The Theatre at Vint Hill was filled to the brim with musical talent from its cast and live orchestra at Fauquier Community Theatre’s production of the rock opera Evita by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice.
Director Jeff Walker uses the 2012 Broadway revival version and adapts many of its elements for the smaller stage at Vint Hill. The show opens with a black-and-white film starring the real Eva from her early years as an actress. It is soon interrupted with breaking news: “Eva Peron, spiritual leader of Argentina, has entered immortality.” The screen lifts to reveal a casket surrounded by mourners as well as a live orchestra on stage. We then meet Che (James Maxted) as our narrator, who gives us a deeper understanding of Eva’s past and how it shapes her fervent quest for a better life.
Eva Duarte learns from a young age how to use her charisma to get what she wants. Jennifer Ayers as Eva is a powerful force, taking over every scene with a focus on storytelling through contemporary vocal inflections and strong acting choices. Eva attaches herself to an Argentinian tango singer named Magaldi, played by Timothy R. King. King is delightfully charming and has wonderful showmanship in the song “On This Night of a Thousand Stars.” But even Magaldi’s charisma is no match for Eva’s coercion as she convinces him to take her to Buenos Aires. It is here where her star truly burns brightly.
Her path leads to Colonel Juan Peron (Wayne Mattson), a rising political figure in Argentina. Eva sees great potential in his political ambitions — and in turn, Peron sees a fitting match. Their duet, “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You,” also features a lovely tango by dancers Elizabeth Steimel and Tommy Christensen.
The story to this point has focused on Eva’s ascent with little attention on the aftermath. We now meet Peron’s former lover, simply referred to as Mistress. Christine Maxted as Mistress truly shines in the song “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” with a beautiful and heartbreaking performance. Her presence in the musical is a powerful dichotomy to Eva’s cutthroat behavior and the expectations of women to be submissive supporters. The number also includes a men’s chorus who double as the chorus of rejected Lovers from the previous number, “Goodnight and Thank You.” It shows that both Eva and Colonel Peron leave similar trails of broken lovers in the wake of their ambitions.
Eva continues her ascent and the audience is along for the ride. Jennifer Ayers shines brightest during “Rainbow High” as she transforms on stage into the quintessential Eva Peron with platinum hair and designer clothing. Eva and Peron marry and they both gain more popularity, leading Peron to win support from the working-class Argentinians. Eva is living larger than life and is now driven by a stronger sense of urgency as her health continues to quickly deteriorate.
The best number in the show for me is “And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out),” featuring Che and the ensemble. James Maxted’s vocals are on full display as he tells the story of Eva’s large fundraising and larger spending through her Foundation. Choreographers Danica Shook and Marie-Louise Lyon do a lovely job of utilizing the smaller stage with creative spacing and featured moments for many performers. Although many people of Argentina are happy, civil unrest continues to grow and political upheaval is on the horizon. Che continues to represent the voice of dissent and confronts Eva’s motivations and the cult of personality that surrounds her in “The Waltz for Eva and Che.” Her health soon takes a toll and she succumbs to cancer at the age of 33, leaving behind a grieving nation. In the closing moments, the audience is left to wonder if Eva was truly a hero of the people or a manipulative con artist — or perhaps both?
The technical aspects of the show are well executed with quick transitions and effective lighting design. Music Director and Conductor Jack Dusek does an impressive job of adapting the epic rock opera score for his 10-piece orchestra, many of whom are playing multiple instruments throughout the show. I appreciated that the orchestra was on an elevated platform on the stage so that they could be seen throughout the show. And kudos to the sound team for a well-mixed production — we were able to hear the live orchestra and the singers throughout the production.
Audiences will enjoy the wonderful music and talented cast of Fauquier Community Theatre’s Evita. The Vint Hill Theatre has assigned seating and I recommend purchasing tickets in advance before they sell out.
Running Time: Two hours, including one intermission.
Evita plays through October 1, 2023, presented by Fauquier Community Theatre performing at Vint Hill Theatre on the Green, 4225 Aiken Drive, Warrenton, VA. Tickets ($18–$22) are available online, at the door, or by calling the box office at 540-349-8760.
Printed playbills are available at the performances and also as a preview here.
See Facebook for additional photos.
COVID Safety: Fauquier Community Theatre is following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health. As such, we will not have any seating or distancing restrictions. Face coverings are optional. If you feel sick or are displaying any symptoms of COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone sick, please do not attend. The theater’s complete COVID Procedures are here.
This project was supported, in part, by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, which receives support from the Virginia General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.