperate masses onstage, the show still can send a contemporary postelection chill into the air, but maybe that’s just a Boston take.