Excels the Original

By Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Richard Termine


SAN JOSÉ, CA – Many “revivals” disappoint the audience. The reason is that when people compares  the “revival” with the previous version of the show, what they usually  notice is  all the things the “revival” left out from the original.

This, however, is not the case with the HALL LUFTIG, SCOTT SANDERS PRODUCTIONS, and TROIKA ENTERTAINMENT’s  "revival" of  EVITA. This "revival"  is better than the original.  It is fresh, visual, entertaining, and it is presented with such veracity in the actions that it engineers to make the audience know  the good and bad of Evita, a 15 years old girl, who started her life in the village of Los Toldos in the Argentinian Pampas and went to Buenos Aires and in the process, found a place into our hearts.

Shown at the Center for the Performing Arts in San José, until November 24 as the second of the  BROADWAY SAN JOSÉ a Nederlander Presentation, 2013-2014 Season,  the only words that can describe EVITA  the revival,  is "a show with a heart."

And putting the heart on the performance is the  true-to-life portrayal of Evita by CAROLINE BOWAN, who sings her songs in a honey tone  voice, and dances well. As she portrayed it, Evita became so real, that at the end of the performance, her memory remained with us. As we drove home from the theatre, we sort  of tried to organized our thoughts trying to decide who was this woman we had seen represented on the stage.

Eva Perón was not a Saint, yet she performed one miracle. She was an uneducated pretty girl with charisma and she used what she had to “reinvent herself, she became an stage radio and film actress and a model.   Was she  good only for Peron? Or was she also good for us?  Did we learn “something” from her?  From her determination ?  Were the means she used to get what she wanted the "right ones?  Did her life changed anything?

We need to go beyond the musical to answer our last question. From June 4 l946 to July 26 l952 she was the First Lady of Argentina. As First Lady, she  founded and was President of the Eva Perón Foundation (l948-l952) to help the poor children and older people in Argentina. She also created and became  President of the Female Peronist Party (l946-l952) who championed women's suffrage in Argentina and Head of the Argentine Ministry of Health (l946-l952). So the illegitimate daughter of a man named Juan Duarte and Juana Ibarguren, born in May 7of l9l9 with the name of Eva Maria Ibarguren,  made a great difference in  Argentina by managing to pull the rug from under the Buenos Aires Society  and give the “descamisados” the (the poorest class) a voice, when she told them:  “I know, like you know, how it feels to go to bed hungry.” 

In what may be a paradox to many who never saw before the musical based on the life of  María Eva Duarte de Perón,  EVITA, the musical (with Lyrics by TIM RICE and Music by ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER) starts at a critical moment in her life: the day she dies. On a dark stage, a male voice announces: “It is the sad duty of the Secretary of the Press to announce to the people of Argentina that Eva Peron, the spiritual leader of Argentina entered immortality  at  20-25 hours, today" (July 26, 1952).“

Observing the mass of women walking around Evita’s casket, all dressed in black, their heads covered by “mantos,” moaning as they hold lighted candles in their hands,  “Che” (JOSH YOUNG) which in the "revival" is  not “Che Guevara” but just “the common a man” who represent the all the Argentinians and serves as their  “voice of reason,” sings “Oh what a circus, oh what a show. and then, adds: You have let down your people, Evita, you were supposed to be immortal.”

On the night of a Thousand Stars” sang in the melodious voice of Magaldi  ( CHRISTOPHER JOHNSTONE) we are transported from the present time to the past. Inside a small night club,  Eva, 15, is begging Magaldi (pictured bellow)  of Magaldi  ( CHRISTOPHER JOHNSTONE) to take her with him to Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires, Eva becomes an actress, leaves Magaldi, and starts living with lovers who can help her reach the top.

On January 22, l944 at a concert organized as a fundriser by Juan Peron (MacLAUGHIN) who was then Secretary of Labor,  to help the victims of the January 15th earthquake in San Juan, Argentina, Eva meets Peron, and singing to him in very flirtatious manner, convinces him that “She would be Surprisingly Good for him.”

They start living together almost immediately, with Eva callously tossing Peron’s former mistress (KRYSTINA ALABADO) on the street. The crystalline tone of ALABADO’ voice , gave us on that night a beautiful version of “ Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” a song that describes what will happen to her. In her "line of work," she will be “picked up” by another man.

The rest of the musical covers the high lights in the live of Evita.  Her humiliation by the Buenos Aires High society, her marriage to Perón, her becoming First Lady of Argentina, her "Rainbow Tour" to Europe, in which she visited, Spain, Italy, France but no England because she recived a word that George VI would not received her. True to her character, her response was: “If England can live without me, I guess I can live without Englad.”  From then on we see her getting weaker and weaker, bending from pain. When Evita returns to Argentina, she is no longer healthy.


KRYSTINA ALABADO as “mistress” con JOSH YOUNG as “Che”
KRYSTINA ALABADO as “mistress” con JOSH YOUNG as “Che”

BOWMAN represented each one of the different aspects of Evita's life with conviction.  We saw her arrogace when she was mistreated, her flirtatious nature, some of his conversations with her husband, and finally her losing energy, her sitting down, when talking on the mike, instead of standing. BOWMAN's performance on that night, even her songs had feeling, and because she acted with feeling, her performance as Evita was powerful.

As “Che,” YOUNG is the character with most of the songs in the show and most of the action. He sang well,   and when he acted his different moods, sarcasm, tenderness, rage, he stayed in character.

As Perón, MacLAUGHIN was not given enough "emotions" in the show to act them, but in his role as Colonel and President of Argentina,   he remained in character.


The cast of EVITA presented by BROADWAY SAN JOSE 
           The cast of EVITA presented by BROADWAY SAN JOSE

Directed by MICHAEL GRANDAGE  and choreographed by ROB ASHFORD, This "revival" of  EVITA is a “must-see” production. The Sets and Costumes (CHRISTOPHER DRAM) are creative, the songs are beautiful, and the individual songs and choirs well sang. The actors are first class and all the dance numbers synchronized. When reviewing this "revival of EVITA , from the point of view of a critic that have seen a number of productions of EVITA, which originated as a rock opera concept album released in l976 leading to a London production in London West End where it won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical in l978, and the Tony on Broadway the year later, and I can only say that EVITA, like a bottle of good wine, got better with time.


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