EVITA Cries Out at MTC

By Marlene S. Gaylinn

If you’ve never seen “Evita,” the award-winning show about the rise of Eva Peron, wife of dictator Juan Peron of Argentina, you can now see it at Music Theatre of CT (MTC), Norwalk’s newly opened professional theatre.

Although this is a scaled-down version of the musical, directed by Kevin Connors, the haunting music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyed Webber and Tim Rice, and the subject material is so rich, that it’s hard not to enjoy MTC’s production. In fact, the theatre’s limited performing space gives you a cabaret feeling -- of being in a place where tangos, songs, lovers, political rivalries, and fiery, Spanish emotions tend to run high.

Evita Duarte began as a person of ill repute. By her charm, wits and natural intelligence, she rose from the lower-class to become a model, film actress, radio personality, and eventually Juan Peron’s (former general and future president of Argentina) advisor, wife, and an international, political figure in her own right. No matter what one’s point of view, the attractive woman, who was practically worshipped like a saint by the masses, was an enigma. One either hated or loved her.  Eva Peron died at age 33 when stricken with cancer. There was an elaborate funeral and after she was buried her body mysteriously disappeared -- like the bodies of the Russian Tsar and his family. Was there fear of her becoming a saint?

The three main characters are what make this show a success. Evita Duarte Peron (Katerina Papacostas), Juan Peron (Donald E. Birely) and Che (Daniel C. Levine) are all polished professionals with expressive voices and body language. We especially enjoyed Levine’s sneering and swaggering, in the cynical “Oh What a Circus.” Papacostas’ charming, seducing scene “I’d be Surprisingly Good For You, ” could not have be better, and Donald Birely exhibited proper arrogance and perfect timing in “The Art of the Possible.”

Most unique about this production were the black and whitefilm projections of the actual events during this period in Argentina.The massive, street crowds and chanting that supported these leaders plus, the mountains of flowers that accompanied Evita’s funeral effectively hit us directly, and reminded us of Germany’s support of Hitler during WWII.

However, we found the show’s loud, shrieking a bit overpowering. The lighting was often too dark, and the physical appearances of the dancers and their abilities were not up to par.

The approximately four musicians, barely visible in the background, sounded like a full orchestra and were sensitively led by Thomas Martin Conroy. There was no skimping on attractive costumes by Diane Vanderkroef -- we only wished we could fit into them.

Plays to November 1 -- Tickets: 203-454-3883

This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” October/2015

 

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