Only two nights remain to see the New Line production of ":Evita," at the old CBC on Clayton Road, and it's worth trying to get there. Every performance for the last week has been sold out, so it may not be easy, but I highly recommend it.
With John Sparger a wonderful, sardonic, sarcastic Che and Taylor Pietz a more-than-tyrannical Evita, this is a splendid production, and Scott Miller's direction is spot-on. Miller has made a couple of minor changes, moving a few songs here and there. His ideas work well most of the time, and his casting eye and ear have put together an exciting chorus that never falters. Terrie Carolan also stands out as Juan Peron's mistress, succeeded by Eva Duarte, who pushed and prodded and poked, and eventually married the dictator. Carolan, Pietz and Sparger stand tall in "Another Suitcase in Another Hall," a song-story of a succession of mistresses, a string that ended with Evita. Pietz' voice was usually strong, but tended to get harsh in the upper register.
Robin Michelle Berger's choreography was splendid; she adapted some of the close-order march steps from the original to the sequence we see in the first act, and it works like a charm around "The Art of the Possible" and "Peron's Latest Flame."
"Evita" may be the best collaboration of Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics) , and the pair wrote splendid songs for Che, as solos or as duets with Evita where he is a brilliant counterpoint and response to Evita in songs like "Oh, What a Circus," "Goodnight and Thank You," with a strong and salacious edge, "High Flying Adored" and "The Rainbow Tour."
The chorus is rich and powerful. Pietz, in a half-dozen different gowns along the way, works hard, but I thought Sparger's lounge-lizard approach to the role of Che, a counterweight to Pietz' Evita and as a realistic response to her pie-in-the-sky political platitudes dominated.
Schaefer's set, Thom Crain's costumes and Kenneth Zinkl gave "Evita" a smooth and polished look, a strong contrast with the edgy score. The story of power, and its corruptive qualities, is as strong as it ever was.
Tonight and tomorrow at the Washington University South Campus Theatre, once known as CBC High School on Clayton Road.