Evita: HCLO brings Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical to Saenger Theater

Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera will present Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony-winning musical, Evita, May 3-6 at the Historic Saenger Theater. Evita charts the young and ambitious Eva Peron’s meteoric rise to first lady of Argentina and near-sainthood. Set in Argentina between 1934-1952, the musical follows Eva Duarte on her journey from poor, illegitimate child to ambitious actress to wife of military leader-turned-president Juan Peron, the most powerful woman in Latin America, before her death from cancer at age 33.

The events in Evita’s life are presented in song and commented on, in sometimes lacerating fashion, by the show’s narrator, Che. Well-known numbers from lyricist Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical masterpiece include “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “Oh What a Circus,” “Buenos Aires,” “High-Flying Adored” and “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”

The final show of HCLO’s 42nd season will be directed by Miles Doleac, with musical direction by Clifton Hyde and choreography by Rebecca Chandler. Doleac lauds the material and says he’s excited to bring Lloyd Webber’s musical to life in Hattiesburg.

“Evita is a fascinating, musically-rich character study and cautionary tale that traces and reflects on the rise and fall of one of the 20th century’s keenest political minds,” he said. “That she’s a woman, and a young woman at that, who comes to dominate a world entirely controlled by men in the late ’40s/early ’50s makes her story all the more compelling.”  Today, altars to Eva Peron as “St. Evita” can be found across Argentina, and yet, there seems to be no definitive answer as to who she truly was, a saint-like lover of the poor … a savvy political opportunist with a movie star smile … a conniving traitor to the very cause she claimed to champion?

“The conundrum of Eva’s personality and intentions, of what she really stood for, makes for great, thought-provoking drama. It also doesn’t hurt that the music is pretty spectacular,” says Doleac. Evita is considered one of Lloyd Webber’s best, most soundly constructed scores. The composer skillfully blends Latin American rhythms, pulsing rock tempos, military marches and nostalgic ballads to create a beautiful, frenetic, tragic, musical that is as mercurial as its title character.

HCLO returns to the Saenger for Evita after holding its March show, The Who’s Tommy, at the Thirsty Hippo.

“Some shows just fit in a certain kind of venue. Evita has this grandiosity about it. It belongs in the Saenger,” says Doleac. Evita stars Lindsay Anne Williams, Doleac, Joseph VanZandt, Gregory Wascoe, Kathern Leanne Glydewell and a large cast of local talent, including a number of area high school students and a children’s ensemble.

Musical director, Hattiesburg High alum, and frequent Broadway musician, Clifton Hyde, comments on the show’s formidable choral needs, “The chorus is so important in this show. The choral numbers should feel like an entire country crying out, alternately, in pain, rage, and adoration.”

Evita will be performed at 7:30 p.m. May 3, 4, & 5 and 2 p.m. May 6. Tickets are available at www.hattiesburgsaenger.-com or www.HCLO.org or by calling 601-584-4888. Further information about the show can be found at HCLO.org.

 HCLO is also beginning its fundraising/membership drive for its 43rd (and perhaps final) season, which kicks off with The Rocky Horror Show at The Thirsty Hippo, September 20-22 & 27-29. Memberships for the new season can be purchased at HCLO.org.