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THEATER REVIEW: An Ambitious Evita

by Chris Conley

I have an appreciation for people who take on complicated challenges. Thats why Im looking forward to opening night of Evita , this years musical from the Everest Academy for the Performing Arts. Just like last years production, Miss Saigon , this is a complicated number. Many community theater groups shy away from it.

When audiences leave the theater after Evita, audiences openly ask if theyve watched a love story or a tale of a woman who slept her way to the top. Is she a great 'woman-of-the-people' or someone who's living lavishly off Argentina's state treasury? The role of Evita is ambiguous on purpose. And its not easy to find a lead actress who is convincing in both aspects. And, since this is an Andrew Lloyd Weber production, the lead needs to be a very talented singer. There is no spoken dialogue; Evita is a pop-music operetta.

Ill post a review after tonights show.

There are performances at 7:30pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the D.C. Everest Senior High School auditorium.

Chris Conley
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau

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Im not sure what to make of the historical Eva Peron. And nearly 50 years after her death historians havent reached consensus either on whether she was a corrupt social-climbing pickpocket or the inspirational first-lady-of-charity for Argentina. Of course, she is both. I lean slightly more towards the ambitious-Evita. And the Everest Academy of the Arts production leans more towards her admirable qualities. Its one of the small things that seemed off in an otherwise very ambitious production.

Director Christian Ammon has put together a very talented cast. But for most of the evening I sensed that every bit of their ability and skill was being used to reach for a production that sometimes was just out their grasp. The opening night performance had enough technical flaws to be a distraction, with several microphone malfunctions and set problems. Its likely that these kinks will be ironed out for the three remaining shows. Very few community theater productions come off without a hitch.

Beth Swartz, as Evita, is a tremendous singer and her vocals do not disappoint. Shes not as sure of herself as a dancer; she hesitates with her partners and appears to labor through the more difficult routines. But she strikes a stunning pose in all of the First Lady scenes, and, while she appears overly innocent in Act 1, she brings forth the determination thats needed in Act 2. She is an undeniable talent. She also shares top billing for the night with Tyler Kudinger, as Che, who has an equally-demanding role. His singing is excellent and does a good job with the sung-narration thats required to keep the story moving.

Theres quality elsewhere in the cast. Jonathan Smith delivered his nightclub torch-song very well as Magaldi. Breanne Sommer, as Perons mistress, has a lovely singing voice. The close-choreography and the childrens choir numbers are well done.

I admire that the Everest Academy picks tough shows. In only their second year, they will continue to attract better actors who want a higher degree of difficulty. That alone makes this production worth seeing, and keeps me excited about their future productions. Of course, the challenge is to make it all seem effortless. This wasnt. Youll be aware that this show swims in the deep water, and has to work hard to keep its head above it.

Chris Conley
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau