"Evita" at MTC


        --Irene Backalenick
 
“Evita,” the brilliant Andrew Lloyd-Webber/Tim Rice musical, calls for a cast of thousands, it seems, and certainly for a broad stage and full-size production. But Kevin Connors, pulls off one more miracle in his 29-year-history as artistic director of the Music Theatre of Connecticut.

Though the theater moved a year ago from its pocket-size stage in Westport to handsome new larger Norwalk quarters, Connors still works with what appears to be a black-box theater and a relatively small thrust stage. Yet his production carries all the punch and power required to do justice to the story. The story, to refresh our memories, follows the career of Eva Duarte Peron, wife of the one-time Argentinian dictator. She lived long enough to become a legend (beloved by some, despised by others), but succumbed to a lethal illness at the peak of her power.

This “Evita,” given the restrictions of the MTC stage, is a highly-original approach to the beloved musical. Indeed, Connors offers ingenious solutions to the challenge. Players assume numerous roles, with quick, sleight-of-hand costume changes, emerging from all sides of the stage. Video images enhance the story. The story builds in power, as Eva Peron comes into her own, and slowly dies away, with Eva’s last gasp.

Connors is blessed with a gifted cast. Katerina Papacostas, as Evita, gives a stunning performance, evolving from a clever conniving teenager to a strong, shrewd leader. Papacostas carries the portrayal over the top and into Eva’s poignant dying moments.

Daniel C. Levine is a sinewy, powerful Che Guevera, as he intones the tale---the life and death of a remarkable woman. Levine winds in, out, and around the action, offering a cynical, knowing, bitter commentary on Eva’s rise and fall, in counterpoint with the tale itself. Donald E. Birely, as Peron, and Christopher Derosa, in numerous roles, also turn in solid performances, as does the ensemble.

In fact, every aspect is right on target. Diane Vanderkroef’s costumes, Joshua Scherr’s lighting, and David Heuvelman’s set all accentuate the high professionalism of the production.

If any aspect is to be criticized, it is the shortcomings of the venue itself. Seating has its drawbacks, with the sightlines decidedly limited in some parts of the theater.

Nevertheless, this fresh, ingenious “Evita” is not to be missed. The show runs through November 1.


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