THE BASICS: EVITA, the multiple Tony Award-winning 1980 musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice, in a “concert” presented by Starring Buffalo, with its signature method of mixing Broadway professionals, Buffalo professionals and this time the choirs of City secondary school. Honors and Frederick Law Olmsted, opened Friday, November 4th at 7:30 p.m., with two remaining shows this Saturday, November 5th at 2 and 7:30 p.m. at Shea’s 710 Theater, corner of Main and Tupper opposite from the “Barri dels Teatres” square.
Duration: Two hours with a 20-minute intermission in the attractive lobby/lounge 710.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Set in Argentina between 1934 and 1952, EVITA charts the rise of Eva Peron (née Duarte) from poverty to become the most powerful woman in Latin America, with plenty of really nice songs to boot, but definitely not exclusive, from the hit “Don’t Cry”. for me, Argentina”. Far from being a dry lesson in South American political history, this is a story of unbridled ambition.
THE PLAYERS, THE WORK AND THE PRODUCTION: Starring Buffalo’s concert performance features Tony Award winner Lena Hall (Best Featured Actress in a Musical as “Yitzhak” in HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH) as Eva Perón. (Fun fact: Lena Hall is the stage name of Celina Consuela Gabriella Carvajal.) Also on stage are Robi Hager (SPRING AWAKENING) as Che, and Nicholas Rodriguez (COMPANY, TARZAN) as Juan Perón, acting alongside of Buffalo-area stars Anna Fernandez (Artie). Award nominee, A CHORUS LINE) as The Mistress, and Raphael Santos (Artie Award nominee, THE TOXIC AVENGER) as Magaldi with Blaise Mercedes (Artie Award nominee, WEST SIDE STORY), Victoria Pérez (multiple Award nomination Artie), Mateo Rivera, Joe Russi, Madalyn Teal and Dan Torres, as well as dozens of singers, dancers and musicians from Western New York (offstage, directed by Daniel Bassin).
As you can tell by many of the last names, the producers have enlisted some of the best Latino talent, many of them locally affiliated with Raíces Theater, Buffalo’s Latino theater group. There were three outstanding performances. First, from Robi Hager as Broadway’s Che, a fictional character who narrates the action and provides an alternative narrative to the blind cult of Evita. Although Juan Perón actually met a few times with Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, this is NOT the character we see on stage. In fact, in South America, the name or nickname “Che” could even be simply translated as “man” or “friend”. After the opening chorus “Requiem for Evita”, Hager has the opening song “Oh, What a Circus” and set the standard of excellence that, for the most part, was maintained throughout night
Also delivering this high level was Buffalo’s Raphael Santos as “Magaldi”, Evita’s first love/echelon, and a sultry tango singer with a smooth, silky voice. Note to Buffalo producers: Queremos más Santos! We want more Santos!
The third strong dish was Anna Fernandez of Buffalo, tall and charming, with a pure voice that captivated the audience. He was also invaluable in the group numbers helping to sweeten the sound. Fernandez most recently played “Morticia” in O’Connell & Company’s THE ADDAMS FAMILY and I’d say this is her year. He sat next to his ADDAMS FAMILY co-star Madalyn Teal on stage, and they both looked like they were having a blast! One of Drew Fornarola’s main goals when he started Starring Buffalo productions was to bring together music professionals who might not otherwise have the opportunity to work together and you got the feeling that Fernandez and Teal were “in the moment.”
By the way, in his opening speech, director Fornarola explained that the group met for the first time on Wednesday morning, and had done everything in just three days. incredible
My only disappointment was in the vocal performance of Lena Hall, who may have had a cold. His voice was often husky and sometimes a little creepy. That may not be entirely up to her. The role is notoriously difficult. In fact, in an interview with NY Times critic Jesse Green, Patti Lupone said, “EVITA was the worst experience of my life… I was screaming through a part that could only have been written by a man who hates women.” At intermission, a local conductor told me that when Madonna sang the part, she moved to a more reasonable key. He also suggested that if the tempo of “A New Argentina” had been faster, then Ms. Hall could have hit the high notes instead of being forced to hold them.
Other than that, there are lots and lots of delights in this production of EVITA that I don’t have room for, but when you go, (it’s back on stage on Saturday, November 5 at both 2 and 7: 30) you will be more than entertained. I give him Four Buffalos, which means that “Both the production and the work are of great caliber. If the genre/content is up your alley, I’d make a real effort to attend.”
Meanwhile, across town, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is also putting on a bit of music history. Instead of Argentina in the 1940s and 1950s, it’s New York City and Berlin, Germany in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.
THE BASICS: PROHIBITION, presented in the BPO Pops series, directed by Bradley Thachuk with three vocalists: Broadway’s Bronson Norris Murphy as “Dapper Young Man”, Off-Broadway’s Madison Claire Parks as “Young Ingenue” and international blues vocalist and jazz Myra Maud well cast as the “Cabaret Singer” opened in a cafe concert Friday morning with one more performance, Saturday evening, November 5, at 7:30 in Kleinhans Music Hall. 716-885-5000 bpo.org Duration: 2 hours with an intermission
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: With vintage photographs projected on the overhead screen along with ‘silent film’ cues in retro typography that seem to flicker like an old film, we love 26 musical numbers, all arranged by Jeff Tyzik, all presented without an introduction , as things move quickly. with a variety of musical styles (very retro) in this highly produced show. This is not your grandparents’ music. It’s the music of your grandparents’ grandparents. And it’s so much fun!
THE PLAYERS, THE WORK AND THE PRODUCTION: After an orchestral number, we are first treated to “My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes” from 1931 with lyrics by Ted Kohler. If that name rings a bell, it might be because he was a favorite collaborator with Buffalo’s own Harold Arlen. So there are several more forgotten songs, but then there are more well-known hits, such as “La Vie En Rose” and “Mack The Knife”, and one made very popular by The Andrews Sisters with the Yiddish title ” Bei Mir”. bist Du Schön” (To me you are charming). In the first half, we go between New York and Berlin during the Weimar Republic, a place and time familiar to many through the musical CABARET.
You can see the entire playlist along with artist bios here.
There is an extended segment dealing with the Great Depression including “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” followed by more upbeat numbers such as “We’re In the Money”, “On The Sunny Side of the Street”, ending with “Irving Berlin”. Putting On The Ritz.”
As stated, there is no commentary as usual with Bradley Thachuk Pops Concerts. Instead, the three vocal stars enter in various costumes to sing solos, duets or trios. There is a bit of dancing and sometimes they just sit at a small table for two and look into each other’s eyes singing a love duet.
I have to say that in these distressing times it was comforting to remember that as a nation we suffered through national mistakes like Prohibition and that we also got through the Great Depression.
As with EVITA, I give it Four Buffalos, which means that “Both the production and the work are of high caliber. If the genre/content is up your alley, I’d make a real effort to attend.”
Kleinhans Music Hall is located at “3 Symphony Circle” Buffalo, 14201, where Porter Avenue, Richmond Avenue, North Street and Wadsworth meet in a roundabout. Visit www.bpo.org or call 716-885-5000. Full service bar in the lobby or across the lobby in the Mary Seaton Room. Masks are optional.
*BUFFALO HERD (Notes on the classification system)
ONE BUFFALO: That means trouble. Terrible play, badly flawed production, or both. Unless there’s a really compelling reason to attend (i.e. you’re the parent of someone in attendance), give this show a big thumbs up.
TWO BUFFALO: Passable, but no big shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you’re the type of person who’s happy to go to the theater, you might want to look elsewhere.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a very good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with high expectations, you’ll probably be happy.
FOUR BUFFALO: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content is up your alley, I would go out of my way to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Really excellent, a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. As long as this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!