A glorious production of “Evita” is onstage at the Westport Playhouse this weekend, thanks to a collaboration the Playhouse has with BMA, the Broadway Method Academy in Fairfield. BMA is a studio program that trains young students for careers in theater, by bringing them together with artists, actors, and other theater folk to learn techniques and to experience productions.
In the case of “Evita,” a large student chorus provided singing and dancing and staging under the direction of Connor Deane [New Canaan will recognize the name of Kitchens by Deane – yes, related]! Music direction was by J Scott Handley. I believe that Mr. Deane and Mr. Handley are the co-directors of BMA.
The sets, designed by Ryan Howell, using translucent squares to wrap the stage and changing their design and colors and opaqueness, worked magnificently. Lighting design was by Weston Wetzel. Sound by Josh Allamon. Eric Santagata and Julie Kananagh managed choreography and helped with the direction. Heidi Hanson designed the costumes. The result of all this technical help led to one of the most elegant productions of “Evita” that I have ever seen and heard, perfectly imagined and staged.
The principals, four members of Actors’ Equity: Samantha Pauly as Eva, Yurel Echezarreta as Che, Kyle Barisch as Peron, and Julian Alvarez as Magaldi, were joined by other professional actors and dancers: Julia Vitale as Peron’s mistress, and Ryan Cyr, Alex Mandala, Jordan Eagle, and Jared Smith. Ms. Vitale, who may also be a student, has a beautiful lament after she has been dismissed from Peron’s home by Eva – “Another Suitcase in Another Hall,” and she sang it very well.
While I’m talking about singing, pay attention to this: the role of Che was fabulously done by Mr Echezarreta. His vocal technique and his raised eyebrows work together for the perfect characterization of the narrator he is meant to be. Mr. Alvarez sings Magaldi’s role beautifully. And Ms. Pauly is simple amazing as Eva Duarte. Her expressive face and magnificent smile, her tone and diction, are marvelous.
But the great credit for this production belongs to the direction and staging. It simply works. An ensemble including 36 students are moved through scene after scene with precision, and the whole company works very nicely. There are also ten musicians in the pit.
If this is catching your attention on February 9, reach out for tickets for tonight or tomorrow (matinee and evening). You won’t be disappointed. Call the Westport Country Playhouse at 203-227-4177.
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre February 8, 2018