Saturday, August 7, 2010

EVITA • New Line Theatre


Last night -- EVITA (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice), presented by New Line Theatre, the "Bad Boy" of musical theatre here in the Lou.

Now first off, I can't tell you how wonderful it was, after seeing a couple of things recently at the Muny with its 11,000 seats, to be back in the intimate 210 seat Washington University South Campus Theatre.  There's something about small venues I'm tellin' ya.  To me, theatre is all about getting your visceral experience on.  I think a degree of that tends to get lost in huge houses, but those smaller theatres where it's right in your face?  Love...  Also, at the start of the second act as the lights were dimming, I could hear a couple of audience members politely shushing their neighbors.  I like that.  In other words, STFU.

It had been awhile since I'd seen a New Line show, and I was once again reminded of how great their productions are, no matter how downsized they might be.  I'd also never seen EVITA before and this company did not disappoint.

The story follows the life of Eva Perón, the second wife of Argentine President Juan Perón.  Her rise to power was one that to me seems almost archetypical.  Take one eager, dynamic persona, mix with a country looking for a savior and what do you get?  An icon.  Eva came from a lower-middle class family, gained power through sleeping with the right men, eventually married an ambitious Colonel who became President, used her celebrity to appeal to the lower classes, won them over, and milked that puppy for all it was worth.  She did do much to help the working classes of Argentina, but her motivation was often called into question by Che, our narrator, who wasn't worshipping Eva like the rest of the country.  From the moment the show starts, as unsuspecting theater-goers are informed of Eva's death, you're sucked in.

Taylor Pietz (Evita Perón), John Sparger (Che)
and Todd Schaefer (Juan Perón).
Taylor Pietz was a convincing Evita and delivered a compelling "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina".  She had a really powerful, confident voice.  Nice bone structure too.  John Sparger was Che, perfectly disgusted and commanding.  Guys with long hair are sexy.  The whole cast of about 15 or so were committed and impressive and I was never taken out of the moment by any missteps.  A true night of escape.

We have so many marvelous regional theatre companies here:
Do yourself a favor -- if a show piques your interest, go see it.  You won't be sorry.

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