Monday, May 28, 2012

Evita - May 25, 2012

It is my sad duty to inform you that Evita, the current Broadway revival playing at the Marquis Theater, was pronounced lifeless at 20:25 hours on Friday night.

'Twas a disappointment to realize this dazzling show lost the sparkle of its fantastic past. A past I only know through the cast recording of the original Broadway production starring Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.

I never saw that production-thanks to my twin brother, Larry, who passed on those tickets in high school-and have regretted it ever since. We both have.  We saw in this revival an opportunity to make things right. So, two weeks ago we shelled out $143 for orchestra seats and looked forward to our night of a thousand stars.

But oh, what a circus!

All the elements for a show that was certain to impress were in place.  The set was gorgeous.  The Casa Rosada was actually the best part of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina".

The lighting was moody, lush and evocative.  Oh, and Ricky Martin! He has a sweet, easy-on-the-eyes stage presence and a wonderful voice. But, I couldn't stop thinking that he was keeping himself in check vocally because he knows he has to sing 8 shows a week and needs to parcel it out to equitably to ensure he can tackle the next performance.

And that was the problem with the show.  I never got lost in the action.  My mind wandered to technical things such as...
  • How the performers phrasing changed to accommodate their shortness of breath after a dance break.  
  • If the woman in the crowd scene was uncomfortable in her costume because it looked as though it was her first time wearing it.
  • What route did Evita take to get from one side of the stage to the other so quickly and who lent assistance?
  • Why is the cast so bored?
All this could have been forgiven had Evita herself been up to the task.  Sadly, Elena Roger was not.  Her voice was shrill and annoying.  When she finally collapses near the end Larry turned to me and said, "Thank God!"  I know how he felt. I found myself grateful that I wasn't Elena's friend so I was spared the awkward backstage after-the-show moment of trying to figure out what to say.

"That was...yeah.  How do you feel?"

We imagined Patti LuPone slipping off at intermission for a cigarette and never coming back.  With all the talented performers out there why, oh why! was Elena Roger cast in this show?  WHY!?

We exited the show feeling disappointed yet happy that we finally saw Evita on Broadway.  Not for the production but because as Larry stated, "we've got that under our belt".  We felt we accomplished something but ultimately,

You let down your people Evita!

1535 Broadway (between 45th and 46th Streets)
New York, NY 10036
Tickets or call (212) 382-0100

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Don Pedro de la Cebolla

We've just passed a time of year where gifts of all sorts are given, received, desired and exchanged.  Sometimes we have a list of things we truly want or need but instead we get something else, something that falls short of our hopes for what might be hidden in the glittery wrappings and bows.  The same can be said of theater.  It is not the size of the venue, the ticket price, the opulence of the set or costumes nor star-names that determines the quality of a theatrical endeavor.  It is the simple, yet all too elusive merging of talent.  When you see it you know you are in the midst of a high quality production whether or not it contains the bells and whistles of a full blown Broadway show and often the best shows do indeed come in small, undistinguished packages.

Written with wit by Matthew Harrington and cleverly directed by Rachael Harrington  Don Pedro de la Cebolla is peppered with deft homages to the likes of Monty Python and Abbot & Costello while with extreme subtlety asking us to think (yes THINK!) about the state of our society, politics, court systems, patriotism, and even literacy.  Sounds a little heavy, doesn't it?  Well it's not.  In fact, the laughs simply do not stop, it is one of those wonderful pieces that are not just amusing but laugh out loud funny.

The six men of the cast are charming alternating silliness, confusion, sorrow and back again without missing a beat. And though all the action is set in one room, in the town of Piedra de las Rocas, this one act takes you on a quick trip around the world.  There are only five residents of the town and with Ben Sterling as a cartographer with no sense of direction; Emilio Cuaik as an endearingly innocent mortician who is squeamish about death; Justin Maruri as a gentleman who was "involved in the state prison system for some time" but at heart is an horticulturist; Mel Nieves as a lawyer with a sketchy history of client acquittals who sometimes regrets his ability to read; and Vincent Ticali as a woodworker who specializes only in toothpicks it's hard not to imagine Piedra de las Rocas as a version of the Island of Misfit Toys.  Pedro H. Rezende as the title character, Don Pedro, appears to be a pompous young man sent to Piedra de las Rocas to recruit this band of misfits on a quest for riches and glory (and ultimately the love of a princess) but is in fact the illegitimate son of the deceased King of Feotidus who has been banished from Court to keep him from claiming his birthright and has been put into the custody of the residents of Piedra de las Rocas for "the full term of his life as determined by local law and custom".  Oops.

Don Pedro de la Cebolla is a rare and lovely gift nestled in a modest package, a stunning jewel wrapped in brown paper and string.  The Interart Theatre Development Series and Royal Family Productions Emerging Directors Program is the Santa Claus delivering this gift.  And you will wish you had left him milk and cookies after seeing this wonderful play.  (Non-metaphorically, you really can do so, just make a donation here.) The quality is clear, and though this may not be the gift you were hoping for, you will find it is the one you really wanted all along.

Don Pedro de la Cebolla
The Interart Annex Theatre
500 West 52nd Street (at 10th Avenue)
New York, NY
January 16, 17, 18, 24 & 25 at 8:00pm
January 21 at 2:30 pm