Like any normal child, I was obsessed with the 1996 film Evita, the film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical chronicling Eva Duarte’s rise from her humble origins as an illegitimate child shunned by her father’s middle-class family to becoming first lady of Argentina. A lot of Evita went over my head in those days (although it taught me words like “whore” and “oligarch”), and it’d be years before I realized how it romanticized despots and contained super slut-shamey lyrics. But nostalgia is a hell of a drug, which is why I found myself at Stumptown Stages’ recent adaptation of the original 1978 musical.
The stripped-down set made scene changes a snap, but was perhaps a missed opportunity to convey the class dynamics intrinsic to Eva’s trajectory—and we needed all the help we could get, given that the mics noticeably cut in and out for the performance I saw. Fortunately, at the Brunish Theatre, you can still hear unamplified singers. Unfortunately, comprehending the actual words being sung depends on your assigned seat and which way an actor is facing. I feared those in the audience who hadn’t spent hours singing “A New Argentina” into the mirror wouldn’t grasp the entire narrative, let alone the subtext.
Luis Ventura was a capable Che, the populist foil narrating Eva’s political rise, and Anthony McCarthy was an adept Magaldi. Matthew Eric Storm’s smug face and stiff posture captured Juan Perón, a politician concerned with power and appearances; he was one of the few actors to bring more to the role than what was provided in the script.
Kerry Moriarty’s talents as Eva were best exhibited during “Rainbow High”; she was able to belt out the dauntless number while being undressed and re-dressed by the ensemble. Still, her classically trained (and by all means impressive) voice seemed at times too polished for the scrappy Eva, who never forgot where she came from.
One highlight was Cassandra Pangelinan’s solo during “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” Raw but powerful, her voice fit the circumstances perfectly—Perón’s young mistress is righteously bewildered and wounded after getting thrown out by Eva. It was the only time I felt the real emotion behind a song come out in the performance. If only more of the musical had done the same—taken a cue from the “Buenos Aires” refrain and added “just a little touch of star quality.”