Andrew Lloyd Webber’s excellent music is a reason to see this sobering tale of political intrigue
Reviewed by Tom Jones, October 7, 2016
Among Broadway’s most memorable moments is one from “Evita” when Eva Peron, immaculately clad and coiffed, appears before the microphones on the balcony of The Casa Rosada, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her dramatic “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” is a plea for the masses to stick with her – claiming that everything she has done is “for the people.”
Joanie Brosseau-Beyette is up to the task as Eva Duarte, the common woman who has trampled everything in her path to gain fame and glory. She has reached her pinnacle of success, after bed-springing her way to the top – and become wife of Argentina’s dictator, Juan Peron. She is around 15 when the audience meets her, and died of cancer 18 years later.
When she first met Peron, she was enjoying a modicum of success as a minor motion picture actress. Her first challenge with Peron was to chase his then-mistress off the bed. Jennifer Hanna has a tearful experience of being ousted, but her proclamation of moving out, “Another Suitcase Another Hall” is one of the show’s most moving scenes. Hanna is excellent. Markus Warren is very good as the conniving Juan Peron, outsmarting his military chums to take control of the country.
Star of the production, however, is Matt LaFontaine as Che Guevara. In truth, Guevara had nothing to do with Peron, but the Marxist revolutionary is used as a plot device, and LaFontaine is a wonder as the cynical observer watching the goings on, narrating the tale, and wondering why in the world the population can’t see through “Evita’s” schemes to gain power. His voice is remarkable, and his narrative articulation is flawless.
Eric Heine is on stage continually — originally as Eva’s lover, Agustin Magaldi, and then in a variety of ensemble roles.
Webber’s music is non-stop enjoyment: “Oh What a Circus,” “A New Argentina,” “High flying Adored,” “Santa Evita,” and the incredible “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”
The costumes of Argentina in the 1950s, designed by Debra Faber, are excellent, as is Stephen Bertles’ chorography. The continual movement on stage is a marvel, as soldiers bicker and play a form of musical chairs to see who will outsmart the others, the soldiers parading with wooden guns flying through the air, and even a bit of Tango, used primarily as backdrop, to remind the audience that some serious lovemaking is part of the story.
Midway through the show, when Eva Duarte has become “Evita” (Eva Peron), she wants to show the world how wonderful she (and her country) have become, and is sent to Europe on a whirlwind tour. The “High Flying Adored” becomes her “Rainbow Tour” beginning in Spain with fairly good success. Italians and French are not as welcoming, as she (and Argentina) would have desired, and she is rebuffed by the British. Upon her return home, she has her moment of vengeance by virtually destroying the British aristocracy in Argentina. She was a woman of steel, as she created charitable funds with the public believing they were the beneficiaries. She did not, however, lose the trust of the masses who continued to be dazzled by her, and refused to understand how devious she had become.
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is perhaps the most honored composer in musical theatre history. Prior to creating “Evita,” he had gained enormous fame with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” His string of successes includes “Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats,” and “Sunset Boulevard.” He provided the music while Tim Rice wrote the lyrics for “Evita” which opened in London in 1978, and on Broadway the following year. The 1979 the Broadway production starring Patti Lupone as Eva was the first British show to win New York’s Tony Award as Best Musical.
Patrick Sawyer’s impressive staging and direction are evident throughout. The entire production is terrific – from the opening sequence of Eva’s funeral, to the concluding sequence of the same scene 18 years later. The audience is left in awe as to what has transpired. There is no rousing final-curtain production number. Just the numbing reality of history. Comments from the audience included concern that they didn’t know much about the history of Argentina, and many left the theatre wanting to learn more. This two-hour history lesson with terrific music is a great start.
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown
To: November 13, 2016
For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747