The 21-22 season of Avon Players finishes with a bang – its crown jewel performance: the Andrew Lloyd Webber biographical musical Evita. I have learned through the years that anything Director John (JD) Deierlein touches turns to gold. This production is a pièce de résistance for Avon Players. I have heard Lori Smith sing the signature song from this musical, and she is perfect for the role.
I have always had a love-hate relationship with María Eva Duarte de Perón (dit Evita). I first learned of her as a child, when a teacher assigned us a historical figure to write a report about, based on our birthday. Evita and I both share May 7 as our birthdays. Some of my British relatives knew who she was and were not fans. Her “charity” money was stolen from the British, whom she deported once she usurped power. Only a few of my relatives remain in Buenos Aires after Evita’s great purge. On the other hand, one has to admire her ascent from the nadir of existance – this is the reason LLoyd-Webber chose her life as the inspiration for one of his hits.
This Tony Award-winning musical Evita dramatizes the historical, glorious narrative of Eva Perón (played by Lori Smith at Avon Players), who emerged from obscurity to become First Lady of The Argentine, later achieving a cult-like following, and finding herself elevated to virtual sainthood due to her suspicious charitable works. Eva began her journey as an impoverished, illegitimate peasant who aspired to the life of high-fashion glitterati. She pursued an ill-fated relationship with a narcissistic tango singer Augustn Magaldi (Matt Cason), who reluctantly transported her to Buenos Aires. Peron evolved into a successful radio actress and irrefutable diva. To her credit, Eva did have talent.
Soon, Eva’s social ascent brought her to the side of Colonel Juan Perón (Dan Romzek), whose political fame was rising. They married and became a power couple, with Perón as President of The Republic, and Eva pursuing humanitarian causes with Christian Dior style diplomacy. Eva became the most powerful woman in Latin America, but the country’s dispossessed British aristocrats and the military establishment loathed her ill-gotten position. In a twist of fate, Eva quickly discovered that even the strongest of wills cannot halt the march of ordinary human mortality.
In my opinion, Evita is difficult to follow, without first knowing the plot line. I saw it initially at one of the Nederlander theatres, because the man I was dating was part of the Nederlander family, and he gave me a comp ticket. I probably never should have been dating him, because he was twice my age. But I was awestruck. Now, I see a little bit of Eva Duarte in me – I was always attracted to influential, wealthy men, but I can honestly say I never used them the way Eva did. My boyfriend got me started in writing professionally, and was the first one to see that potential in me. I owe a lot to him for his “patronage,” as it were.
Eva never could have risen to heights of virtual sainthood, were it not for riding on the coat tails of her boyfriends, and the money she confiscated from the English business owners. On the other hand, she used the money for some very good purposes, similar to Robin Hood.
Evita includes the popular songs “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “Oh What a Circus,” “Buenos Aires,” and “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” Some selections are delivered by the revolutionary Che Guevara (Adam Wager) who perceives the events with clarity and historical understanding.
Of all the shows at Avon Players this season, Evita is the one not to miss. I can’t go, because I’m on route to London, for The Queen’s 70th Jubilee. But after hearing Lori Smith sing “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, I know how moving this production is going to be. With JD Deierlein at the helm, it’s guaranteed a success.
Evita premiered on London’s West End in 1978 and received the Laurence Olivier Award for best new musical. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, who had previously collaborated on Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. A year later, the musical premiered on Broadway with Patti LuPone as Eva and Mandy Patinkin as Che, and it became the first British-based musical to win the Tony Award for best new musical. Since then, numerous touring performances and revivals have occurred, including a 2012 Broadway revival starring Ricky Martin as Che. In the 1996 film adaption, Madonna played the title role.
All ticket prices are $25. Call 248.608.9077 or visit www.avonplayers.org to purchase tickets. Seniors and students are eligible for matinee ticket discounts; inquire at the box office for details.
May 27-29, Jun 3-5, 10-11
Friday/Saturday Performances 8pm,
Sunday Matinee 2pm
Photos courtesy Avon Players
Contact the author at AntonAnderssen at gmail