Review: Evita Alive Again

*This review is based off of a final dress rehearsal attended before the performance date.

Music Theatre of Denton's production of Evita is a must-watch with its stunning choreography, strong directing, and the powerful performing of Alena Cardenez as Eva Perón. Cardenez takes Eva and makes her powerful, yet vulnerable, in a nuanced way which carries the musical through Eva's life.

Welcomed in with a video projection interrupted at the news of Eva`s passing, the musical takes off right from the get-go as there is a vigil held in Eva`s honor. Coming through the sides of the audience and onto the stage to kneel in Eva`s honor is the ensemble holding candles for the vigil which instantly sets the tone of how we, as the audience, are about to witness the timeline of Eva`s life. Instantly clear by the large ensemble attending the vigil, is how much of a difference Eva made through many people’s lives.

Based on the real historical figure, Eva Peron, the Campus Theatre honors her with this beautifully run performance. What makes this work so well, making the show so captivating, are the smooth transitions between sets, some on-stage costume changes, which could have been difficult but were performed with ease, and impressive choreography complemented by great acting/singing.

The strongest actress in this show is Alena Cardenez, who plays Eva. She makes clear right from the get-go that her character is determined to go to Buenos Aires with the strength in her walk, and dance as she gets handed a suitcase while singing "Buenos Aires." With clever directing choices, there are quick senses of humor revealed simply through body language, displaying the strong directing.

Another Suitcase in Another Hall and Goodnight And Thank You are two songs which work well in this show. It begins with Che (Michael McCray) playing guitar while he and Evita sing wonderfully. Working their way into staircases pointed horizontally toward the center apron of the stage, Che and Eve stand on opposite stairs singing as views of Eva take place. Quickly, the show makes clear some characters see her as a slut. As she pushes toward fame, these views grow but many people still adore her.

Being such a likable character of the show, Eva is nuanced in her manner. As an audience member, you feel sorry for her as she seems to be a gentle soul who many view wrongly. Historically, it is very polarizing in views of how people see Eva as some love her and others for short, don`t. It is clear though through the musical that Eva does make efforts to help the working class.

Eva, in the show, is confident in her decisions - she is going to do what she desires to do regardless of what other people think. As a new Argentina is called for in the show, Eva quickly climbs up the social ladder to be with Juan Peron (Scott Deck) who later becomes president of Argentina.

As act two takes place, there is an uproar in the characters with a protest of several signs, well designed, held by the ensemble. Standing on the top balcony on the set is Eva in a stunningly beautiful white ball gown, well-fitted for the character Eva by the smart costume designer Jonathan Daniel Martin who had a lot of bold moves for onstage costume changes which worked out really well. Standing atop the balcony singing the long-awaited classic Andrew Lloyd Webber song “Don`t Cry For Me Argentina,” which this musical is known for, Cardenez’ vocals shine.

It’s clear from this moment that fame and fortune are illusions of happiness. With Peron slowly waving to the crowd, it is a moment of calm and assurance that Argentina will be okay as the people realize Eva never left them. While she does reach success, she still carries her working-class roots which connect her deeply to the people in the country. The stellar costume choices, and the slow calming of Argentina’s calamity during the time, work beautifully, as Eva reaches the audience’s heart in song. Stunning in performance and stunning in costume choice, this moment worked so well in Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, where the performance was simply phenomenal.

There is a moment in this show handled so well, it is impressive. It happens as Eva comes from the stairs in a huge sparkling ball gown to center stage and transitions a quick costume change onstage into a nightgown. Quickly from a well done onstage costume change, Eva makes her way to a night desk and sits on a stool with a mirror putting on makeup in her nightgown. It all happens very quickly but the way it happens so smoothly is admirable.

Aside from great acting, the prop usage is also of note. The handing off of suitcases happens quickly and with ease. Costume changes are brilliantly handled and the set was evidently thought out. There are two staircases painted differently on the different sides of them. Being on rollers, the staircases transform the set as they merge together to form one large staircase. Once pulled apart, the separated staircases work well as Eva sings opposite another character. There are many great choices in the show and many magical things happen as characters interact. This show is well worth a watch under the direction of Kyle West. With performances on February 23-25, there are more performances to come on March 2-4. See the website here to purchase tickets.  

Photos by Robert Warren.
Header image designed by Christopher Rodgers