Producing one of Broadway’s most well-known and challenging rock operas takes precision, talent and acceptance of a little managed chaos.
That was the scene last week at Flathead Valley Community College’s theater, as the cast and crew rehearsed “Evita,” their final production of the spring season. FVCC Theatre begins performances on April 15.
Deciding on “Evita” as the last show of the season was a bit daunting, director Joshua Kelly said, but he believes his cast is up to the task.
“There’s nothing easy about this show, whatsoever,” Kelly said. “These characters are larger than life.”
The story follows Eva Duarte, eventually nicknamed Evita, on her climb from anonymity to infamy as the influential wife of Argentinean President Juan Peron. The opera begins with Evita’s chance encounter with a tango singer, sparking a whirlwind of romantic and political entanglements in the big city of Buenos Aires.
In the opera, Evita’s influence on her husband’s power eventually leads to the country’s bankruptcy and other scandals.
Her life, a true rags-to-riches tale, polarized the Argentinean social classes; the military and upper classes regarded her as a threat, while her humble beginnings and charity works once in power endeared her enough to the working classes that they tried to canonize her after her death.
The production, written in the late 1970s by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, launched the career of Broadway star Patti LuPone and won seven Tony Awards. It is responsible for such hits, as “Buenos Aires,” “High Flying, Adored,” and perhaps its most famous song, “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”
“Evita” also hit movie screens in 1996, starring Madonna in the lead role, and Antonio Banderas as the expressive and opinionated narrator, Che.
The music takes plenty of talent to pull off, Kelly said, especially for the principal characters. Actress Kerri Javorka, a Flathead High School graduate, grabbed the role of Eva Peron after Kelly saw her perform in the Whitefish Theatre Company’s “Secret Garden” earlier in the year.
Shane Smith takes on the role of Che and Tony Hernandez will play Juan Peron. Greg Bortz will play Magaldi and Kristi Persinger takes one of the principal roles as The Mistress.
But a production this scale takes more than vocal talent to pull off. The entire cast, which numbers near 40 people, is responsible for dance numbers and maneuvering through a stage set that the crew constructed for this project.
The set pieces include a 10-foot steel structure with a railing, which is flanked on either side by shorter metal stands to give the characters varying depths and more versatility throughout the opera.
The stage will also feature new, theatrical LED lights incorporated into the design.
Kelly said he has previous experience with “Evita,” performing it earlier in his acting career in California. Directing, however, is a completely different task.
“I’ve always wanted to direct it,” Kelly said. “I never thought I’d get the chance to do it this soon in my life.”
There’s enough to do for multiple directors, he said, and that’s exactly what he’s working with: assistant director Michael McBurney; vocal directors Linnea Springer and Karissa Brown; choreographer Aly Root and technical director Rich Haptonstall.
“It takes a whole team to direct a show like ‘Evita,’” Kelly said. “A musical has to have a flow, it has a million and a half different details that you wouldn’t think of.”
However, Kelly is confident his cast and crew are up to the challenge, and advised audiences to be ready for a great show.
“Every night in rehearsal I’m astounded to see what happens,” Kelly said. “I know audiences will be completely blown away.”
“Evita” will run April 15-30, with performances only on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 senior citizens. Advanced tickets can be purchased at www.fvcc.edu/fvcctheatre, at the FVCC Bookstore, or by calling 756-3814. Remaining tickets will be available at the FVCC Theatre box office one hour before show time.
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