★★★★★“Evita” is the inspiration of lyricist Tim Rice and composer Andrew Lloyd Weber. It began as a rock opera concept album in 1976, opened as a musical at London’s West End in 1978, and premiered on Broadway in 1979 to rave reviews, earning 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the first British production to do so. Since then, this magnificent work has been performed on stages large and small around the world and it remains one of the most popular musicals of all time.
Evita tells the story of Eva Peron who used her beauty and charisma to rise meteorically from the slums of Argentina to the presidential mansion as First Lady. Adored by her people as a champion for the poor, she became one of the most powerful women in the world — while her greed, outsized ambition and fragile health made her one of the most tragic.
Broadway in Chicago’s new production, at the Oriental Theater, running September 18 to October 6, gives Evita a new look and feel. Assuredly directed by Tony and Olivier Award winner Michael Grandage and choreographed by Tony Award winner Rob Ashford, this production is exciting and moves quickly. The first act is memorable, as Grandage showcases the ambitious and ruthless Eva (Caroline Bowman) who stops at nothing to achieve fame and fortune. In “Good Night and Thank You,” we see Eva spinning her web with tango singer Magaldi (Christopher Johnstone) who she tosses aside as she meets new and more connected lovers in her quest for position. The “The Art of the Possible,” is a “tango for power” as officers square off in a king of the hill battle, eventually won by Juan Peron (Sean MacLaughlin). Eva seduces Peron in “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You.” Peron’s mistress (Krystina Albado) is forced to leave and renders a lovely version of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”. We are guided through the story by Che (Josh Young), who seamlessly weaves his way through each scene.
The second act is less vigorous as we see the decline of Eva as she ultimately reaches her end. “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “High Flying Adored” are great numbers, well staged, and “And the Money Keeps Rolling In” gives insight into how Eva helped to bankrupt Argentina. In the end, you feel the sadness of the people at her loss.
Caroline Bowman’s performance as Eva is genuine, warm, and gives the audience a softer look at this icon. Vocally, this is a very demanding role which requires vocal strength, control, and emotion, and she delivers beautifully, bringing Eva’s charm and beauty to the stage. I am sure she is physically drained after each performance. Sean Maclaughlin provides a strong performance as Juan Peron and Christopher Johnstone is a perfect Magaldi. Josh Young is outstanding as Che, with a beautiful and powerful voice that captivates. His Che is well balanced and vocals memorable. The production is supported by a capable ensemble that quickly moves from scene to scene and lends their strong voices.
A lavish production requires a realistic setting and designer Christopher Oramdelivers with beautiful sets reminiscent of Buenos Aries architecture, including a cool balcony that moves forward and authentic period costumes. Neil Austin adds his lighting touch which adds to the mood. The staging is excellent and well managed.
This is a wonderful show with strong performances and beautiful music. It is bold, captivating, and worth your 2 hours and 15 minutes, but you better hurry, it is here only through October 6. Performances are as follows:
Tuesday thru Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.
Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $27-$90 and can be purchased at the box office, Oriental Theatre located at 24 West Randolph Street or at any of the box offices of the Broadway In Chicago theaters, by phone at 800- 775-2000 ( Broadway In Chicago Ticketline), at all Ticketmaster outlets or www.ticketmaster.com or atwww.BroadwayInChicago.com.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Evita”