Monday, April 30, 2018

Evita—Stumptown Stages—downtown Portland

“Absolute Power…”

     This classic, award-winning musical has lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber,  is directed by Kirk Mouser, musical direction by Adam Young and choreographed by Eric Zimmer.  It is playing at the Brunish Theatre (4th floor), 1111 SW Broadway, through May 13th.  For more information, go to their site at

     “…Corrupts Absolutely,” as the old saying goes.  But just saying it hasn’t managed to stop anyone from indulging this Art of Manipulation.  The practice is as old as the hills and is still going on with political leaders throughout the world today, including this country.  You see, politicians don’t actually lie, they just have their own truths.  Or, as the military espouses in one of the better songs from the production, “The Art of the Possible.”  Then all they need are the “unwashed masses” to buy anything they say.  It’s been a successful way of doing business for many moons.

     In this incarnation of this story, based on real incidents and people in Argentina of about 75 years ago, Eva (Kerry Moriarty), soon to be Peron, is a very ambitious, young lady, preferring the night lights to the street life.  She hooks up with an important figure about town, Magaldi (Anthony McCarthy), who opens doors for her.  But she has higher hopes for herself and so, shedding him like a snake sheds its old skin.  She soon finds herself in the political arena and among the Aristocrats, finally meeting the man favored to win the presidency of the country, Juan Peron (Matthew Eric Storm).

     And so, when he is elected, she has maneuvered herself from the nightlife to the place and they marry, after she summarily kicks out his current mistress (Cassandra Pangelinan).  They both soon find out, because of her “common” background, she is immediately accepted and adored by the populace, who has the same breeding as she.  Of course, the main order of business of the military and politicians and the ilk, is to steal from the poor and give to the rich.  And so, a dilemma arises as she begins to overshadow her husband.  She is even regarded as a Saint, especially by one young girl (Ainsley Schmietenknop).  But these experiences do take a toll on her health.

     Her amazing journey is told in narrative style in song by Che (Luis Ventura), who has his own Waterloo to face in Cuba some years later.  The ensemble for this whole production is excellent!  Mouser always manages to get the best voices in the area and they are outstanding in their song and dance numbers.  Some of my favorites were “On This Night of a Thousand Stars,” “Buenos Aires,”  as mentioned, “The Art of the Possible,” “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” (beautifully rendered by Pangelinan), “A New Argentina” (very spiritedly delivered by the ensemble), “And the Money Keeps Rolling In’ and, of course, the classic, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” (powerfully sung by Moriarty).
Mouser certainly has a good eye for casting and has assembled a first-rate cast for this show.  And it’s not easy to stage a classic in such a small space but he knows how to get the maximum effect without sacrificing quality.  Young and his orchestra manage to not let the group overpower the singers and keeps pace easily with Webber’s complex score.  Zimmer’s dance numbers are equally good, as he manages to manipulate the space to his advantage.

     The leads are all spot-on in their acting and singing.  The ensemble also was first-rate in some very complicated numbers and staging.  And, as always, I try to look for that “diamond in the rough” in a supporting role that has real potential for bigger and better things onstage.  In this case, it’s Pangelinan, who not only has a grand voice for her number but also was very energetic and animated in the chorus numbers.  Hope to see more of her onstage in the future.

     I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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