The Brilliance of “Evita” at the Orpheum Theatre

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Evita is a brilliant show, well deserving of its numerous praises. Evita is the rethought, redone, and revamped reincarnation of the original Evita, by Tim Rice (book and lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music and orchestrations), from way-back-when. Ok, it was done in the 1970s, but it was redone in 2006, and this version is different from both. Evita runs from Jan. 28 to Feb. 2, 2014, at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. The show follows the life of Eva Perón, the woman who rose from the bottom to the top of Argentine society, becoming the First Lady of Argentina, and capturing the hearts of thousands of along the way. The musical begins with the people of Argentina mourning Eva’s death, and Che passionately begins to sing a counter narrative to Eva’s life. The musical jumps back to the beginning, as Che tells Eva’s story, starting with her string of lovers, eventually leading to Colonel Perón (whom she later married). Perón ran for president, and he and Eva lived together in the capital after he was elected (later on, as Eva grew weaker, she decided she wanted to be installed as vice president). I found the story fascinating (it’s actually rather accurate, too), the acting superb, and the set design ingenious.

Caroline Bowman (Eva Perón), Sean MacLaughlin (Juan Perón) and Josh Young (Che) got most of the attention, but each actor on that stage was just as brilliant every other. The music (redone yet again) was excellent. The hint of electric guitar in the background perfectly swelled with the music, wonderfully underscoring the excitement of the moment. The choreography was excellent, graceful, and perfectly set each scene.

The thing I love most of all about this show is the lighting and set. The stage design is truly brilliant. The Evita set does an excellent job replicating the look of a large, old building, literally down to the woodwork, and fits in seamlessly with the story. The set is backed by a massive wall, which appears to be the inside of a great hall or train station, with arched doorways set into the back, and topped by a balcony. Behind the balcony are large, dark wood windows topped with half-circular windows, complete with sunlight shining through, outlined in the dust in the air. The actors use the set to its fullest extent, with dramatic entrances through the backlit doorways, and heart-wrenching speeches on the balcony, complete with microphones and banners.

Evita’s story, acting, music and set are absolutely wonderful. I can’t find a thing I don’t like about this performance. It excels at emotionally drawing the viewer in, and delivers well overall. I highly recommend you attend this musical.