Final Draft Review: Evita

Comment your final draft reviews of Evita here.

5 Comments on “Final Draft Review: Evita

  1. The floor of the theatre rumbled as actors poured onto the stage from the aisles of the audience for the opening scene of Tim Rices and Andrew Lloyd Webbers Evita at Western Connecticut State University yesterday at 2pm.
    Starring Mark Sumner, Shaylen Harger, Olivia Kurtz, Alexandra Colavecchio, and TJ Swets, Evita is a stunning rock opera detailing the life and death of Argentinian icon Eva Peron. Peron was an impoverished teenager who moved to Buenos Aires to start a new life. There she becomes a famous actress and meets Juan Peron, a handsome military man who runs for the office of the president making Eva the first lady of Argentina.
    The show transported the audience to a front row seat of the political happenings of 1950’s Argentina. The energy and volume that the ensemble brought to the people painted a portrayal of the mood and emotions of the angry and oppressed lower class of the community. The ensemble brought unwavering energy and dedication to every scene and they easily transitioned between a variety of situations and characters.
    One of the most controversial choices made by director Tim Howard was casting three different women as Evita, to convey the different stages of Eva’s life portrayed in the show. While this was a risky choice is paid off for the three Eva’s as they all brought life and energy to the role. Portraying Eva Peron is an incredible feat as she is such a multifaceted and complex woman who struggled a lot between her own personal gain and helping her country. The transition between the Eva’s worked brilliantly as all of the actors had similar voices and appearance; they all brought something unique to the role that enhanced the enjoyment of the show.
    Harger, portraying the youngest version of Eva engaged the audience and did a wonderful job expressing the youthfulness and provocative nature of a young girl on an adventure in a big city. Harger harnessed Eva’s star power and sensuality and used it to her advantage. Gauging the audience Harger was the certified favorite Eva of the afternoon; Harger received the most applause and was one of the best voices in the company. If you don’t see Evita for anything else, see it for Harger’s interpretation of the character.
    Kurtz and Colavecchio also had dazzling performances, Colavecchio had the audience on the edge of their seats as she depicted a crippling Eva struggling with cervical cancer and ultimately Eva’s death. Colavecchio characterization of Eva’s last speech to the people of Argentina brought audience members to tears and had them hoping that Eva would make a miracle recovery due to the humanization Colavecchio delivered to the role.
    This adaptation of Evita was technically clean and fluid. Scene changes happened without notice from the audience and the audience seemed engaged with everything that was happening on stage instead of off stage. This speaks to the power of the technical production team; the better they did their job the less the audience noticed them. Other than one microphone blip and a few muddled lyrics that got overpowered by the ensemble voices. The performance was very clean cut and professional for a college level theatre production.
    Evita is a must see at KCACTF and will most likely be remembered as one of the highlights of the festival. The production was high energy and engrossed the audience throughout the performance. Evita was able to bring wonderful historical icons to life in front of the audience’s eyes.

    Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice
    Directed by Tim Howard
    Western Connecticut State University at KCACTF Region 1 Festival
    January 31, 2018

    By Jennifer Dorn

    Full disclosure: I don’t much care for “Evita.” Like most Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, it’s pretentious and unsubstantial. In this particular case, the exposition is almost too frenetic to follow, Chè is a confusing blend of conscience, commentator, and slightly anachronistic historical figure, and “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” makes no sense in context. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the Western Connecticut State University production of Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita” for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region 1 Festival.

    In fact, much of it evoked a sense of déjà vu from the 2013 national tour — and I mean this largely as a compliment. The strength of the ensemble, choreographed by Mary Ann Lamb, combined with Elizabeth Popiel’s set suggesting the Argentinian Casa Rosada, lovely midcentury costumes by Joni Johns Lerner, and lights by Scott Cally resulted in a clean, conventional, professional-grade production of a vocally, physically, and dramatically challenging musical. Its conventionality came with one major exception: director Tim Howard’s choice to cast three Evitas — young Eva Duarte on the rise (Shaylen Harger), Eva Duarte Perón in her prime (Olivia Kurtz), and Eva in decline (Alexandra Colavecchio).

    As an educator, Mr. Howard likely (and wisely) chose to divide one of musical theater’s most demanding roles among three student actors, giving each more than enough opportunity to shine without overtaxing them. But more importantly, as a director, Mr. Howard never asked his audience to ignore this division. From Evita’s first introduction, the three share the stage at pivotal moments, each representing a facet of a complex woman. It not only works dramatically, but actually fleshes out a character who, rather surprisingly, can often fall flat.

    And each Evita had her time in the sun. Ms. Harger seduced the room as a young Evita ambitiously sleeping her way to the top, and “Buenos Aires” provided a show-stopping combination showcase of her ballroom dancing and powerful belt. Later, as the new First Lady of Argentina, Ms. Kurtz managed to make sense of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” — an impressive feat given its contextual senselessness. But it was Ms. Colavecchio who stirringly humanized a powerful, ambitious woman in her painful and premature decline. One also can’t help but note her striking resemblance to the historical Eva Peròn, as well as Ms. Harger and Ms. Kurtz’s resemblance to one another.

    Observing, explaining, commentating, and occasionally confronting it all is Ché…Guevara? (Who is he really?) Beautifully sung and vigorously acted by Mark Sumner, Ché periodically sweeps in to provide much-needed historical background and plot information. Meanwhile, TJ Swetz’s rich baritone almost belied the misplaced ingenuousness he brought to military general turned President of Argentina Juan Peròn.

    But as is always the case with WCSU productions, the true star was the ensemble. In any setting, ensembles can make the difference between a decent show and a good one, and the “Evita” ensemble was vocally and physically clean, lively, and interesting without distracting from the main action. It’s a standard expected from professional productions, but truly impressive from a university. Overall, WCSU made me enjoy a musical I don’t particularly like, and thus deserves high praise.

    But lest I sound a grudging Scrooge, let me conclude with this: nothing beats the energy of watching theater with a room full of theater people, and WCSU sure knows how to electrify a crowd. “Evita” thus proved a truly rousing start to the KCACTF Region 1 Festival.

  3. “Evita” Review- revised draft
    By Emily Brown

    I walked in not knowing anything about the show and prepared for pretty much anything to happen. Clearly there was a very talented team working on this show. I saw the 2pm Wednesday January 31, 2018 (at the Region 1 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival) show of WCSU’s “Evita”; I watched from the center back row of the orchestra. By the time I walked out I was confused and conflicted. The show overall was just meh for me. I never felt the emotion that the songs seemed to indicate that I should. I seemed to need an intimate understanding of historical events from 50 years ago, and too many little flaws added up to an overall lackluster show: nothing great, but nothing inherently awful.
    The choice to make Eva three distinct characters was, from my understanding, unique to this show. I liked it, but was disappointed with the lack of consistency in the choice. When Eva 1 switched out for Eva 2 in act 1, they wore the same dress. I expected this to be repeated for the switch from Eva 2 to Eva 3. When it was not, I was left unimpressed by the transition. Eva 2 (while a talented actress for sure) was on stage too long. The character seemed to transition and morph more in that one actress than the otehr two. Either there needed to be 2 Evas or 4 (or the traditional 1). The additional transition should have come during/after “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” at the top of Act 2.
    I genuinely enjoyed the songs, but not as part of the plot. The set was versatile enough to suggest multiple locations, without really distracting from the action. The costumes were lovely, especially the deep maroon party dress (during act 1) and the white and gold prom dress (during “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”). The choreography and vocals were impressive…when I could hear and understand the leads.
    I’m not sure if this was a microphone issue or a sound design issue or maybe a diction issue. However, I could not understand most of Act 1. Because of this lack of understanding, I had no idea what was going on (plot wise) at the beginning, which meant that I never got really emotionally invested. I loved the sounds coming from the actors: they all sang beautifully. However, since this was a show and not a concert in a foreign language, the quality of their voices was not enough to give me the plot.
    Again, I must compliment the incredible talent behind this production, particularly the dancing throughout. Mark Sumner’s performance as Che was well executed, and usually helped get me back on track with the plot. Sumner had a great energy and good vocals. Kristen Muller did a beautiful job in “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” as Mistress, and actually made me connect with the character, even though she was on stage for such a short time. Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention Alexandra Colavecchio as Eva Perón 3; she really brought the whole show to an emotional climax that had most of the audience either on the edge of their seats or in tears.
    Not knowing anything about this show other than the production I saw, I don’t know if my critique is on the director’s choices or things written in the script. The most noticable thing, for me, was the confusion adn disconnect at the top of the show. Up until she was in Buenos Aires, I did not know what was going on with the plot. Was this unclear because the actors did not have good diction? Or was I confused because the script was just a jumbled mess? The talent that went into this production seemed at war with a plot that didn’t make sense and a show that felt more like the end of a unit study on Eva Perón’s biography, than an entertaining performance for the public audience.

  4. “Evita”, yet another quality show from Western Connecticut State University, opened this year’s Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region 1. Upon entering the VPAC mainstage I was hoping to be blown away by Evita. It is safe to say that in some respects I was. Having only ever seen the movie version while sitting in Spanish class listening to my elderly teacher sing along a little less than flawlessly, I wasn’t sure what to expect given a live staged production.

    While I was pleased with the projections and quality of musicianship from the pit, the overall sound seemed abrasive and rowdy for an introductory number. The intensity of the music mixed with Spanish lyrics made it a challenge, if not impossible to understand what was happening within the plot. I was unable to differentiate between what was English and what Spanish. I am not sure if this was occurring due to a diction issue or was simply the nature of the show. I could tell, based from the audience’s expressions that they were either as baffled as I or one hundred percent enthralled in the chaos on stage. I also extend caution to audience members affected negatively by strobe effects as within the first few minutes of the show one of these lighting effects occurs.

    My disconnect with the show continued until the number “Buenos Aires” when Shaylen Harger, as Eva Perón 1, and the rest of the ensemble exploded into one of my favourite numbers of the show. Everything about this number had me engaged. The set suddenly came alive with large multi-story buildings and neon light up signs. The ensemble was boisterous, showing off the incorporation of challenging styles of Latin dance with skill and drumming along to the music. This number created what felt like the heartbeat of the show as it breathed life for the first time. Unlike the chaos of the opening number, “Buenos Aires” had a choreographic discipline order that allowed in to maintain its wild nature without completely going off the rails. Shaylen Harger commanded the stage as she whirled around and quite literally above the rest of the ensemble, impressing me along with the rest of the audience with challenging vocal riffs, strong acting choices, and a very demanding dance routine. At the end of the number she stood quite rightfully out of breath as the audience around me erupted into a loud cheer and applause for the first time.

    While the whole cast was phenomenal, throughout the performance they were constantly in the background compared to the three Evas, whose performances soared beyond my already high expectations. Shaylen Harger introduced the character of Eva beautifully as a cheeky young woman who aspires to rise to power and status. Oliva Kurtz then takes the reins and becomes Eva, la reina de Argentina, a force to be reckoned with, powerful, and highly conflicted between her goals for her people and herself. Kurtz herself develops Eva Perón into the powerful woman behind the president. The performance that was most powerful however was that of Alexandra Colavecchio. Her depiction of Eva at the end of her life was awe inspiring. The raw emotion behind her voice stirred emotion in the hearts of many while still showing the determination and power that she had, even in death.

    I was surprised by the usage of three Eva’s throughout the three major turning points of her life, rise, reign, and decline. If I hadn’t known that the part was originally written for one Eva and not three, this production would have had me fooled. I was not only impressed by the creative directing choices of Tim Howard but also, yet again, by the three young women who played Eva Perón. It was extraordinary to see them share and maintain a consistent character while they also progressed Eva’s character development throughout the production.

    I know many friends who were twice disappointed when they were unable to get tickets to either showing of Evita, and rightfully so. I feel that WCSU’s production was an extremely enjoyable show for an audience to witness both technically and from an acting standpoint.

  5. WSCU Drama is nothing if not talented. The spectacle of the piece itself was stunning. WSCU always tends to outdo itself when it comes to the technical aspects of their productions, and I tip my hat to the crew who make it possible. The piece started off with a bang as a wild and rowdy ensemble emerged from the crowd, immersing the audience. The ensemble did a great job setting the exact mood for each scene with each little movement choreographed to perfection. Visually, the show was stunning, and this particular performance was artistically unique with its non traditional use of three Evitas as opposed to one. If I had no idea there was only supposed to be one Evita, I wouldn’t have known that the show wasn’t written for three. The transitions between Evitas were relatively flawless. And each actress was simply exceptional.

    Shaylen Harger did a beautiful job portraying the fire within the young Evita. Each Evita had lovely, powerful voices, but Shaylen never ceases to bring a true authenticity to each character I’ve seen her portray. Olivia Kurtz, while I found her performance to lack a little luster compared to the other Evitas, did a nice job of convincing the audience that Evita truly valued being an icon as well as making change for the lower class. Her Evita was strongest when it came to portraying Evita’s need to connect with the proletariats, and her vocal range was truly incredible. Alexandra Colavecchio was absolutely the strongest actress of the three. While the first two Evitas were strong musical theater wise, Alexandria did a beautiful job depicting Evita’s illness. The pain portrayed in each of her expressions was so carefully thought through. From the trembling of her hands to the strain in her voice, she did a lovely job portraying Evita’s weakness. But at the same time, she also portrayed her strength. There wasn’t a second I didn’t believe her Evita.

    The men in this production we’re also exceptional. TJ Swetz is another name I feel relieved to see in a program, because I know what I’m getting when I see him. His portrayal of Juan Peron had it’s strong moments accompanied by Swetz’s lovely singing voice. And Mark Sumner, who I was rather shocked to find out was a Freshman, did a great job making a man like Che Guevara seem like the “good guy”. While there were a few songs I felt Mark lacked vocally, he made up for in his ability to portray Che as a sort of hero. Mark brought a nice versatility to the part that I can appreciate.

    Overall, WSCU’s production of “Evita” was incredibly upbeat and inviting. The consistency in the production’s energy did not go unnoticed. Each scene was choreographed beautifully, and this cast and crew was able to make the show an absolute joy to be a part of. The spectacle of the show in particular was impeccable, the costumes, lighting, and set were all beautiful, and the authenticity of the cast was second to none once again.

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