Aired on KSDS-FM on 8/18/17
RUN DATES: 8/3/17 – 8/27/17
VENUE: San Diego Repertory Theatre
She may not have been the manipulative opportunist who appears in the musical. But Eva Perón, was an Argentine icon, beloved by the people during her life, and long after her death in 1952 at age 33.
It’s no wonder her rags-to-riches story inspired Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to create “Evita,” first as a rock opera concept album, and in 1978, a fully staged musical. When it opened on Broadway, it became the first British show to receive the Tony Award for Best Musical.
As the wife of the President, Juan Perón, Evita embodied the cult of celebrity, appealing directly to the working class that idolized her. Her detractors accused her of presenting politics as show business (we’re getting a dose of that ourselves these days).
The critical voice in the musical is the cynical, fictional character Che, who challenges Eva at every turn.
Her story was the stuff of drama, from beginning to end. The musical, probably not very politically accurate, plays down her good and charitable works, and questions her motives. But the story remains compelling.
The show requires two hugely talented actor/singers at the center; the vocal demands of both roles are enormous.
The San Diego Repertory Theatre has hit the jackpot with Jeffrey Ricca, handsome and charismatic as Che, and Marisa Matthews, adorable and irresistible as Evita. She makes palpable Eva’s seductive nature, and her hunger for fame and power. As Perón, Jason Maddy is wonderful, with an aptly stiff military bearing and a strong vocal presence.
The entire production is potent, thanks to the direction of Sam Woodhouse and choreography of Javier Velasco. Sean Fanning’s church-like set is exquisite, and beautifully lit by much-missed former San Diegan David Lee Cuthbert. It’s breathtaking when the historic balcony glides forward for the show’s most memorable song, “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”
This is another of the Rep’s collaborations with the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, which offers high schoolers an incomparable professional experience, and allows the REP to expand its cast and orchestra.
The singing is terrific. And the story, however factual it may be, continues to be provocative, four decades after its premiere and 65 years after Evita’s death.
©2017 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews