Georgetown Palace Theatre's Evita
In this engaging production, the saga of Eva Perón is told with immediacy and power
Reviewed by Laura Jones, Fri., June 28, 2019
In the original 1979 review of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, The New York Times quipped that the musical was more secondhand hearsay than direct action. The character of Ernesto "Che" Guevara functions as the audience's tour guide, narrating the brief, impactful life of Argentina's other most important figure, Eva Duarte de Perón, or Evita – so much so that a cardinal rule of writing is at times broken. The audience is told about, rather than witnessing firsthand, the action of the story. At the Georgetown Palace Theatre's engaging new production, Guevara, played commandingly by Steve Williams, does indeed provide the main highlights of Evita's life: her rise from poverty to actress to national hero, and her funeral, populated by mourning crowds chanting her name. But there is so much right with the company's production that it's hard to pick at this flaw in Lloyd Webber's design.
While Guevara is the show's anchor, its emotional center is Evita herself, played here by Michelle Haché. She is a powerhouse, evocative of Broadway's original Eva Perón, Patti LuPone: possessing the same intensity, small and compact, but explosive all the same. Her magnetism fills the stage. Haché is a rare breed, an actress who not only sings as well as she does, but who's also a singer who acts. When her Evita stands on her balcony for the first time to sing to her people – and they chant back – it is palpable how moved Haché is, how surprised. There's nothing about her performance that feels secondhand to the action or merely narrated, not felt.
Haché isn't on her own, but is supported by a great team of male counterparts: Williams as Guevara; honey-voiced Daniel Ponce as Agustín Magaldi, the traveling crooner Evita tags along with on her way to Buenos Aires; and Jim Lindsay as Juan Perón, whose singing and stature never compete with Haché's, but only complement them. Director Clifford Butler has also succeeded in pulling together a beautiful ensemble, rich with strong voices, and in keeping the production clipping along at a steady beat. It's hard to underestimate the importance of pacing. In fact, it may be said to be a director's primary job, as he or she is the ultimate eye of the audience, watching the show many times before they arrive. Butler has done this, using engaging devices like film clips and photographs of the real Perón to enrich the staging. At times, the dance numbers feel a bit crowded and could have been thinned out for such a small stage, but that is a minor quibble in this powerful production. It's one you will need to travel north of Austin to see, but also one that's ultimately worth every mile.
EvitaGeorgetown Palace Theatre, 810 S. Austin Ave., Georgetown, 512/869-7469
Through July 7
Running time: 2 hr., 20 min.