Hamilton Theatre’s Evita is a sturdy, well rehearsed production with strong vocalists and capable direction. (Sharon Reynolds) . This small company stages a mighty musical without lowering the bar.
Evita is about the theatre of politics in the Peron regime in Argentina in the forties. It focuses on Colonel Peron’s consort, Eva, an idealized beauty adored for her sympathetic temperament and humble start. From prostitution to the stage to the head of state, Eva played hard ball. She shot into power at 26 and died from ovarian cancer at 33. She was a slum kid on the move who hid her scrappy hubris in sweetened speeches and Hollywood glam. Helping her right wing husband court the unions by mouthing concerns for the working class poor, she was a people’s princess, an actress who freshened up the old guard’s lines.
The challenge of Tim Rice’s script is the Brechtian narration of the character referred to as Che. Played by the talented Eric Christopher Charters, whose eyes have a fine Guevarian flash, the narrator registers ennui and disdain for Eva from beginning to end. He is harsh, critical and unambiguous, a stance meant to offset the false–fronted Eva. The flaw is that Che becomes tiresome. Eva, played by Mariah Loaker, is written to be brash and unrepentant in her climb to power. We long for a moment of hesitation or regret that would allow us to care. Only in her speeches to the masses do we taste her talent to play on emotions, a skill learned from being a soap opera star. Loaker is a fine Eva although at times she swallows her lines. Her initial manipulation of Magaldi could use less brattiness and more heat, but her transformation into the martyred Evita is convincing.
Fortunately, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music, highlighted of course by ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’ allows both leads to soar. The music gives us the emotional punch we crave. This cast does a very capable job thanks to the musical director, Bruce Tournay. The only false note, on the night I attended, was the first belt of the chorus coming in off key. After that they flew, with strong support from the orchestra (Bruce Tournay, Lynn Jamieson and James Garnett). Melissa Lauren Todd nailed the song ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’; Dustin J. Jodway had a lot of fun playing the greasy tango king, Magaldi, and Matt Moore as Juan Peron was a convincing combination of wily and infatuated, jowly and distinguished. Both the female and male ensembles kept pace with many spirited changes of character and choreography.
One small let down was the set. The central blue door refused to swing shut causing Eva to pose, arms stretched, to stabilize the scenery. So often is this entrance used, by everyone in the cast repeatedly, that set designer Dustin Jodway really had to get it right. Another let down is the program. The synopsis is in need of a good edit, and the names of Rice and Weber are nowhere in sight.
It’s a good night out, watching a cast working hard to remind us that image over content fools most of the people most of the time. Eva Peron was crowned Spiritual Leader of the Nation and given a state funeral. V
May 9–11, 15–17
@ Hamilton Theatre Inc.,
140 MacNab St N.