Saturday, March 27, 2010

EVITA at New Candlelight Dinner Theatre

Having experienced every one of New Candlelight's productions for the past 2 years or so, there is one constant: every trace of talent, every infinitesimal of artistic knowhow, every scintilla of stagecraft is employed by this merry band of troupers to please the audience. As Ethel Merman chimed, “Can You Ask For Anything More?” Aisle!
While there have been regulars through the years, NCT continues to showcase new and exciting performers from the region. Theatre Manager Paul Goodman, for example, is part of the male ensemble but has both directed and starred in previous productions. Paul Weagraff, whose day job is Director of the Delaware Division of the Arts, has had simply too much fun in the maddening variety of roles he's entertained.
Weagraff (Juan Peron) plays second fiddle to the manipulative Eva and wisely enables her to play her 'cult' card in his fascist regime. He has a lovely tenor voice which shines in “She's A Diamond”.
But it is the new faces that star in show. Che Guervara (Jeffrey Higgins) is making his debut at NCT with a resounding, full bodied and piercing tenor. Some of Webber / Rice's tunes are melodic some disharmonic. A gaggle of my favorite Broadway tunes are in this show. Higgins does a beautiful rendition of “High Flying Adored”, (I heard Mandy Patinkin in that number. Pantinkin originated that role on Broadway.)
Aisle Say has always wondered about the character of Che. While Eva Peron's life is certainly one for the ages, having seen the show several times I wonder how the authors embraced this Cuban guerrilla in a tale set in Argentina?
(Eva) Molly Tower, has impressive credentials in theatre education. Her's is a difficult role in many levels. What Tower lacks in the ability to move on stage she more than makes up for in her voice. I did not count her octave range but it is lengthly. On opening night she was a bit stiff in the first act. However, in the second act Aisle Say began to believe in her. In “Eva's Last Broadcast”, where she succumbs to cancer, Tower is both poignant and evocative.
Alexis DeDonato is quickly becoming Aisle Say's favorite dancer at NCT. She has shown great skill in previous productions and now has been given the opportunity, as Peron's mistress, to sing “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”
DeDonato's tango with choreographer Dann Dunn was damn distinguished!
Evita's distinctive choreography is as memorable as its music. Dunn continues to excel in drawing out the best of what he is given. “Peron's Latest Flame”, the iconic soldier scene, took inestimable time to practice. The audience loved them in their colorful outfits and sunglasses.
Dear sister Liz and I were served at our table by Chad Parsons, one of the soldiers and his joy at being in the production beamed from his face.
In the past I have applauded the staging of Director / Lighting Designer Chris Alberts. With this show he went above and beyond the call. His staging; the bits of play happening behind the main characters; the look and feel of the crowd scenes during both Juan and Eva's exhortations; the smoky, hazy environment; all this created illusions on a very small stage that captivated the audience.
Dear readers, NCT is the best entertainment value in town!

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