Evita Harper College Theatre

evita.jpgA Theatre Report by Slewo Oshana
Around the end of March I went to see the musical Evita with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and lyrics by Tim Rice, based on the short but eventful life of Eva Peron (played by Stephanie Herman) and her role in shaping the future of Argentina. The musical was directed by Kevin Long and performed by the Harper College theatre group.
The musical starts at the beginning of what would be Eva’s ascension to the top of Argentina’s political food chain. It begins with the announcement of her death and the subsequent requiem of it. Then we see her rise from the very beginning, as narrated by one of her most outspoken detractors Che (played by Christian Ketter). We see when she has a love affair with tango dancer Magaldi (played by Michael Buonincontro), whom she blackmails into taking her to Bueno Aires. She subsequently dumps him and seduces powerful men one by one to reach a position as one of the most powerful women in Argentina. Subsequently she meets Juan Peron (played by Tony Calzarett) whom she has an affair which then evolves into a marriage. He then runs for president and uses her fame to become president. Subsequently she and her husband begin expanding their power throughout the globe and Eva puts down anyone who opposes her within her own country. Eventually though, Eva’s health deteriorates and even then continues to keep herself spotless in order not to harm her husband’s political image. Eventually though they realize that her death cannot be staved off and decide to use it as an opportunity to cement their power.
The production shows how power corrupts and how it can make people addicted. Not to the benefits of having it, but simply power for power’s sake. From how Eva uses temptation to cement her power over others and how she subsequently loses herself whenever people show the possibility of threatening her self-image or her power.
Now as for the mechanics of the musical itself there is certainly a lot that came to mind to talk about. For instance the story itself is very touching. Though the story is based on true events, it allows itself enough rope to stretch the story for dramatic purposes. The story’s power comes from the manipulation of our emotions. Just as Eva manipulates the heart of others to suit her own purposes, so does the musical do the same with the audience’s emotions. For instance, beginning the musical with Eva’s death makes us pity her, until we see her manipulative streak. But then as the musical reaches it climax it shows us the events leading to her demise. The musical in effect ends with the same type of note it began with. It’s a view that allows us to connect with Eva Peron’s destruction and death, from beginning to end. It’s something that we hardly see in a musical’s chronological format nowadays.
 In addition, the emotion felt by the other characters is palpable. From Che’s barely disguised disgust, and resentment towards Eva for her manipulation of the Argentinean people, to Eva’s tearing apart of her husband’s former lover and the women’s subsequent broken heart. The chorus plays one of the biggest roles in selling the emotions of this musical. They feel some of the biggest reverberation from the actions of the characters in this musical. Here we feel everyone’s emotions.
Another thing I enjoyed about Evita was its music. The music was simply amazing. My favorite song was “Art of the Possible”. It was a well-done-done and hilarious song. The choreography and the lyrics, especially, that did me in. The reverse of this song though is “Don’t Cry for me Argentina”. It’s a stirring song that shows how despite what we see of Eva, in the end she believes she’s also doing what’s necessary for Argentina. It’s evident in the somber tone, and of course the lyrics. It allows us to see a different side of Eva than we’ve viewed before. Also, the chorus’ voices were in top form. Their singing allowed me to form a real view of what it’s like for the little man in the musical. It kept the momentum going for me, even when there was little plot progression evident. This is what the nature of the chorus is in my opinion. In addition to serving as a source of exposition, the chorus also serves as a great source of entertainment, and as seen in Evita can keep the momentum of the story rolling even without the major characters, as I viewed during several scenes.
I’d be remiss not to mention the technical aspects of the musical as well. The tech and set production at work is for lack of a better word: superb. The sets for instance never took away or drew attention away from the play. Instead, the architecture that was created supplemented the play. It added a sense of authenticity of the Director and Designer’s vision of Argentina. Having such a set available made it clear as an audience member that there was love and care put into that factor of the play. The technical designs worked well especially for the parts that relied on thematic resonance. My favorite work, for example, was the portraits of Eva and her husband, with Eva’s portrait being propped up higher as a poke at the fact she was the de-facto ruler of the show. It added more thematic resonance to the show and made clear what the story was trying to sell.
When all is said and done, though, for my first professional musical, Evita was certainly a respite of the soul. It had everything one could want from such a production. It had the power of emotion, character development, technical wizardry, and a great vision to tie it all together. It was a spectacle from start to finish and all tied together as neatly as could be. With any luck any future musicals I see can live up to the standard set by Evita.