First Impressions: The “New Look” of Evita at the Orpheum Theatre

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You know what it’s like, when your friends talk endlessly about that one-in-a-million person?  Upon seeing pictures, hearing of their incredible achievements, or uncovering their tragic history, you begin to feel as though you know that person already. Still, all the buildup serves to produce is an expectant and awkward introduction. Nothing compares to a personal, first impression.

Openings-wise, Evita gave me the Andrew-Lloyd-Webber impression right away. It began with a stentorian, orchestral eulogy that could have only been his brainchild. To this Phantom geek, it seemed very much like “Don Juan Triumphant,” in mourning. With heavy discords and thick fog, members of the ensemble fell to their knees with grief that affected all.

All, except Che, the second fabulous narrator we’ve seen as a program this month alone.  Much like the Emcee in Theater Latte Da’s Cabaret, Che, was more complex than the characters whose lives he recounted. He honors the life of the well-loved Eva Peron with such disdain, you found yourself absolutely despising her. Indeed, Josh Young made a tireless, handsome revolutionary. Conversely, it’s hard not to love a character that demands just as much, if not more, vocal and physical stamina than Christine Diae. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness the eighth wonder of this sad world: Caroline Bowman’s voice. This beautiful triple-threat’s performance was spotless, and I’m certain I won’t see another one quite like it ever again. I only regret that these two people played the only 3-Dimensional characters in the entire play. Everyone else was merely a steppingstone. Then again, we can’t all be Rent.

My first impression of Evita was also enriched because my mother was there. Yes, it was a beautiful theatrical experience to share with a parent, but my parent also happens to have a degree in textiles and costume design, so I actually learned a little something. We discussed everything from the historical accuracy of the wigs to the silhouettes of Eva’s dresses. With Christopher Orams’s homage to Dior’s “New Look”, Evita served not only as eye candy, but poetic food for thought.  Eva Peron lived through a time when conservative, militaristic fashion was not only in solidarity with world events, but a necessity, in order to salvage fabric. Waste was an intolerable crime. When Dior’s New Look brought massive A-lines with heaps of gratuitous fabric, people were outraged. Eva stood for that decadence and privilege, and invited her countrymen to share her success. When she started to lose her steam, Eva’s costumes became more and more conservative, with gray, unflattering colors. Anywho, I thought that the costumes were brilliant. 

The transitions in this show were lightning fast, which seemed kind of out-of-character for Broadway. There wasn’t even a pause for applause, (much to the relief of our unsynchronized Midwestern audience, I’m sure). I think this stood as a testament to the independence of this show. Much like the title character, it doesn’t require validation the whole way through. Still, the world has validated it several times over. For a show that was written by two men, desperate to prove they weren’t one-hit-wonders, it is far from insecure. 

When I sat for the first time through Evita, I kept thinking that cliche: “I’ve heard so much about you!” Now we’ve met, and I can’t get her out of my head.