HIGH FLYING, ADORED


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Rising from poverty to power on a silver platter, from unknown to star, Eva Peron is an example, sterling or tarnished, of the strength of an individual to rise to prominence against staggering odds. This ambitious girl used her brains and her beauty, as well as a multitude of men, to advance her goals to become a woman of substance.With Argentina as her landscape, she became a model, an actress and whatever the situation dictated until she won the tiara of queen of the country and the soul mate of Juan Peron.

To meet Eva, and all her captivating charms, run over to Music Theatre of Connecticut in its intimate, new home in Norwalk for Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita." This production, directed by Kevin Connors, is the best offering of this award winning musical that this reviewer has ever had the pleasure of attending. It will play until Sunday, November 1.

The narrator/commentator Che is in the capable hands of Daniel C. Levine, who represents the people, the peasants and the poverty-stricken. His feelings about the ascent of Eva from the gutters to the throne are clearly in evidence. Katerina Papacostas is wonderfully convincing as Eva Duartes Peron, the ambitious girl who worked her way to the stars by marrying the head of Argentina, portrayed by a masterful Donald E. Birely. As first lady, she enjoyed folk heroine status. Acting in the theater from the age of fifteen, she left home with a cardboard suitcase and played roles as diverse as Sarah Bernhardt, Elizabeth I of England and the last Tzarina of Russia, but her greatest role was as the second wife of Juan Peron and as the "Spiritual Leader of the Nation.”

Papacostas embraces the role of Evita, which means "little Eva," with a subtle blend of compassion and flamboyancy. The total production which is sung begins with her death and travels back in time. She called the day she met Peron at a fundraising party for earthquake victims her "marvelous day" and she never looked back. Tunes like "Buenos Aires," "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," "Rainbow High" and "And the Money Kept Rolling In" carry the action. The entire cast is flawless, with dynamic choreography by Becky Timms, flamboyant costumes by Diane Vanderkroef and sparkling music directed by Thomas Martin Conroy.

For tickets ($35-55), call Music Theatre of CT, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk (behind Nine West), at 203-454-3883 or online at www.musictheatreofct.com. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Come discover if, like with Juan, Eva will win your heart or, like Che, will be labeled a "tasteless phenomenon," miles away from being "high flying adored."


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