‘Evita’: One of DHT’s Finest
Punctilious choreography, precise direction, a captivating score, and superb performances all attribute to the recently-opened Evita, now playing at Diamond Head Theatre. Starring Jody Bill Bachler as the titular Evita, she finally has her defining, well-deserved moment in the spotlight five years after her starring turn in Legally Blonde: The Musical, as she plays the former First Lady of Argentina, beloved by most, yet despised by many. The musical follows the uprising of a young Eva Duarte, told in a series of flashbacks, as the musical opens with the grievance of her funeral. After a string of affairs, she meets Juan Peron, an Argentinean lieutenant general who, after marrying Eva--later known as ‘Evita’--becomes exhorted by her to run for President. It is at this moment in time and history that the audience begins to become slowly exposed to Evita’s “true” persona. A Lady Macbeth character of sorts at first, she eventually acquires First Ladyship and uses her power to gain the trust and adulation of the Argentinean people. She becomes venerated by the descamisados (civilians) while the military feels threatened by her. In a pivotal scene of the spectacle, Bachler produces a heartfelt rendition of the famed song “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” a moment that allows viewers to determine whether her persona is all a façade or if she truly means well. Bachler knocks this number out of the park, having generated bravos after her performance.
Adding to Bachler’s prime performance is Drew Niles in an impressive Hawaii stage debut as Che, the narrator to the audience, invisible to the characters of the play. His tenacity, physique, and stunning vocals make him the true hero of the show, despite Evita being the heroine to the Argentinean people. It is an interesting character, as he guides us through her political reign, providing insights and commentary upon the events that unfold before our very eyes. His stamina and beautiful tenor are among the many facets of the show that keep viewers engaged. Stealing the show in a small, yet important role is Natalie Borsky who plays Juan Peron’s mistress, in her sweet, soprano voice, adding more heart to it. (After having starred alongside her in 2016’s A Christmas Carol: The Musical and seeing her in this role, I’m convinced she’d have made an equally-impressive Moana.) Cal T. Chester and DHT-regular Heather Taylor also provide spice to the musical in a beautifully-choreographed Tango sequence, making the most of their limited space on stage.
It is manifest that director and choreographer Mr. John Rampage dedicated a lot of time, effort, and research into making sure the production remains historically-accurate, whether casting actors that embody their characters, ensuring all details of the show are true to history, enlisting the artistic talents of costume designer Karen G. Wolfe, hair and make up designer Friston Hookano, and set designer Willie Sabel, in addition to fabulous musical direction by Emmett Yoshioka. It is truly an artistic spectacle to relish and appreciate.
In the midst of America’s current politically-charged society, it is nice to have been offered a production that is yes, political, but one that is very thought-provoking as well as one that serves as an excellent character study. Bachler’s multifarious acting and Rampage’s masterful directing allows the audience to play an active role in determining whether Evita is truly a heroine or if she is instead a despot. So many artistically-deft components comprise such a fabulous spectacle, and one would be foolish to miss it. So, “where do we go from here?” Why, to Diamond Head Theatre to see Evita, of course!
Evita opened this past Friday and runs through April 16.