The new revival of Rice and Webber’s haunting tragic and poignant tale of the rise and demise of Eva Peron plays out like a grand opera on the stage of the Providence Performing Arts Center.
The outstanding cast has been rehearsing in Providence before starting out on their national tour, where they will play major cities like Chicago and San Francisco, and we are the richer for it.
Caroline Bowman makes a convincing Evita, the spiritual leader of a troubled Argentina, who fights her way from a lowly actress to a woman willing to climb into any bed as she eventually sets her sights, seduces, marries and controls Juan Peron.
The story is short and simple, and moves quickly over two one-hour acts.
How the story is told is what makes “Evita” a great musical.
Opening and closing with Eva Peron’s death, the musical is told through the eyes of Che, whom actor Josh Young plays, not as Che Guevera, but as one of the citizens of Argentina who follows the life of Evita as she seduces not only Juan Peron, but a majority of the poor common folk of Argentina.
Bowman has a strong voice, which quiets to a whisper as she sings the classic, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.”
And then there is Josh Young, Tony nominee for his role as Judas in the revival of “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” who has that strong, deep, magical voice that commands the attention of the audience every time he speaks or sings.
News footage is used effectively, especially in the opening scene that combines the live actors with footage of massive crowds at Evita’s funeral.
The splendid cast is in the background, enhancing the story through music and dance … some of the best choreography of any musical.
This revival adds more background to the bare-bones original without the background getting in the way of the story. There are many dark scenes that are enhanced by right-on lighting, and one balcony scene that will mesmerize you.
The weeks of rehearsal in Providence were grueling ones for the cast (I was fortunate to watch a brief rehearsal), and it paid off in a show that had precision dancing and an operatic score that required, and got, Broadway level performances from the stars and the ensemble.
This “Evita” is musical theatre at its best. It will be at PPAC through Sept. 14.
Don’t miss it.