Evita – Review by Tom Nissley

ACT of Connecticut has opened a new full season at its splendid theatre complex in Ridgefield with a spectacular production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “EVITA.” Directed by ACT’s Artistic Director, Daniel C. Levine, with precise timing and transitions, and a beautifully chosen cast, the show is perfect in so many ways. Jack Mehler’s scenic and lighting design, Stephen Jenssen’s sound design, with Costumes by Brenda Phelps, Hair Design by Liz Printz, Choreography by Charles Sutton, and Music direction by Evan Roider and Bryan Perri, all contribute to a great success in performance art.

The story of “EVITA,” with lyrics by Tim Rice, describes the fast-forward movements of a young actress named Eva Duarte (Julia Estrada), leaving home in a small town, off to Buenos Aires with the singer, Magaldi (a suave Julian Alvarez), meeting and ‘greeting’ a number of Army Officers and others, until one evening at a gala meeting and latching on to General Juan Peron (Ryan K Bailer), whom she helps to become the President of Argentina. A legend to common folk and workers, she is looked down on by social elites in the capital, and snubbed by some international contacts, as well. At a time when she was wishing to become not only the First Lady but also Vice President of Argentina, her health gave way and she died, at age 33.

All of this is narrated, within “EVITA,” by Che (Angel Lozada), who annotates every scene, including the final words describing the seventeen years when her body was not placed in its fancy tomb… A great Che is the key to a great “EVITA,” and Mr. Lozada could not have been more natural and charming throughout this performance. His fine voice never faltered, and neither did his persona.

Other Great moments: Magical rhythmic stomping of the chairs of the generals, and the musical chairs of Peron’s rise within the Army. The wonderful connection of Eva and Peron in the “I’d be surprisingly good for you” routine, and the where-do-I-go-now aria, “Another Suitcase in another hall,” so beautifully sung by Peron’s mistress (Marlena Lopez Hilderly). Of course, the “Don’t cry for me Argentina” sequence. The tender scene of Peron lifting and carrying Eva after her collapse, and the hospital scene at the end. All beautifully orchestrated and performed.

The show is in many ways an Ensemble production, and the full cast is so disciplined and well-choreographed that it is a great pleasure to be ‘massaged’ by them. I loved it. I promise that you’ll love it too.

“EVITA” will play in the ACT theatre Thursdays through Sundays until November 11. www.actofct.org or call 475-215-5433 for tickets.

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre October 8