Reviewed by Jennifer Benoit-Bryan
Evita engages the audience from the very beginning of the show with vintage newsreel footage of Eva’s funeral in 1952. Michael Grandage, the show’s director, uses this footage as a poignant reminder that Evita is based on a true story of a bright star that burned out so very quickly at the age of 33. The chorus weaves in and out of the newsreel film, drawing the audience into the story and at times seeming to become a part of the history unfolding on the newsreel.
After visiting the inevitable conclusion of the story, viewers are transported to a lively dance hall where Eva is discovered by a traveling musician. Eva comes to Buenos Aires and climbs the social ladder, mainly through a series of lovers. The lovers enter and exit Eva’s life in comically rapid fashion until Eva finds Peron. Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice crafted the perfect song for the introduction of these two, “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You” placing attention on how Eva and Peron can work together, or more pessimistically, use each other to reach their political goals.
As Eva would say, Caroline Bowman brings “a little bit of star power” to the role of Eva with powerful performances on familiar titles such as “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” and “High Flying, Adored”. She plays a difficult role balancing a promiscuous Eva at the beginning of the show with a Saintly Eva at the end. While Bowman plays Eva well, she is especially good at portraying the vibrant, sexy, youthful Eva, while I found her depiction of Eva in declining health to be a little unconvincing. Josh Young also brings his character of Che to exuberant life with confident and humorous narration of the story. Josh provides witty banter and background throughout the play, often questioning the popular view of Eva as a Saint.
The show ends on an odd note with Che explaining that a monument to Evita was built to house her body, however before it could be interned in the monument, her body went missing for seventeen years. Curtain. Perhaps this was meant to add a bit of levity? It seemed more unsettling to me, however it did inspire me to do a little research on Eva Peron’s death to find out the rest of the story.
Evita, opening this week at the Oriental Theater provides the whole package: excellent acting, beautiful musical numbers, interesting choreography supported by dynamic sets and costumes. I would highly recommend getting tickets for this show.
Tickets at Broadway in Chicago
Thru October 6th