‘Evita’ tour offers tweaks on original Tony winner

Sean MacLaughlin, left, and Caroline Bowman star in the touring production of "Evita" at DPAC in Durham now through March 16, 2014. / Richard Termine

Reviewed by Lincoln Pennington
Times-News correspondent

   DURHAM — The cast of “Evita” tangoes onto the stage of the Durham Performing Arts Center this week. The current incarnation stems from the 2012 Broadway production, which was the first Broadway revival of the show since its debut more than 30 years ago. The original production won seven Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.
“Evita” follows the rise of Eva Perón, who uses whatever means necessary, from the slums of Argentina to first lady. The story is told mostly through the distinct musical styling of theater legends Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The show is based on historical accounts of Eva and her husband, Juan Perón, played by Caroline Bowman and Sean MacLaughlin, respectively, but the show does take some artistic liberties.
The show starts with Eva’s funeral and the mourning of the people, but Che, a Greek chorus figure played by Josh Young, quickly interrupts it. Che analyzes the crowd with great cynicism and sets up a central question in the show about whether Eva is sincere or merely an opportunist.
From there, the show goes at a whirlwind speed (each act lasts roughly one hour) through 18 years of Eva’s life. For those unfamiliar with her career, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the story in advance to avoid getting lost in dramatic transitions, which often happen subtly within songs or scene changes.
The show succeeds in the work of its creative team, however. Rice and Webber’s songs have great familiarity, and most audience members are bound to leave humming at least one. The most notable song in “Evita” is the classic “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” The duo also highlights the extent of their talents as the Latin-influenced songs transition between classical ballad and rock operetta.
Krystina Alabado, who plays Mistress, gives the most unforgettable performance musically with “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” Alabado brings richness to the song that makes the audience wish the character played a larger role in the show.
Perhaps the most noticeable Latin-influenced element of the show is Rob Ashford’s choreography. The ensemble shines through its precise execution of the masterful choreography. The cast performs every variation of the tango across stage, but each group, from peasants to soldiers to social elites, utilizes a unique style to emphasize the country’s class divisions. The sets reinforce this idea through authentic aesthetics and a two-level staging. Flashy set pieces highlight the grandiose lifestyle of the Peróns, who are often seen addressing peasants from a balcony.
For classical theater fans, this production offers an updated take on “Evita” while remaining true to the masterful elements of the original. The show’s audiovisual delights will leave audiences spellbound until the curtain falls on this exploration of one woman’s desire for power.
Remaining shows are at 7:30 p.m. today, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Durham Performing Arts Center. Tickets start at $35 and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets.

 Lincoln Pennington is a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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