All whacked out on salted almonds and those delicious homemade cookies from the concession stand.

 

I’ve just spent the last hour or so Googling past renditions of “Oh What a Circus” from Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s Evita to see if it was Chris Ning‘s brilliant performance or just the standard 70’s style of  Lloyd & Rice that made me feel as if the late-great Carl Anderson had jumped on stage and taken command of the entire theatre. Turns out it was just Chris Ning using his vocal range and experience playing both Anderson’s Judas, as well as Ted Neeley‘s titular character in past productions of Jesus Christ Superstar to put an exciting twist on Evita instead of what often turns out to be a systemic and sleepy snoozefest more predictable than a Rob Thomas set featuring Santana when companies attempt this production.

More from Chris Ning:

Cover of Lady Gaga – Bloody Mary (Which is amazing because this is a great cover! This is, in my opinion, the most boring Gaga song and for some reason, she has resurrected it on the Joanne Tour)

Cover of Lady Gaga – Speechless (This is 8 years old!)

Gethsemane – Jesus Christ Superstar

*Sidebar* – Ted Neeley doing Gethsemane during his farewell tour in 2006 – which I saw live at the Hummingbird Centre!

Onto the star of the play, Samantha Ballard. She’s a professional and it shows. Now I was a lot more critical of the Evita role because I was 16 in 1997. I was and am one of Madonna‘s biggest fans. I had her posters all over the wall of my smalltown dorky drama nerd teen bedroom and I currently have a 7-year-old pughasa named Esther…Madonna fans will understand why. I remember how red lips, blonde hair and BROWN eyeliner were the “in thing” because Evita’s popularity had hit a fever pitch by the summer of 1997. In between Much Music rotations of Firestarter and Breathe by the Prodigy was a constant alternation of Madonna’s “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” and “You Must Love Me” videos. The latter went on to give Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber the Best Original Song Oscar in 1997. The cruel truth is, Ballard is prettier (she looks more like Eva), looks like a nicer person than Madonna (let’s face it that woman is awful to Lady Gaga) and a better singer than Madonna, so she outdid the world’s biggest popstar quite easily. That being said I hope to GOD we get an album and a tour this year before Madge turns the big 6-0! The only slight critique I have is, Ballard’s voice is stronger and more powerful than Madonna’s but she appeared somewhat restrained during her biggest moments. I know nothing about music theory or singing and have no idea how to even put this into words other than. When I wanted to hear “Don’t cry for me Argentinaaaaaaa” I just heard “Argentina”. But there’s lots of time and it was the preview and the fact that the entire cast managed to pull this musical off without missing a beat is astonishing! I’ll note that Samantha is also a “JCSS Alum” having played Mary Magdalene with the Brampton Music Theatre.


Samantha as Mary Magdalene alongside…well if it isn’t Chris Ning?! – Photo by Bryon Johnson

Now if you’re a typical cliche Cosmopolitan reading lady like myself who enjoys spending a nice warm evening indoors, admiring beautiful faces, costumes (40’s glamour at it’s finest), this is the outing for you – and did I mention the good-looking cast? Antonio Banderas who? And this Juan Peron wasn’t exactly a spitting image of the actor from the film. The shoes, the dresses all fit the diverse cast beautifully and I pray to Santa Evita that there is some sort of wardrobe sale at the end of this season.

Once again with SMT, the set design is realistic and intricate, transporting you into the crowd below Peron’s balcony. This might not be a glitzy Mirvish style production but it sure is up there with Lower Ossington Theatre. Here is a stupid question. Is there a live orchestra shoved backstage somewhere or is the music pre-recorded? I guess I was confused by the screens showing the conductor in live action. It looks and sounds really great either way and I liked the multimedia interaction.

Kudos also to Rebecca Field as “The Mistress” – You’d make a wonderful Evita yourself!

Kudos also to Ed Ho for wearing “many hats” throughout this show and managing to seem like a major character (totally fit in and not forced – I expected to see his name up at the top with the cast) despite being part of the ensemble.

Finally, if you were slightly confused by the scripted but brief statement about Evita’s corpse disappearing for 17 years, here is a detailed explanation from an expert on Youtube:

Photo Credit: Raph Nogal Photography – raphnogal.com

Details:

Regular Performances: November 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16 and 17 at 8:00 pm and November 5, 12 and 18 at 2:00 pm.

Preview Tickets: $23 / Regular Tickets: $30

Subscriptions now available. Preview/Regular tickets go on sale August 1, 2017.

For detailed ticket information, please see the Box Office page