‘Evita’ wows KC Rep audience in season opener



Sex, ambition, opportunity, and greed make a strong case for the rise of Eva Peron as she rose from her impoverished childhood to the to of Argentinean social ladder and nearly the vice presidency of the country in the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical “Evita,” that opened the KC Rep’s 52nd season, Sept. 16 in Spencer Theatre on the UMKC campus.

The Rep strives to grow with selections that please, wow, and challenge their audiences. For “Evita” the challenge was instead given to Eric Rosen’s production and technical crew to take a mega show like “Evita” and serve it up in a smaller and more intimate setting. Rosen, producing artistic director for the Rep obviously believed in his team, gave them his vision, and developed a production of “Evita” that had the crowd standing as the curtain calls began.

Like many KC Rep shows, Rosen combines New York talent with metro actors to create a harmonious mix. In this situation he wanted to cast Latin actors as the leads and then feature a multi-cultural cast as the backups. His efforts created a beautiful display of artistry and craftsmanship. Sadly, Mariano Torrez , Eva Peron leaves the cast at the end of the weekend to begin work on a Broadway show. Good for her, sad for the Rep. However, her replacement stands ready to step into her shoes and has performed the show previously. Jenny steps in on Sept. 21 as Eva Peron.

Torrez presented a feisty, spirited Eva. Her co-stars performed admirable beside her. As narrator and ally Che, Mauricio Martinez holds the stage in all scenes. He has great stage presence, sings, dances, and makes the audience go along with him as he narrates the story of Eva’s rise to power. He possesses a strong, clear voice and moves well within the character. The other lead, Juan Peron comes to life via Nick Duckart who just wears the part like a finely-tailored suit. He looks and acts the part of the war general rising to power alongside his beautiful accomplice and muse. Together, he and Torrez present some strong images for the audience to behold.

“Evita” makes no excuses for the life and legacy of Eva Peron. It shows her ambition to rise from her humble beginnings and use whatever charms and skills necessary to reach a new height. Fortunately for her, her beauty allowed her to open doors that others could not. Beauty and sex provided opportunity for Eva and the script makes no apologies for her wanton behavior.

Her pairing with Juan Peron allowed the pair to use the populist movement and unrest in Argentina to climb to the presidency. Together they hustled their way to power. He was a war general; she a semi-successful actress and radio personality. The common people adored her for her courage and climb–even though over their backs and through their pockets. Together, they established themselves and leaders and wealthy leaders while bankrupting Argentina.

As for “Evita” at the Rep, expect lots of singing, dancing, special lighting effects, great sound, strong costuming, laser-focused characterizations and beautiful choreography. This reviewer knows to expect the acting levels to be superior at all Rep productions. And, such was the case with this one. What drew my attention more than other productions was the tight, sharp choreography, by Darrell Grand Moultrie. His concept was well done and no one could tell the dancers from non-dancers in this show. They all functioned as a cohesive unit.

The creative and production team, led by director Rosen is: Anthony T. Edwards, music director; Jack Magaw, scenic design; Lindsay W. Davis, costume design; Jeffrey Cady, lighting design; Jason H. Thompson, production design; Alex Hawthorn, sound design; Chip Miller, assistant director; Alison Hanks, wig design; Stephanie Klapper, casting; Calyn P. Swain, production stage manager; Rachel M. Dyer, assistant stage manager.

Renovations to the theatre, just completed in time for “A Christmas Carol” last season definitely came into play with “Evita.” The director, musical director, sound technicians, lighting designers all prepared to set new standards with “Evita.” The results show. Many of these elements might go unnoticed by many, but this is absolutely beautiful technical aspects of the show that give it a warm and finished appeal. The intimacy effect wanted by Rosen works.

“Evita” runs Sept. 9-Oct.2 in Spencer Theatre on the UMKC campus. For show times, dates, tickets, pricing, and more information, check out the KC Rep website.


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