Jason Gotay as Che, Solea Pfeiffer as Eva Peron in New York City
Photo: Joan Marcus
York City Center Annual Gala Presentation
by Deirdre Donovan
Cannold’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s hit musical, Evita,
at New York City Center’s Annual Gala casts two actors in the title role: the
celebrated Argentine actor and recording artist, Maia Reficco, as Young Eva and
Broadway actor Solea Pfeiffer (Almost Famous, Hamilton), as the iconic
Eva Peron. Although this new spin on the rock opera gives new psychological
depths to the eponymous character, it unfortunately can be a bit distracting at
times having Eva Duarte and Eva Peron on stage at once.
streetwalker climbs the social ladder by sheer nerve, manipulation, and savvy.
She starts out as a two-bit actor and eventually becomes the wife of the
Argentinian president Juan Peron (Enrique Acevedo). But in spite of her
astonishing climb to the top, she never forgets the working class descamisados
(Eva called them the “shirtless ones”) in Argentina, who in turn adore her.
Evita tragically dies of cancer at age 33. But her memory is imprinted on the
hearts and minds of Argentinians forever.
doesn’t try to sentimentalize the titular character in this new take on Evita.
Indeed, she seems to be questioning, like her predecessors, whether Eva was a
Latin American Lady Macbeth or a heroine.
sinner or saint, her Evita does get the full show-business treatment at
the New York City Center’s Gala. Although the program cited that the musical
would be presented as a “concert performance” and that the cast may be
performing with their scripts in hand, the production values were better than
good and the actors were all off-script.
Sherwood’s chiaroscuro set, lit by Bradley King, made you feel that you were
right in Buenos Aires at Luna Park Stadium when Eva met Peron . . . the
watering-holes of the well-to-do as they gossiped about Peron’s latest flame .
. . or any of the countries Evita visited on the famous Rainbow Tour. A black
decor dominated the performing space, which subtly suggested Eva Peron’s dark
past and gave you a presentiment of her tragic death. Last, but not least,
Alejo Vietti’s costumes—a mix of ordinary street clothes and soignee formal
wear—are eye-catching. In fact, before the musical proper began, you see
Evita’s strapless white ball gown suspended from the flies. And it’s not only
a dress but a symbol, which Cannold artfully incorporated into the production
in some expected and unexpected ways.
how do the two actors measure-up as the Young Eva and the iconic Eva Peron? Quite
Maia Reficco as Young Eva with the ensemble in New York City
Photo: Joan Marcus
first, of course is the Boston-born Reficco who grew up in Buenos Aires and
first attracted attention when she landed the leading role in Nickelodeon’s TV
series Kally’s Mashup. Although the 19 year-old artist playing the
young Eva Duarte clearly has vocal talent, she doesn’t quite have the range to
tackle the octave-leaping notes of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score and can often
sound shrill delivering the high notes that abound in the score.
Enrique Acevedo as Juan Peron, Solea Pfeiffer as Eva Peron, with
ensemble in Evita at New York City Center
Photo: Joan Marcus
contrast, Pfeiffer (Eliza in Hamilton) has strong musical chops and
sounds velvet smooth throughout. The musical’s best-known aria, “Don’t Cry for
Me, Argentina!”, as rendered by Pfeiffer, became as much a political speech as
a song here. She might not make you forget either Elaine Paige or Patti
LuPone’s rendering in the West End and on Broadway, respectively. But she did
give it her own signature.
standout in the cast? Jason Gotay’s Che, a one-man chorus who steps in and out
of the action, cynically commenting on the public and private goings-on of Eva
as she morphed from a nobody to a somebody history remembers.
songs are familiar territory. So this isn’t the place to parse each and every
number in this sung-through musical. Still, all of its 27 songs, buoyed up by
City Center’s orchestra under the direction of Kristen Blodgette, wafted
through the air like liquid gold and carried the thumbprints of the given
vocalists. Indeed, the late Harold Prince, who the performance was dedicated
to, would approve.
the question must be asked: Why should Evita be staged now? And of
course, the only answer can be that it deals with a serious subject and fits
right in with our own controversial political times.
say what you will about Cannold’s staging of Evita that gives you a
bi-focal lens on the legend. Its timing couldn’t be more perfect.
November 13 – 24, 2019
New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, Manhattan
more information on their 2019-2020 season, phone 212-581-1212 or visit