The new tour of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita made its debut in Minneapolis on January 28th 2014. It plays at the Orpheum Theatre through February 2nd 2014. As stated in the press release on Hennepin Theater Trust’s website, it is indeed “stunning.” The show is based off the real-life story of Eva Perón, an actress and politician’s wife in Argentina in the 1940s and 1950s.
The show opens with actors positioned beneath a screen, on which footage of the real Eva Perón’s funeral is projected. The actors are back lit, and surrounded by smoke, creating a powerful image of grief. The smoke will accompany the story for the remainder of the show, making way for awe-inspiring lighting work. The smoke on stage helps windows cast beams of light down, and fills the stage with warmth or coldness, depending on what color of light is shined on it.
The first few lyrics of the show are sung with an odd quality to the singers’ voices, which would cause a layman to be unsure whether or not they are singing on key. However, this issue subsided later in the number. Evita is completely riddled with music from start to finish, featuring such well known songs as “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” and “Buenos Aires.” The orchestra plays with a wonderful energy, bringing a strong life-force to the show.
However, the story line is mostly obscured in music and dramatization. The historical facts are not apparent to anyone who is not already familiar with them. The last line leaves the audience wondering– perhaps encouraging them to look up the history when they return home, but otherwise leaving them unsatisfied. However, the story line of the girl, Eva, and her rise to womanhood and fame, is not hard to follow. Some details may be lost because they are mostly conveyed in song, which makes them harder to focus on, but the effect is impactful when a line is delivered without an underscore.
Caroline Bowman performs spectacularly, using her physicalization of Eva most notably. The audience has the privilege of watching Eva’s mannerisms and physicality change as she ages. She changes from vibrant in her youth to completely wilted and defeated as her heath fails.
This production of Evita boasts visual and creative triumphs. The elements of Tango dance are woven through all the otherwise typical musical theater dance numbers. A moment that stands out in this respect is a fight scene in which Perón, played by Sean MacLaughlin, beats up several men– while singing, of course– first doing brief Tango face-offs with them.
Another few moments that stand out are beautiful parallels in choreography and staging. A lift done in “Buenos Aires” when Eva first arrives in the city, is later repeated when Eva is on the brink of decline. The first time she was surrounded by dancers, the second time she and her lift partner are alone on stage. Near the beginning of the show Eva leaves home with one small suitcase in tow, and near the beginning of the second act, Eva leaves her new home, Buenos Aires, surrounded by very large steamer trunks. The parallel serves well to illustrate how far the character has come.
Evita is a must see for those who enjoy Broadway’s intensity and musicals.