Theatre review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Gail M. Burns: I’ve waited a long time for Evita to be performed in this area…
Larry Murray: It’s one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most interesting concept musicals because its jewel of a lead, Eva Perón (Joanna Russell) left such an impressive legacy that even an Englishman was inspired to make her life into a musical. People don’t think of the safety net she created in the middle of a brutal military dictatorship, but as Evita brings out, her story was propelled by her upbringing as a desposeído. She cared for the poor even as the government enriched itself to the point of bankruptcy.
Gail: Eva Perón (1919-1952) was an amazing woman, and like most amazing women her story is told and retold through various patriarchal lenses – political, religious, sexual and here artistic. Since she was only 33 when she died of cancer, there was not time for Evita to tell her own story.
And while this 1976 Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera is iconic and well known, this is the first time I have been offered an opportunity to see it since I bought a $10 seat in the nose-bleed section of the original Broadway production in 1979. (Yes, you could see a Broadway musical for $10 back then.) It’s a show everyone knows, and nobody does. For the tiny Theater Barn in New Lebanon to tackle it takes chutzpah!
Larry: I was impressed by both leads, Joanna Russell has a tremendous voice which she kept under control, building songs like “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from pianissimo beginnings to exuberant displays of vocal prowess. Her acting style was forthright, and not overwrought, whereas someone trained as an actor rather than a singer might have been tempted to burn up the scenery a bit, don’t you think? In a gorgeous glittering white dress, arms raised high on the balcony, she was every bit the Evita we have come to know from legend.