By SAMANTHA PIDDE
Timber Lake Playhouse's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Evita" is a powerful and interesting look at the rise of Eva and Juan Peron in Argentina.
With TLP Artistic Director James Beaudry providing the visual concept, direction and choreography, this musical draws the audience into the life and death of this real-life Argentinian First Lady who was despised by some and considered a saint by others.
With a creative use of a minimalistic set and the use of projected media to lend context and facts to the story, "Evita" comes to life in a fascinating way, enthralling the audience. The way TLP and Beaudry choose to present the musical highlights the wonderful performances by the entire cast.
Guest performer Melissa Weyn shines as Eva Peron. She plays the controversial First Lady of Argentina with charm and charisma, while also showing her manipulative and flawed side. This layered performance humanizes the character.
Resident performer Christopher Kelly swaggers onto the stage as the rebellious and contemptuous Che Guevara. As both narrator and antagonist to Eva, he highlights her less than stellar qualities and openly mocks those who mourn her as a saint.
With a deep, booming voice and a definite stage presence, guest performer Erik Dohner stands well as Juan Peron. While this political figure may take a back seat to his beloved wife, Dohner's strong performance ensures he will not be forgotten.
With his smooth voice and charming smile, resident performer Kieran McCabe wonderfully portrays musician Migaldi, who brings young Eva to Buenos Aires.
As "Peron's Mistress," resident rerformer Emilie Kouatchou (also part of the ensemble cast) beautifully performed the hauntingly sad "Another Suitcase In Another Hall." The emotion expressed in this song about the end of an affair and moving on could be felt by the audience.
The production is rounded out spectacularly with the ensemble cast, including: Samantha Bonzi, Elya Fay Bottiger, Grant Alexander Brown, Sam Columbus, Nick Drake, Kiersten Frumkin, Molly Hernandez, Areo Keller, Marcus Martin, Enrique Miguel, Charles Mayhew Miller, Hope Schafer, Ken Singleton and Nissi Shalome Smith.
This ensemble is expertly used to round out Eva's world, with cast members portraying everything from soldiers, ladies of high society, Eva's past paramours, every day citizens and more.
While "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" is the song everyone knows, this musical includes many more great songs, such as the previously mentioned "Another Suitcase In Another Hall." Songs like "Buenos Aires," "Goodnight And Thank You," "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You," "High Flying Adored" and "The Chorus Girl Hasn't Learned" perfectly tell Eva's path from a poor, illegitimate girl, to a well-known actress and finally Argentina's First Lady.
"A New Argentina" is a rousing score, led in part by Che and the working class. A great deal more exciting and touching songs round out this phenomenal rock opera.
The TLP musicians, who bring the soundtrack to life, include: Cindy Blanc at piano and conductor; Andrew Milliken on keyboards; Cameron Rockwell on cello; Denise Deter and Emily Nunemaker on woodwinds; Ben Logan on trumpet; Joe Titus on trombone; Kieran McCabe on guitar; Kasey Steil on bass; Christian Moreno on percussion.
TLP's "Evita" would not have been possible without the work of Costume Designer Ryan S. Ginter, Lighting Designer Riley Wood, Sound Designer Colin Marshall, Properties Designer Calan Wilder, Hair Designer Emma O'Dell, Stage Manager Mary-Catherine Mikalayunas, Associate Director and Production Designer Kevin Johnson and crew.
With a terrific soundtrack and an interesting look into the life of Eva Peron, TLP’s "Evita" is wonderful way to spend an evening.
"Evita" is showing at the playhouse in rural Mount Carroll through Sunday, July 9. Tickets are available online at timberlakeplayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 815-244-2048. The box office is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.