Lauren Kennedy and Ray Walker will reprise their roles as Argentina’s flamboyant First Lady Eva María Duarte de Perón (1919-52), a.k.a. “Evita,” and dashing Argentinean Marxist and Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto Guevara (1928-67), a.k.a. “El Ché” or just “Ché,” in the North Carolina Theatre‘s high-octane Oct. 22-30 revival of Evita, Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice’s 1978 West End and 1979 Broadway mega-musical. Broadway star and Raleigh, NC native Lauren Kennedy and Saint Johnsbury, VT native and North Carolina Theatre Conservatory artistic director Ray Walker last squared off as Evita and Ché in NCT’s 1993 presentation of Evita, directed and choreographed by Tito Hernandez, who is reteaming with Walker and Kennedy for the revival.
Evita will have its Target Student Preview at 7 p.m. tonight and run Oct. 22, 23, and 25-30 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh.
“I first heard of the show when I was in high school,” recalls actor, director, and choreographer Tito Hernandez. “Then I purchased the sound track and became an immediate fan.
“It was not until years later,” Hernandez notes, “that I was in a production of Evita for TUTS (Theatre Under the Stars), a regional theater in Houston, TX. I later was cast in the touring production of Evita, which kept me on the road for two years. It was during that time that I was asked to come and choreograph a production of the show here in Raleigh in 1993, starring Lauren Kennedy and Ray Walker.”
He adds, “I really like this show, because it is based on a true story [and Lloyd Webber and Rice have] a clever, thought-provoking approach to telling it. In addition, the music is haunting and indicative of each situation, helping the audience feel each mood of the moment.
“I wanted to direct this particular production,” says Hernandez, “because I wanted to take a fresh new approach to an ‘old chestnut.’ Also, the opportunity to work with Lauren and Ray again was very attractive!”
He adds, “Evita is about the rise of Eva (Lauren Kennedy), a poor uneducated girl, to [immense] political and financial power. She rose up through the ranks by sleeping with and convincing just the right people like Magaldi (Nick Duckart), a semi-famous night club singer.
“She finally marries the well-respected general Juan Perón (Jonathan Hammond), and she then helps her husband become President of Argentina. But,” Hernandez says, “As First Lady, Evita depletes all of the country’s funds. She left the nation bankrupt.”
He notes, “The story is told through the eyes of Ché Guevara (Ray Walker), the political activist who was apposed to all ‘Perónism.’ He acts as the social conscience and moral compass of the nation. He continues to question the nation as to what they believe and what is reality.”
Besides to the performers named above, featured cast members include Jonathan Stahl as a Tango Dancer and English Bernhardt as a Mistress, The chorus of Evita includes Mary Adamek, dance captain Sherry Lee Allen, Julian Alvarez, Laurena Barros, Amanda Blaire Callaghan, Jason Mark Durst, Erik Floor, Sean Gargan, Elgin Giles, Heather Patterson King, Carissa Lopez, Christopher C. Minor, Ryan Naimy, Vincent Ortega, Haley Richardson, Johnny Stellard, Selina Verastigui, Mackenzie Warren, and Matthew-Jason Willis.
The show’s children’s chorus includes Chloe Renee Calhoun, Mary Kate Englehardt, William Fergusson, Carly Grissom, Joshua Keen, Mary Callan Kelso, Nicholas Kraft, Caroline Lipson, Michael Raul Perez, and Cady van Venrooy.
In addition to director and choreographer Tito Hernandez, the North Carolina Theatre creative team for Evita includes producer Carolee Baxter; artistic director Casey Hushion; assistant director and choreographer and dance captain Sherry Lee Allen; musical director Julie Bradley; technical director Bill Yates, Jr.; set designer Chris Bernier; lighting designer John Bartenstein; properties manager Ashley Laughter; sound designers Brian Hunt and Eric Collins; and stage manager Eric Tysinger. Costume World of Deerfield Beach, FL is serving as costume designer for Evita, with North Carolina Theatre costumer Ann M. Bruskiewitz and Casa Mañana Theatre of Fort Worth, TX providing additional costumes.
The show’s set was designed by Chris Bernier and built locally by Barton College in Wilson. “The set truly is amazing,” Hernandez claims. “It is simple yet functional, and helps create little or big isolated scenes.”
He adds, “The lighting by John Bartenstein complements every single element of the show. He knows how to create a mood and — even better — how to convey it to the audience.
“The costumes are meticulously recreated by Annie Bruskiewitz,” says Hernandez, “as she literally [resurrects the fashions of Argentina] from the 1940s to the early 1950s….
“As always, producing a big show like this is challenging to do because of the short rehearsal period,” says NCT director and choreographer Tito Hernandez. “Luckily, my assistant director/choreographer Sherry Lee Allen has helped me tackle the job!”
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 17th Raleigh, NC WRAL-TV interviews Lauren Kennedy and Ray Walker: http://www.wral.com/wral-tv/video/10266481/#/vid10266481; Oct. 16th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/10/16/1566471/broadway-comes-home.html (plus photo gallery: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/10/14/1566124/broadway-comes-home-101611.html); Oct. 13th Raleigh, NC My Carolina Today interview with Lauren Kennedy and Ray Walker: http://www.mycarolinatoday.com/2011/10/evita/; Oct. 13th Raleigh, NC News 14 Carolina interview with Lauren Kennedy and Ray Walker: http://sandhills.news14.com/content/top_stories/648087/in-depth–lauren-kennedy—ray-walker–evita?ap=1&MP4; Sept. 23rd Cary, NC MMI Public Relations interview with Ray Walker: http://www.mmipublicrelations.com/podcasts/entry/ray-walker-discusses-north-carolina-theatres-upcoming-production-of-evita/; and Sept. 15th New York, NY Playbill.com preview by Andrew Gans: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/154593-Lauren-Kennedy-Will-Be-Evita-for-North-Carolina-Theatre-Principal-Casting-Announced.
The North Carolina Theatre presents EVITA, starring Lauren Kennedy as Eva Perón and Ray Walker as Ché Guevara, at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 Target Student Preview, 8 p.m. Oct. 22, 2 p.m. Oct. 23, 8 p.m. Oct. 25-28, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 29, and 2 and 7 p.m. Oct. 30 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $25-$75, except $15-per-ticket Oct. 21st Target Student Preview.
NCT Box Office: 919/831-6941, ext. 6944.
Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/844915.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/831-6941, ext. 5204, or http://nctheatre.com/tickets/group-sales.
NCT BLOG: http://nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
NOTE 1: There will be a special $15-per-person Student Preview Night performance on Friday, Oct. 21st, starting at 7 p.m. and followed by a question-and-answer session featuring members of the cast and crew. Students and educators with ID may reserve tickets by telephoning 919/831-6941, ext. 6944, and pick them up at Will Call, starting at 6 p.m. For more information about Student Preview Night: http://nctheatre.com/tickets/student-tickets.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, NC (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio-describe the 2 p.m. Oct. 29th performance.
The Musical: http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/shows/evita/ (Andrew Lloyd Webber), http://www.reallyuseful.com/shows/evita/ (Really Useful Group), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evita_(musical) (Wikipedia).
Andrew Lloyd Webber: http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Lloyd_Webber (Wikipedia).
Tim Rice: http://www.timrice.co.uk/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Rice (Wikipedia).
Evita Perón: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eva_Peron (Wikipedia).
Ché Guevara: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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