The Long Island Advance
‘Evita’ At The Gateway is A Stunner
There are times in musical theater where a show is so powerful and profound, it remains in your psyche long after the curtain closes. That show was The Gateway’s “Evita,” which debuted this week, kicking off its new season.
This rock opera, which began in London’s West End in 1978 as an Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice creation, hasn’t lost its luster and shines even brighter in this production. What has emerged is a sassy, ambitious, and luminous Evita, played by Amanda Rivera Torres; a proud and at times caring Juan Perón, played with brio by Ryan K. Bailer; and a mocking man of the people, revolutionary Che, played brilliantly by Pablo Torres, who narrates, sings, and dances throughout. And oh, the ensemble and dancers who envelope the story with their hearts and souls helping to raise the bar.
The show is a bit of a history lesson: Eva Peron was Argentina’s first lady in the 1940s and died of cancer in 1952 at age 33. But her cache and mystery remain. She did good establishing a foundation for the poor, but her intent was questioned. She helped her husband, but his administration was known for subverting criticisms. And so, the tug and pull of their lives and the ambivalence is presented here, including actual black-and-white footage of those times, beginning with Eva’s funeral and the Argentines’ reactions as news of her death cuts into a cinema. Then, her life story begins; here’s dark-haired Eva starting as a beautiful, calculating young woman who refuses to remain in the poverty of her origins, seducing a club singer, Magaldi, played by Matthew Malecki Martinez, who has a fine voice.
Each scene tells stories within the story. The “Buenos Aires” production number is a hot musical masterpiece, as Eva moves there and starts her ascension becoming an actress, with Che mocking the military and Eva being laughed at by the upper crust. In “Good Night and Thank You,” you see her lovers coming out of her doorway rather stunned. In a land where men are macho masters, “she’s someone who’s altered the rules.”
Rivera Torres as Eva, now a glamorous blonde circa 1944, plays her character focused on the end result—that is, becoming President Juan Perón’s mate, and the song “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You,” is a great seduction scene with tango dancers Michelle Alves and Carlos A. Jimenez beautifully emulating the lovers. Amanda Rose Gross portrays Perón’s mistress before she’s confronted by Eva, then Juan, in his bedroom, and is cruelly discarded. Her vulnerable rendition of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” is heartbreaking.
“A New Argentina” is a rouser; as Eva now campaigns for her husband, the unions join in support and their public raises placards claiming, “Shorter hours, bigger wages,” marching with flaming torches. It is amazing.
Perhaps the true Eva Perón emerges as the famous “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” is sung. Rivera Torres’s rendition is tender, heartfelt, and soaring, chronicling her journey, love for her people, and intent to do good. Imbued by glamour, wearing the Dior-inspired white strapless ballgown, she’s truly overcome as they reach out to her.
There’s a lot to take in with this compelling show, with 26 songs moving the story along. Bravo to the terrific orchestra led by music director Andrew Haile Austin, who keeps up the fast pace. The cast number 31, most of whom are Latino, which is what the director Keith Andrews and associate director/choreographer Andre’s Acosta wanted. Perhaps its authenticity and passion are reasons why this musical will stay with you.
An Electrifying “Evita” at The Gateway Playhouse
The Gateway’s polished-to-perfection production of “Evita” received a well-deserved standing ovation Saturday evening. This beloved rock opera by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice has enthralled audiences for decades. The 1980 Broadway production won the Tony Award for Best Musical, and the 1996 film version starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas grossed over $141 million worldwide.
Set in Argentina from 1934 to 1952, “Evita” is the rags-to-riches story of Eva Duarte. The show takes us from her impoverished childhood years to her short but somewhat successful stint as an actress and to her powerful political life as the wife of military leader-turned-president Juan Perón.
The show opened in a Buenos Aires cinema on July 26, 1952. Through the magic of Aaron Kurland’s projection designs, we feel as if we are part of that movie audience and witness what it must have been like for them to learn of the passing of Eva Perón, the spiritual leader of their nation. During “Requiem for Evita,” the top-notch ensemble re-enacted that historical moment, showing how deeply people mourned for the First Lady of Argentina.
However, the Peróns had their adversaries, and the wry and witty narrator Che, brilliantly portrayed by Pablo Torres, represents the voice of this cynical faction. A charismatic actor, Torres revealed his strong vocals during “Oh What a Circus.” As a side note, the original director, Harold Prince, identified the show’s narrator as the Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. In The Gateway’s revival, as in many later revivals, Che is seen as an everyman character commenting on Eva’s life and ambitions, which was Tim Rice’s original intention.
The musical then flashes back to 1934, and the audience sees Eva as a calculating 15-year-old girl running off to Buenos Aires with a much older man, Magaldi, a tango singer. Matthew Malecki Martinez was outstanding as Magaldi. Martinez has a powerful voice, and he received some of the biggest laughs of the evening with his sassy tango moves during the number “On this Night of a Thousand Stars.”
Amanda Rivera Torres gave a riveting performance as the beautiful and ambitious Eva Duarte, a cunning woman who reinvented herself, changing her name to “Evita,” a Spanish nickname meaning “Little Eva.” Donning Costume Designer Janine Loesch’s Cinderella-worthy, white ball gown, Torres delivered a moving rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”
Ryan K. Bailer gave an award-winning performance as the dignified and charming Juan Perón. Bailer’s commanding stage presence and magnificent renditions of “On the Balcony of the Casa Rosada” and “She is a Diamond” were unforgettable theatrical moments.
Amanda Rose Gross portrayed Perón’s Mistress, an insecure young woman who Eva sent packing. Gross’s emotion-filled, melodious voice hit all the right notes when she delivered the reflective song “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”
Keith Andrews and Andrés Acosta’s Latin-infused choreography, featuring tango, cha-cha, and salsa moves, is worth the price of admission. The edgy military march numbers were my personal favorites. The tango dancers, Michelle Alves and Carlos A. Jimenez, were captivating, exuding passion and playfulness with their every sensuous step.
Kudos to the multi-talented, high-energy ensemble who aced the many acting, singing, and dancing roles they performed. A special shoutout goes out to the children in the cast, who, at select performances, will portray the Children of Argentina in the number “Santa Evita.” These talented children include Sonnie Betts, Sofia Da Costa-Wilson, Sofia DeMatteo, Dominick Heilemann, Sofia Jarmel, Abigail Pirozzi, Ashton Rasmussen, Sarah Robayo, Tamanna Sandhu, and Bree Wilkens.
The Gateway’s “Evita” has an exceptional cast, showstopping choreography, and spectacular costumes. You don’t want to miss it!
The Theater Guide
Evita – Gateway Playhouse – Theatre Review
Gateway Playhouse opens their new season with a fabulous production of Evita. Directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, it will leave the haunting refrain of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” on the stage and in your memory.
Evita may perhaps be best described as a political biography disguised as a musical. It follows the life of Eva Perόn, the First Lady of Argentina from 1946-1952. While not happy by any means, it is a fascinating look at a short, bright life. Born poor and working-class, Eva clawed, climbed and (ahem) slept her way up the social ladder. Though she initially started with good intentions for social reform, her ego and ambition grew until her ineffectiveness unfolded to its heartbreaking conclusion. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, the score’s heavy reliance on sharps, flats and dissonance work to enhance the feeling of her struggle filled life.
An accomplished cast heightens the experience of any show. Eva Perόn is played by Amanda Rivera Torres, with impressive vocals, and subtle expressions which support the hard and stubborn personality of her character. Ryan K. Bailer superbly portrays Juan Perόn, military man and President of Argentina; his pleasing voice and physical command of the stage combining for a winning performance.
Matthew Malecki Martinez’s wonderful voice rings out as the tango and milonga singer Agustin Magaldi. The Mistress is played by Amanda Rose Gross who is a pleasure to listen to as her sweet, clear voice soars over the audience with palpable emotion. Pablo Torres is perfect as Che and practically steals the show. He is our guide through the musical who is part narrator, part character and part truth revealer to Eva’s duplicity and propaganda. Che’s all-knowing cynicism flows effortlessly from Torres with languid movement, killer facial expressions, fantastic vocals, and what can only be described as a full body eye roll.
The production itself was also incredibly well done. The entire ensemble is fantastic and deserves aplomb. Director/Choreographer Keith Andrews, and Associate Director/Choreographer Andres Acosta did a fabulous job. The staging is excellent, and the dancing on point. Music Director Andrew Haile Austin and the band produced striking results from a challenging score. Incredible costumes from designer Janine Loesch were time-period appropriate and added great color and flavor to the production. A clever scene of political musical chairs demonstrated Juan Perόn’s rise to power, while moving set pieces and onstage costume changes deftly progressed the action.
A fascinating glimpse in to a short, but charismatic life. Evita is a powerful show from the haunting opening to the poignant finale.
‘Evita’ Kicks Off 2023-2024 Season at The Gateway Playhouse
The Gateway 2023–2024 season has officially begun with Evita — the classic musical featuring lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Keith Andrews and Andrés Acosta direct/choreograph this faithful adaptation.
Told in vignettes, critical observer Che (Pablo Torres) leads the audience on a smear campaign of Argentine President Juan Perón’s (Ryan K. Bailer) revered yet controversial late wife Eva Perón (Amanda Rivera Torres). With each scene in the story of Eva’s rise to power — from sleeping her way to a top position in the country to supporting the impoverished solely to stroke her own ego — Che paints Eva’s charisma and ambition as deceitfulness and pridefulness.
Despite the name of the play, Che, as the narrator, is largely the driving force of Evita and acts as a constant nagging presence to Eva throughout the show. Pablo Torres performs the role with a hint of aggression and loads of sarcastic cynicism.
While the play is by no means a comedy, Torres’ exaggerated snarkiness gets laughs. His singing voice is also a standout among the company, with “And the Money Kept Rolling In” being his best of the show. Costume-wise, he retains the same pink shirt and suspenders throughout the show.
Putting Eva’s harshest critic in such a passive color seemed like an odd choice on costume designer Janine Loesch’s part until Eva changes into a matching pink dress for her rival duet with Che, cleverly implying the two are more alike than opposite — both convinced their ideals are right while their counterpart’s views are wholly wrong and neither one entirely trustworthy.
Cast as the titular character in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Amanda Rivera Torres had a great deal of expectations placed upon her, and she met them with grace and a great deal of talent. Eva is a tightrope of a character to portray, requiring a delicate balance of likeability to fit into Che’s negative portrayal of her story while also maintaining the audience’s investment in her meteoric rise to power.
Rivera Torres mastered this balance. Her singing voice, while tonally beautiful in both acts, seems to increase in power as Eva transformed from teenager to actress to first lady of Argentina. Her final “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” is incredibly moving. And her style is unmatched; Loesch and wig-hair designer Courtney Kakac made sure she dazzled among the commoners, military leaders and even the upper class.
Finally, among the core trio is Ryan K. Bailer as Perón. Bailer’s stage presence is usually quite commanding, but he adds a touch of nuanced affection when interacting with Rivera Torres’ Eva, of whom his political allies in the show disapprove. His voice arguably shone brightest in his penultimate number, “Dices Are Rolling.”
Also of note are stellar singing performances by Matthew Malecki Martinez as Magaldi and Amanda Rose Gross Perón’s mistress. They, along with the rest of the ensemble, wowed the audience with Latin-infused dance numbers, capped off by a passionate tango performed by Carlos A. Jimenez and Michelle Alves.
The sets are very minimal, though not without a few fun surprises such as Eva’s swiveling balcony and an ingenious opening film screening created by projections designer Aaron Kurland. The final production wouldn’t be the same caliber without lighting design by José Santiago, sound design by Jonah Verdon and musical direction by Andrew Haile Austin.
Overall, The Gateway’s traditional take on Evita is a stellar choice for anyone’s first, or repeat, viewing of the musical. The casting is authentic, the performances are strong, and the music is timeless.
EVITA at The Gateway
As The Gateway always does, they bring a touch of Broadway to Long Island. Currently running at the charming Bellport venue is an excellent showing of the Tony award winning musical Evita. Running through May 28th, the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber classic is superbly directed by Gateway vet Keith Andrews and boasts an extraordinary cast. Besides the wonderful cast, you will become captivated by some of the most beautiful music that was created by Mr. Rice and Mr. Lloyd Webber.
The tale focuses on the life of Argentine force-to-be-reckoned-with Eva Perón centering on her rise through the political ladder (over a period of eighteen years) to her untimely death.
Exquisitely portraying Eva is Amanda Rivera Torres. I really could go on and on about her stunning voice, gripping speeches to her public, and wonderful stage presence, but I'm just going to say that you will remember Ms. Torres' Eva for quite some time. Eva meets and marries Colonel Juan Perón portrayed strongly by Ryan K. Bailer. Indeed, Ms. Torres' and Mr. Bailer's voices complement each other well and are believable as a married couple. Additionally, Ms. Torres gives an outstanding rendition of the iconic "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" and the entire company is powerful in "Montage" at the end of Act Two.
An additional highlight of the stellar cast is Pablo Torres who portrays Che, the show's narrator. Mr. Torres' performances of "Oh What a Circus" and "High Flying, Adored", the latter of which he sings with Ms. Torres, is particularly well received by the enthusiastic audience. You will also be moved by Amanda Rose Gross, who portrays the Mistress, as her voice soars on her emotional performance of "Another Suitcase in the Hall".
On the clever creative team, the music is spectacularly performed with the accompaniment of the live orchestra headed up by Music Director Andrew Haile Austin. Additionally, Brittany Loesch's beautiful set is fantastically highlighted by Jose Santiago's lighting and Jonah Verdon's sound design. Janine Loesch's costumes are also top notch - particularly Eva's "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" wedding gown inspired dress.
And so, it is quite clear that The Gateway has a hit with their incarnation of Evita. An inspired cast, beautiful music, and the bustling town of Bellport make for a delightful night of theatre.
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