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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


Evita
Pittsburgh CLO


Caroline Bowman and Josh Young
Presented as part of the Pittsburgh CLO season, the current touring production of Evita has arrived for a brief stay. Based on the 2012 Broadway revival production, this is a fairly straightforward telling of Eva Duarte's ascent to a position of power, through her marriage to Juan Perón, in the 1940s and early '50s Argentina. Eva Perón was beloved by the country's working class, feeling she was, by her roots, one of them; they referred to her by the affectionate nickname of Evita. The musical depicts Eva as an opportunistic young woman, using sex as a way to climb the social ladder, until she met Perón, who was able to offer her fame and influence as he was soon to be elected President of Argentina. She concentrated on labor rights and women's issues before becoming ill with cancer, which brought an early death at the age of 33.

The score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice is Latin-inflected with a number of ballads (a 1980s pop sound is occasionally detected). The performances of this somewhat smaller (than the original Broadway production) cast varies. In the almost Biography channel style treatment of this life story, the ensemble is called on to play a number of characters, from Argentinean citizens to young Eva's series of lovers to military personnel, and they are quite proficient at doing so. There are two identifiable characters: tango singer Magaldi, whose romantic relationship with Eva may or may not have actually taken place; and the young mistress of Juan Perón, whom Eva promptly dismisses and replaces. At the performance I attended, John Stellard played Magaldi (Christopher Johnstone is listed for the role) and seemed a bit tenuous, though he sings the nightclub tango "On This Night of a Thousand Stars" well. As the mistress, Krystina Alabado shows a lovely voice on the wistful "Another Suitcase in Another Hall."

Caroline Bowman plays Eva, and she shows seasoned and accomplished acting and vocal talents. However, she does not show us the special quality ("star quality," as it is referred to in the show) and magnetism that Eva must have had to end up where she did, and to have been as beloved to her public as she was. The two stand out performance are Sean MacLaughlin as Juan Perón and Josh Young as Ché, the one-man Greek chorus and our guide. MacLaughlin is a powerful singer, and he presents a strong and confident Perón; who appreciates his wife's profound connection with "the people." And Josh Young is the key to the success of this production: through a terrific performance, he fleshes out the story with musical commentary and narration. His contribution is quite stunning.

From the Broadway revival, Michael Grandage (direction), Rob Ashford (choreography), Christopher Oram (scenic and costume design), Neil Austin (lighting design) and Mick Potter (sound design) contribute the elements for an impressive touring production through mostly literal storytelling—with the exception being the scenes involving Ché, and they are well integrated.

This production would be a solid introduction to Evita, though it might not be completely clear how Eva Perón became such an iconic figure. The numerous admirable aspects of the production may or may not be enough for those who have seen a really strong Eva, though Young's performance was for me.

Evita, at the Benedum Center through July 13. For tickets visit trustarts.culturaldistrict.org.For more information on the tour, visit www.evitaonbroadway.com/tour.html.


Photo: Richard Termine


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-- Ann Miner



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