Dena Chiarcossi as Eva Peron
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed & Choreographer by Michael Lichtefeld
Performed by Dena Chiarcossi, Stephen Patterson, Kyle Dadd & company
Drayton Entertainment Production
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
August 12 – 29, 2009
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina
To wrap up the 2009 season in Grand Bend, Huron Country Playhouse is offering a brilliant production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita. More opera than musical, this show features a fascinating story, great music, excellent cast and good orchestra.
The show opens with revolutionist Ché Guevera in a movie theatre in Argentina in 1952. The movie is interrupted to announce the death of Eva Peron, wife of Argentinean president Juan Peron. The people of Argentina are devastated by the demise of their beloved Evita, their pet name for her. Then Ché, as the narrator, takes the audience back through time to tell the story of Eva’s life. Born illegitimate and in abject poverty, Eva Duarte convinces a lounge singer to take her away from small-town Argentina to the big city of Buenos Aries at age 15. There, she gets what she wants – working her way from model to radio announcer to famous actress by offering sexual favours to influential men. Finally she meets Juan Peron, a candidate for president of Argentina. She dispatches his 15-year-old mistress, and puts herself in that role, eventually getting him to marry her. With her strength and drive, he becomes president. She ingratiates herself with the working class people and is their “spiritual leader”. The Perons travel the world on their “Rainbow Tour”, where Eva is very popular in Spain and Italy but snubbed by England. Ché points out the discrepancies – money in a charity she creates goes missing, and the poor people are no better off under the Peron regime. The Argentinean military doesn’t like Eva’s power, which only strengthens her desire to be vice-president. But she becomes ill, and her body prevents her from doing all that she wants. She dies of cancer at age 33.
Dena Chiarcossi is outstanding as Eva, playing the character as strong and feisty, ready to take on the world. Chiarcossi sings the many difficult songs beautifully, including the showstopper “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”. Chiarcossi was part of the cast of Miss Saigon two years ago, and recently played Sharpay in Disney’s High School Musical for Drayton Entertainment.
Stephen Patterson as Ché is also exceptional. Last summer at Huron Country Playhouse, Patterson was Freddy Benson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, where he also had the outrageous Ruprecht role. Returning from a North American tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Patterson shows his strength and wonderful voice as Ché, narrating the story through song. He easily handles the many different music styles and tight lyrics, getting the story told without slowing the action. Together, Patterson and Chiarcossi sing a moving version of “High Flying Adored.”
Kyle Dadd is excellent as Juan Peron. Earlier this summer he played Bill Sykes in Oliver! at Huron Country Playhouse. Keely Hutton gives a very good rendition of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” as Peron’s young mistress, and Jay Davis as Magaldi is entertaining with “On This Night of a Thousand Stars.” Michelle DiGioacchino, another Drayton favourite, gives an amazing performance as the tango dancer.
The large cast of 23 plus a children’s chorus of six, give a rich, full sound to the songs. “A New Argentina” is a strong, rousing close to act I. Comedy is created with the stuffy British at the polo match, and with the tap-dancing military.
The set is sparse – just a few pieces of furniture along with the famous balcony where Eva greets the masses. But by using actual photographs and newspaper accounts from the times, the feel of Argentina in the 30s and 40s is created.
This is a top quality production and the abilities of Broadway director Michael Lichtefeld are evident. The very full house on opening night was thrilled with the show and showed their appreciation.
Evita continues with eight shows a week until August 29 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available at the Huron Country Playhouse box office at (519) 238-6000, Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or check www.draytonentertainment.com