Zach Theatre's Evita

Zach Theatre's polished revival offers food for thought in this season of campaigns and debates

Madeline Trumble and the cast of Evita (Photo by Kirk Tuck)

In this season of political campaigns, it's interesting to see the rise and fall of a past leader, one who inspired real fervor rather than tired cynicism.

In life, Eva Perón was an entertainer in Buenos Aires who rose to become the first lady of Argentina. Through her charisma and determination, she represented a government of questionable success. She also captured the hearts of millions of Argentines, who mourned her death from cancer at the age of 33.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical Evita, staged at Zach Theatre under the direction of Nick Demos, focuses less on the politics of her and her husband's (Matthew Redden) rule and more on how they sought, achieved, and handled power. In the title role, Madeline Trumble commands the stage with a convincing passion. This is a character who may or may not harbor a genuine desire to serve her people. What is more important is her powerful need for every single person in her city, her country, and her world to believe that she is the best person to serve them.

Wrapped up in the question of how much is Eva to be believed is also the suggestion that she used men – many men – to rise, dropping them as soon as they lost their purpose. It's a premise that was easier to accept in the decades since Evita was first performed in the Seventies. Contemporary feminism points out that men, too, use and dispose of women on their way to power and rarely come under criticism for it. Can her supposed promiscuity be used against her fairly? It is one of many questions given to the audience to determine.

If this were improvisation, in which the first rule is say "Yes, and" to every suggestion, the character Che (Andrew Foote) would be a failure. After every emotional moment, this quasi-narrator appears and says, basically, "Nope, not really." He represents the voice of the people who saw the bleaker side of Eva Perón's extravagance and ambition, and when the masses mourn her decline, he points out that perhaps Eva was not so great for Argentina after all.

To that end, Che is arguably a harder role to play than that of Evita, and it's one that Foote only partway lifts above the part of the complainer. The function of the character – to suggest that Eva Perón had her dark sides, too – is important for the play, otherwise it would be an unabashedly worshipful biography. Eva, standing on the grand balcony (set design from Christopher Oram) wearing diamonds and a white dress (costumes from Court Watson), is hard not to adore as she sings her heart out in the most remembered song from the musical. Would that Che had a less snarky means to provide a counterpoint to the heroine.

This production of Evita is polished, and the ensemble is engaging. It presents an angle on the art of politics that is at once cynical and admiring, an ambiguity that is perhaps useful against a backdrop of debates and looming primaries.


Zach Theatre, 202 S. Lamar, 512/476-0541
Through Nov. 1
Running time: 2 hr., 30 min.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Zach Theatre
A Year Later, the Time Is Right for Another Conversation About <i>Notes From the Field</i>
A Year Later, the Time Is Right for Another Conversation About Notes From the Field
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Zach Theatre streamed its staging of the 2019 production and led a discussion on Zoom

Robert Faires, June 19, 2020

Zach Theatre's <i>Every Brilliant Thing</i>
Every Brilliant Thing
This production of Duncan Macmillan's solo show gives audiences a reason to live – make that a million reasons

Robert Faires, Feb. 14, 2020

More Arts Reviews
Ground Floor Theatre’s <i>Unexpected Joy</i>
Ground Floor Theatre’s Unexpected Joy
Sitcom sheen overwhelms this musical’s stage pleasures

Bob Abelman, Dec. 10, 2021

Biography of Spooky Rocker Roky Erickson Gets Inside the Myth and Madness
Biography of Spooky Rocker Roky Erickson Gets Inside the Myth and Madness
New oral history explores the head and mysteries of Austin's psych pioneer

Raoul Hernandez, Dec. 3, 2021

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Book Review: <i>Network Effect</i> by Martha Wells
Book Review: Network Effect by Martha Wells
In this first full-length novel featuring Murderbot, the violent but endearing rogue AI is back for more adventures to delight "all the stupid humans"

July 31, 2020

Sad Girls Productions’ <i>So Lucky</i>
Sad Girls Productions' So Lucky
This world premiere from a brand-new company lacks polish, but it does honor its community’s stories

March 20, 2020


Zach Theatre, Evita, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, Nick Demos, Madeline Trumble, Matthew Redden, Andrew Foote, Christopher Oram, Court Watson

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle