Mention the name "Evita," and the first thing that probably comes to mind is the haunting melody, "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina."
Mention the name "Evita," and the first thing that probably comes to mind is the haunting melody, "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." But who, in fact, was this charismatic Eva Peron?
Camelot Artistic Director Livia Genise brings a new perspective to the enigma of the former Argentine first lady in Camelot Theatre Company's production of "Evita," the electrifying and award-winning Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Eva Peron, the wife of Argentine President Juan Peron during the late 1940s, had pretty much faded from memory until Webber and Rice's "Evita" burst on the London musical scene in 1978 and Broadway in 1979.
To the poor and disenfranchised of post-World War II Argentina, Eva Peron was a symbol that one of them could achieve wealth and power. To the upper classes — and to most of the rest of the world — she was a beautiful woman who cynically manipulated her "descamisados"— the shirtless ones — for her own ends.
Performances are set for Wednesdays through Sundays, Oct. 16-20 and 23-27, then Thursdays through Sundays through Nov. 17. Curtain is at 8 p.m. nightly; 2 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets cost $25 for the Oct. 16 preview, a benefit for WinterSpring. Tickets cost $12 for the Oct. 17 preview. All other tickets cost $27, $25 for seniors and students.
Tickets can be purchased at the box office from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances, by calling 541-535-5250 or online at www.camelottheatre.org.
In "Evita," Webber and Rice use the character of Eva's contemporary, the Argentine-born, Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, to both narrate and comment on Evita's rise to power. But in real life, they never met.
"I've never seen a production that really explains the purpose of the Che character," says Genise, who directs "Evita." "In the Broadway production, he is a sardonic scold. In the movie, he is sort of an 'everyman,' popping up in odd places to comment on the action."
Genise points out that Eva Peron and Che Guevara had a lot in common: They both felt that the powerful had only contempt for the poor. Eva Peron was born into poverty, an illegitimate child shunned by her father's family. Che Guevara came from a well-to-do background and developed his social conscience as an adult. Both felt genuine compassion for poor people, but were not above using them for their own ends.
"They had a similar ruthlessness," says Genise. "And they were both dead before the age of 40. By the end of 'Evita,' Che has become part of the story. I believe that Che acts as Evita's conscience, a reminder to us of her flaws, her hypocrisy.
"Both Evita and Che have glimpsed their own humanity."
Camelot's production stars Rebecca K. Campbell as Evita, Bob Jackson Miner as Peron and Erik Connolly as Che.
The 22-member cast includes Caitlin Campbell, Ricardo Cervantes Jr., Julia Holden-Hunkins, Vanessa Hopkins, Rigo Jimenez, BriAnna Johnson, Joey Larimer, Kathleen Marrs, Jonathan Matthews, Laurie Morey, Marilyn Reppert, Derek Rosenlund, Lillie Shepherd, Daniel Stephens and Camelot Conservatory students Madison Garren, Ava Parducci, Will Ransom and Sarah Stauff.
Choreography is by Genevieve Andreaessen and Rebecca K. Campbell. Music direction is by Mark Reppert and is performed by Reppert, Lori Calhoun, Jesus Mendoza, Karl Iverson and Steve Sutfin.
"'Evita' is truly an opera," says Genise. "There is very little spoken dialogue. I feel fortunate to have classically trained voices for my leads. Vocally, these guys soar.
"I've tried to make this production visually unique," says Genise. "I've made the musical number 'High Flying, Adored' a ballet. We see a montage of the young Eva and what she has done to achieve success. I've also put a different emphasis on the song 'You Must Love Me.' I see Evita finally realizing that Peron does love her. He is the father figure she has always longed for."
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.