Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita”, based on the real life of Eva Peron who careened from Argentina’s slums to its presidential mansion, is a sort of tainted Cinderella story. Broadway musical enthusiasts have loved it since its late 1970s inception as well as a revival in 2012, with an added big screen Madonna and Antonio Banderas version in ’96. And now, onto the Phoenix Theatre stage. With the opening this week, the show’s leading lady and director visited yesterday with Examiner.
“We’re focusing on Evita as a memory piece,” began Director Robert Kolby Harper, noting he wants to convey “what makes her human… Why is Eva the way she is? It asks, ‘What makes a strong person vulnerable? What is she concealing? reacting to?”
“As a public figure, people either loved her or they hated her,” Harper continued, suggesting this iteration will get at the kernels of emotion inside the fig, flashy history that generated such strong feelings from others. “Our show will form around that ‘flowy’ kind of memory? It’s a different, sort of backstage view of the story. We’re keeping what’s sometimes been produced as spectacle more simple.”
“I see her as multi-faceted, not the tyrant that some of the country wanted to label her,” said Alyssa Chiarello, about to take the stage as Eva Peron for the next 5 weeks. “Behind all that power that she hadn’t been trained to handle was a blood and bone, bare lady. I need to dig deep, show the humanity of this woman.”
Chiarello, who is the same age Peron was at her meteoric rise in Argentina, got a mischievous smile as she characterized Eva, “She was kinda’ scrappy and ‘quippy’. She used her sexuality as part of her feistiness. Then suddenly, she had to figure out how to control that fire.”
Harper interjected, about Chiarello who resides in New York but received a Musical Theatre degree in 2011 from ASU, “Alyssa is an intentionally driven actor. There’s a passionate depth to her singing that cuts through the surface of the lyrics.”
“When she read and sang for the audition, it didn’t feel like she stayed on the page….. We won’t just see Evita, we will see and hear the many faces she wears.”
We’ll, of course, also hear “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” And the choreography, according to Harper will be “tango influenced with concert dance.”
It seems as though “Evita as a memory piece” will present an old fashioned story as a modern theatre experience.
“The arts are the heartbeat of a city,” summarized Harper, placing “Evita” on a larger community canvas of public figures and government. “With all that’s happening, as a country today, we are being divided. Like it was for Argentina, it starts to be scary when we stop finding moments of heart and humanity in each other. “