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Home | Maine State Music Theater Reviews | EVITA Shines at Maine State Music Theatre

EVITA Shines at Maine State Music Theatre

EVITA Shines at Maine State Music Theatre

Review by Charles Crosby

The 2016 Season at Maine State Music Theatre (MSMT) continues to wow Southern Mid Coast Maine audiences with the popular 1970's musical EVITA.  How can it lose with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice? The musical is about the extraordinary life of Argentine political leader Eva Perón (Maria Eva Duarte de Perón), the second wife of Argentine president Juan Perón. The story follows Evita's early life, rise to power, charity work, and eventual untimely death to cancer.  What began as a rock opera concept album released in 1976, followed by productions in London's West End, and on Broadway a year later it continues to do well with audiences.
The show which runs through July 16 is a dynamic musical masterpiece which recounts the story of Eva Perón through a compelling score that fuses haunting chorales with exuberant Latin, pop and jazz influences. Iconic songs in the show include "Don't Cry For Me Argentina," "Rainbow High," and "On this Night of a Thousand Stars." EVITA creates an arresting theatrical portrait as complex as the First Lady herself.
Born out of wedlock, Eva, commonly known as Evita, left school when she was 16 and went to Buenos Aires to pursue her dream of becoming a star. She found a job on one of the radio stations and remained there until, in 1943, she met Juan Peron, the Secretary of Labour and Social Welfare, who had ambitions to be president, and was working with the Argentine workers to support this bid. Evita began a relationship with Peron and she helped him to win popular support. His popularity led to his arrest in 1945, but Evita helped to organize a mass demonstration that led to his release. On 21 October 1945, Evita and Juan were married and in 1946 she actively campaigned by his side, an unprecedented occurrence in Argentine politics. She directly appealed to the worst-off groups in Argentina, claiming to understand their plight.
MSMT newcomer, Kate Fahrner, was incredible in the role of Eva Perón. From the moment she stepped onto the stage the audience responded to her aura. She took on the character like few others could and truly became the iconic Agentine leader. Fahrner has an impressive resume having been seen on Broadway in WICKED and touring with several national productions.  Also new to MSMT audiences this season is Matt Farcher who portrays Che. In this role he appears in nearly every scene as a singing storyteller. Farcher is the glue that holds the entire production together. His voice is warm, powerful and he is a real standout. I can not think of a better choice in this role. It is great to see MSMT favorite Nat Chandler back as he takes on the role of Argentine President Juan Perón. Chandler has appeared in several MSMT productions including THE SCARLET PIMPERNELBEAUTY and the BEAST and I really enjoyed him in SPAMALOT. Chandler has a deep rich speaking and singing voice and appears perfectly at home in this role. Some of my favorite scenes in Act I include Goodnight and Thank You, I'd Be Suprisingly Good for You and A New Argentina with its catchy chorus that I could not get out of my head after the show. The dancing in this show is spectacular and one highlight was a Tango choreographed and performed amazingly by Mark Stuart and Jaime Verazin. Seeing this duo perform is worth the price of the ticket alone. I am always happy to see a production directed by Marc Robin who also choreographed EVITA.  Robin has again hit it out of the park with this musical and there is so much going on during each act that the audience is never bored.  I was very impressed with the use of images on screens on the stage to depict the period with real photos of the couple, their fans and sounds of life in the 1940's and 50's it makes the audience experience what it was like to live in Buenos Aires. 
The second act was as strong as the first and highlights included Fahrner singing "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" effortlessly. Wait until you here her sing...this was an unforgettable and moving performance. The 15 scene act moves quickly and before you know it the show is over ending on the somber death of Eva.  
EVITA standouts include Ben Michael who played Magaldi and sang beautifully during several scenes and Salena Qureshi as Peron's mistress. The largest MSMT cast to ever to grace the stage a Pickard Theatre also included Glenn Anderson, Mike Backes, Klyle E. Baird, Ceasar F. Barajas, Justin DeParis, Giovanni DiGabriele, Alex Drost, Raymond Marc Dumont, Megan Flynn, Siri Howard, Berkley Jones, Kyle Laing, Marty Lauter, Jessica Lorion, Heather Morgan, Haley Ostir, Lexi Rabadi, Olivia Ashley Reed, Matty Rickard, Ernest Sauceda, Liz Shivener, Billy Clark Taylor, Matthew West, Katie Whittemore and Cameron Wright. 
It was a delight to see an ensemble which was made up of local children including Kobi Appleby (Topsham), Anna Bainter-Clark (Westbrook), Charlotte Blakemore (Brunswick), Lily Carrigan (Portland), Aymeric Dauge-Roth (Bath), Ashley J.H. DeSchamp (Manchester), Andy Dolci (Lewiston), Aidan Gallagher (Freeport), Elaine Landry (Camden), Eli Thomas Maynard (Freeport), Alexa Reddy (Brunswick), Alexandra Spiegel (South Portland), Nina Stevens (Scarborough) and Madeleine Vaillancourt (Lewiston).
Musical Director, Edward Reichert is excellent as usual and the orchestra really completes the show.  The balance was perfect from where I sat in the orchestra. Reichert was assisted by Patrick Fanning who also directed Ghost the Musical. MSMT Production Manager Charles S. Kading is back for his 26th year as Scenic Designer and his team which included Resident Assistant Stage Manager, Amy M. Bertacini, Technical Director Eleanor Richards, and Production Stage Manager Mark Johnson do a great job with the sets, scene changes and coordinating the lights (Jeffrey S. Koger - Lighting Designer), sound (A&L Sound Partners/Nate Putnam - Sound Designer), and visual effects (Dan Efros).
Managing Director, Stephanie Dupal and Artistic Director, Curt Dale Clark and their staff and volunteers are to be commended for the great work they continue to do every season to bring great musicals to the campus of Bowdoin College.  
For the run of EVITA Curt Dale Clark made a special announcement from the stage before the opening night performance. He said that Highland Green in Topsham and Oceanview at Falmouth had made a $50,000 Matching Gift to support MSMT Past-Present-Future. He encouraged audience members to make some sort of donation on the way out of the theatre. For more information on how you can help support the theatre and enable the entire amount to be donated please contact Barbara Whidden, Development Director (207) 725-0150 gifts@msmt.org or Curt Dale Clark, Artistic Director (207) 725-0124 msmtcdc@gmail.com.
MSMT's 2016 season is sponsored by Highland Green and OceanView at Falmouth. This show is brought to you by Casco Bay Wealth Advisors, DownEast Magazine, Dispatch Magazine, Norway Savings Bank, Wex, Senter Place, and Frontier Cafe. Act quickly if you would like to purchase tickets for EVITA.  You may purchase your tickets online at www.msmt.org, over the phone by calling 207-725-8769, or in person by visiting the Box Office located at in the Pickard Theater at 1 Bath Road on the Bowdoin College Campus in Brunswick.
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