EVITA BRINGS ARGENTINA'S POLITICAL SOAP OPERA TO PARALLEL PRESENT DAY,
DAVID SATTLER IS BRILLIANT AS CHE
The 1940’s Argentina comes to the Firehouse Stage this spring as the musical EVITA brings its passion and memorable score of ballads and anthems. The compelling EVITA is only on stage through May 14th at The Pacific Coast Rep Theatre in Pleasanton Ca. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Tim Rice's pop-rock musical EVITA was a huge success, running on Broadway for almost four years and winning the 1978 Tony Award for Best Musical. It is the story of a real life woman's rise to power and fame and features many iconic songs including the hit "Don't Cry For Me Argentina."
Directed by the impressive Misty Megia, who brings a powerhouse cast to the small Firehouse stage said “I am thrilled to be taking on this classic show. When I began to read the history, I couldn’t help but to draw parallels to today’s world. Peron’s speeches were meant to incite fear and rage and they were combative, accusations were made against people who disagreed, or news was created on Eva’s radio station to only talk about how wonderful Peronism was.” Megia’s craft team brings a sharp smaller cast to tell this epic musical.
Photo Photo's by Berenice Sullivan
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber first sent his original recording of the EVITA songs to Hal Prince to get the producer involved, Prince responded, “Any musical that begins with a funeral can’t be all bad.” And so the show has proven in its thirty-nine years on stages across the world. PCRT production’s is a crowd pleasing show featuring an energetic, touching, performance by Ashley Cowl in the lead role. The clever choreography by the keen Christina Lazo brings the cast striking a tango-fueled choreography, and the pulsating and driven orchestrations effectively mirrors the Peróns’ energy and drive, creative elements, and a superb six piece orchestra conducted by skilled music director, Rachel Robinson.
Megia’s direction is framed, mostly, as a troupe of performers telling Eva's story, with a two story set designed by Patrick Brandon to feature a screen for historic projections that he created. The cast of sixteen players easily moves on a two level set that is kept simple only to clearly feature the wonderful colors from Margaret DeSilva’s costume design. Eva is Christian Dior to perfection with her iconic jackets, hats and jewels. This is a nice touch, placing this open view set that could be a palace or hotel setting with the behind the scenes tale of Eva and Perón.
The musical follows the real story of Eva Duarte, a poor girl in Argentina who rose to power and fame in the 1940s by calculating, scheming, and even sleeping her way to the top. She would eventually marry Juan Perón played by the marvelous Chris Vettel, who at the time they met was a Colonel. Perón would eventually be elected as Argentina's president, making Eva Argentina's first lady. The musical is narrated by Che played by the powerfully impressive, David Sattler, a hero who has no respect for Eva and Perón's devious and sometimes illegal ways behind their rise to power. Che guides us through an historic perspective on Eva’s story.
The thrilling Satter makes a totally believable Che with his solid built frame and coiled energy reminiscent of rock star, telegraphing that this watchdog never sleeps. His singing can get that authentic rock sound in “The Lady’s Got Potential” to the bitter bite with which he builds his case in the second act in songs like “And the Money kept Rolling In.” The role of Perón can be a bit tough to play, since it doesn't have a lot of layers, but local favorite Chris Vettel creates a realistic portrayal, effectively showing Perón as a caring, concerned person. The exceptional William Giammona adds an element of class to the part of Magaldi, the man whom Eva first latches onto and who takes her to Buenos Aires. Giammona provides some much needed humor to the show, holding his notes and rolling his r’s in the classic song “On this Night of a Thousand Stars.”
The pitch perfect Carolyn Bacon brings a beautiful sound and memorable moment to the production as Perón’s mistress; she delivers a stellar performance of "Another Suitcase in Another Hall." The role of Eva can be a difficult one to play and Cowl is more than up to the challenge with riveting singing and well realized acting skills. Her powerhouse vocals with a clear voice with every lyric and phrase and an ease in the way she navigates throughout the very rangy score. She is also adept at the acting requirements of portraying the forward sixteen-year-old girl who finds her meal ticket in the form of an older tango singer. He takes her away from her small town and to the big city of Buenos Aires. "You Must Love Me," the Oscar winning song written for the 1996 film, has also been incorporated into this production, which gives Eva a nice ballad toward the end of the second act and Cowl’s delivers it quite effectively.
The men and women of Argentina play a number of roles from soldiers to workers who rebel including the very eye catching Matt Busbee, Brandon Canela, Ryan Henry, Christopher Juan, Mylissa Malley, the dapper Danny Quezada, Zanna Wei, Donna Turner and dance captain, Allie Villa. This able ensemble moves nimbly between the eclectic musical that Webber is famous for. From the first moment the chorus sings a classical Requiem, you can hear the authority of Robinson's orchestrations and the company’s blended sound. Suddenly we are plunged into straight four-four rock “Oh What a Circus” then almost immediately into Latinate dance rhythms “Buenos Aires.” The exceptional voice and charm of Jennifer Stark has a wonderful solo in the number “Santa Evita” in the second act with Che and the ensemble is a show stopper. Lazo’s choreography is brilliant in the dance and production number “Peron's Latest Flame” and “She is a Diamond.”
Patrick Bandon’s scenic and light design is simple and effective, yet takes us to 1931 Argentina, and is excellent. The stage is constantly awash in streaming lights of different colors, including some deep, dark blues to balance the projections. Margaret DaSilva's costumes are rich. Eva challenges designers to come up in style to the original iconic designs made for the real Eva by Dior and other European fashion luminaries. The silver floor length ball gown in which Cowl’s sings Eva’s biggest number is superb. Karl Haller’s crisp sound design created great crowd sounds and kept the cast clear. Ariel Brandon’s props included protest signs, and plenty of cocktail glasses. Robinson’s music direction is just as impressive with a combination of rich vocals from the entire cast and sharp, distinct playing by the orchestra.
PCRT’s exceptional cast and first rate creative elements make this a production for any theatre-lover looking for a big, bold musical set in the lovely Firehouse Arts center in Pleasanton CA. The passion, power, and romance behind the story of Eva Perón's rise to power takes on new meaning in 2017 Trump America. EVITA concludes PCRT’s current season, but they are set to open their 8th season with 42 STREET in November 2017.
Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre Presents
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Misty Megia, Music Director Rachel Robinson
by Christina Lazo
Must close May 14, 2017
Firehouse Arts Center,
4444 Railroad Avenue, Pleasanton, CA.
Tickets are available http://pcrtproductions.org
or by calling 925-931-4848.