North Shore Music Theatre’s ‘Evita’ is a Fabulous Show

Briana Carlson-Goodman (Eva) and John Cudia (Peron) in “Evita” at North Shore Music Theatre. Photos©Paul Lyden

An opportunity for another road trip to Massachusetts presented itself this week, so into the car I went. This time the destination was North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA to see Evita. Everything about this show is fabulous: the staging, the cast, and the orchestra. I saw the original Evita on Broadway years ago. The music is by Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber and lyrics by Tim Rice. I also saw the movie several times. This show uses components from those versions and also the revivals that have played the last few years. It is Broadway quality all the way.

Evita is the story of the rise to power of Argentina’s First Lady Eva Peron. It traces her beginnings as a child raised in a poor, working class family. It then shows the steps she took to get to power, her charity work, and finally her early death at 33 years old. The story is completely told through songs and musical dialog.

“Evita” at North Shore Music Theatre. Photos©Paul Lyden

This is a theater in the round and the challenges of delivering a performance that all audience members can see is handled very well. There are screens for projections scattered throughout the theater and even an upper level where a side stage comes to life. The energy level is high as the cast moves up and down the aisles to go on and off the center stage. A platform square in the middle of the main stage allows some props and performers to enter and exit from a level below.

There are many wonderful and very enjoyable moments in this show. It would be impossible to document them all here in this posting. Two that really stood out for me were “Good Night and Thank You” when Eva is working her way through a series of lovers. As her time with them finishes, they walk to an iron gilded door that Che opens to let them out as he sings about their time being done. As they stand on the other side of what represents Eva’s room, they try to figure out what has happened to them as Eva moves onto her next prey. Another standout moment is the final funeral scene, “Montage,” where actual footage of her funeral is run on screens throughout the theater and the full cast is onstage in homage to their fallen Evita.

“Evita” at North Shore Music Theatre. Photos©Paul Lyden

Constantine Maroulis gives a brilliant performance as the narrator, Che. He moves from the center stage to sections of the audience speaking to people as he does. At one point, he is a waiter in a nightclub and he walks up an aisle and acts like he is taking drink orders and handing them out. At times, he stands aside blending in as one of the audience. This lets everyone feel a part of the action taking place. He sings in a strong rock tenor voice. Some say that Che represents the conscience of the people. Along that line of thought, Mr. Maroulis does a fine job of showing some very stirring emotions as he points out the absurdity of what has taken place and the enormous disappointment for what could have been.

Briana Carlson-Goodman plays Eva. Her performance is impressive, stirring, and wonderful to watch. Her Eva has a very desirable quality to her. This vibe makes the admiration from the people for her very believable. Ms. Carlson-Goodman’s Eva is strong as she moves her way into Buenos Aires life. But then she is very vulnerable as her health fails her and she prepares to die. The scenes between her and and Juan Peron are very powerful, and at times, a bit frightening as she weaves her influence around this man. Her voice was absolutely beautiful especially in “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”

John Cudia plays Juan Peron, an ambitious military officer who works his way up the ladder to eventually become President of Argentina. Would it have happened without Eva at his side? Hard to tell because she tells him “I’d Be Surprising Good for You.” He believes and they set out to become the new super couple leading the country. Mr. Cudia has a strong presence about him and his vocals are powerful. He also masterfully handles the side of Peron that in a sense falls victim to his wife’s desires and needs.

Nick Adams gives a wonderful performance as Magaldi, the Argentinian tango singer who meets 15 year old Eva Duarte. His voice soars as he sings “On this Night of a Thousand Stars.” If the real person sang like that, then it is no wonder that Eva was enchanted with him. Well at least for a short time. Just enough time to use him to get to her next stop in life.  Julia Estrada sings a lovely version of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” Her time as Peron’s mistress ends as Eva moves in and puts her out to the street.

The members of the ensemble are exciting to watch in multi-roles and scenes. They are a talented group as they dance, sing, and act in a number of scenes.

The entire production is directed by Nick Kenkel who also choreographed the show.

The North Shore Music Theatre

I am continually amazed by the many accomplishments of regional theater. So much devotion to the art goes into their work.  I was fortunate to be able to sit in on a talk-back after the performance. We learned that the rehearsal time for the show was just short of two weeks. However, planning and designing for it began a long time before that. Producing Artistic Director Kevin Hill said that they are already doing work on shows that will run in 2018. After hearing that, I could understand how much thought and care goes into each show.

A quick survey before the show began showed the majority of the audience were season subscribers. I had conversation with people I sat next to and they are regulars and have been for years. Their enthusiasm for the show was contagious. Every person who worked for the North Shore Music Theatre that I came in contact with was very pleasant. The level of customer service is very high.

Backstage Bistro

The Backstage Bistro is a restaurant theater goers and the general public can go to for a meal or a drink before the show. It adjoins the parking lot and the stairway is close to the entrance by the Box Office.  They have buffets set up for the meals which makes it very convenient to eat and be in time for the curtain. There is also a bar for those who just want a drink. The food is very good with a nice variety of selections.

 

 

Williamstown Theatre Festival and ‘The Legend of a Romance’ – A Marvelous Stop on Summer Road Trip

Photo by K Nowosad

Part 2 of my little theater road trip took me from Bennington, Vermont into Massachusetts to the Williamstown Theatre Festival to see A Legendary Romance. Bennington proved to be a great little spot to stay since it is close driving distance to the Dorset Festival Theatre and about 20 minutes driving time to Williamstown.

Arriving early was a good thing since the building that houses Williamstown Theatre Festival is magnificent. There are several theaters, unique seating, and inspiring artwork.  There are also many photos on the hallway walls from previous seasons and the many shows performed over the years. Especially impressive is the actual layout of the building which allows easy access from the large parking facility through a back entrance way. Once in, the stairs are in wide slabs which makes walking up quite easy. Rest rooms are more than adequate and well kept. The box office is in the main lobby where a snack bar sells a good variety of items. The doors to the outside were open so easy access in and out of the theater became available. It was relaxing to sit outdoors and take in the gorgeous scenery that surrounds the building.

A Legendary Romance

Playing at the afternoon matinee was a new musical titled A Legendary Romance. Music is by Geoff Morrow with a book by Timothy Prager. Lonnie Price directed a cast which included Jeff McCarthy, Lora Lee Gayer, Roe Hartampf, and Jose-Maria Aguila. The play combines scenes from black and white film and live action on stage to tell the story. The plot involves a Hollywood film director who falls in love with his leading lady. They plan to marry but problems arise as the McCarthy era takes victim after victim. Through a series of misunderstands and unspoken conversations, another man steps in and claims the lady. One person dies and one person appears to be guilty. But the director and his lady part never to see each other again. Years pass and the director begins to have dreams and recollections of the events as he attempts to come to some sort of peace.

The play has some very fine music and the actors gave very good performances. The interaction between live acting and the film works well. What needs some work is the clarity of what time period a few of the scenes are in. It was a bit confusing at times. It does come together in the end in a rather surprising way, but a few areas could be smoothed out.

In addition to seeing an enjoyable show, I also enjoyed seeing the Main Stage theater. The seating design, the light colored woodwork, and comfortable seating make this one of the best theaters I have been in.

Final thoughts on Williamstown – fantastic! And it’s less than a 3 hour drive for this theater goer. Looking forward to another trip there next year!

‘The Legend of Georgia McBride’ at Dorset Festival Theatre Wows the Crowd

Joey Taranto as Georgia McBride – Photo by Gerry Goodstein

It was time for a summer theater road trip a few weeks ago.  First stop was the Dorset Theatre Festival to see The Legend of Georgia McBride.  I hit gold!  This play is well-written with a lot of laughs but it also has a serious side.  It is a fun show and very entertaining.  High marks go to the Dorset Theatre Festival for this production which is first rate.  There are gorgeous costumes, a set designed to keep the action flowing, and a marvelous cast that got the audience cheering for the characters.

Written by Matthew Lopez and directed by Stephen Brackett, The Legend of Georgia McBride opens with an Elvis impersonator, Casey, performing at a little club in Panama City, Florida. Casey is bound and determined to be a success onstage. But he is not making enough money to pay the rent for the little apartment he and his wife, Jo, live in. When things look their worst, the club owner, Eddie, tells Casey he has to let him go. The club is near bankruptcy. In an attempt to save it, Eddie brings in Miss Tracy Mills and side kick performer Rexy.  They are drag queens and his hope is that their show will bring in a new audience to save the club from going under.

As the two new club performers take over Casey’s dressing room, he reluctantly accepts a position to be a bartender at the club. But when Rexy passes out right before a performance, Tracy quickly recruits Casey to take the spot.  Only one problem: he’s never been a drag performer.  Although he is nervous, he takes a chance. Those scenes where Casey gets dressed in drag for the first time and takes his first steps onstage are worth the price of admission alone.

There is a lot more to the story as it unfolds and Casey finds he loves his new found persona. However, he is a straight man with a wife, a new baby on the way, and a reputation as a former football player. So he decides not to tell Jo. He lives a double life for awhile and all goes well. He makes good money, the club thrives, and everyone starts to get along. Yes, all is well until his wife learns that he is not working as a bartender. Her reaction and his need to decide how to live his life make for some interesting theater.  Poignant moments occur when Rexy and Tracy each tell Casey their own story. Painful as it is, they are both survivors and that inspires Casey to allow his alter ego, now known onstage as Georgia McBride, to continue performing.

Joey Taranto plays Casey.  Mr. Taranto impressively struts across the stage as he first impersonates Elvis and then a phenomenally talented drag queen.  With a fine sensitivity, he moves Casey through  a series of life changes which would rock anyone’s soul and makes it all believable. Vasthy Mompoint brings a sweetness to the role of Casey’s wife, Jo, that becomes necessary for a woman who suddenly finds herself married to a man quite different from what she thought he was. She also changes quite a bit from the first scenes in the show to the final scene.

David Turner gives a strong performance as Miss Tracy Mills. He creates a character who is determined to make the most of what might be his final chance to make a success of himself.  Jon Norman Schneider does a very fine job in a difficult role, Rexy. The character’s substance abuse issues are part of a complex person who struggles to keep going on. Denny Dale Bess plays Eddie, the club owner. He is basically a good guy and Bess gets that aspect to show through as he strives to keep the business going.

The Theater at Dorset, Vermont

Photo taken by K. Nowosad Opening Night – ‘The Legend of Georgia McBride’

The Legend of Georgia McBride plays through August 20, 2017. If you are in the area and looking for an enjoyable theater outing, visit the Dorset Theater, 104 Cheney Road, Dorset, Vermont.

The building that houses the theater is rustic with a beautiful design. Visit their café for a little snack before the show and weather permitting, take in that clean, Vermont air with a seat in their outdoor area.

For this theater goer from the New York/New Jersey area, I loved the fact that the theater sits on a quiet little road.  Parking was free, plenty of it, and really close by! This theater will be on my list for visits in the future.

Check the Dorset Festival Theater website for more information.