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Theater talk: 'Evita'

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

Estupendo! Fantastico! Director Sean Murray's authentic approach to detail in "Evita" includes a mostly Latin cast, historic footage and it's delivered with a solid Spanish dialect. It feels right.

When most people cannot recall the names of America's first ladies, they are familiar with the legend of an obscure woman from the Argentine pampas thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

Had it not been for them, history would have overlooked her as an upstart trollop from the Argentine plains. That said, 70 years after her death, she is still celebrated around the world and no less to music.

She was a girl born in unimaginable rural poverty. Yet, against all odds, Eva Duarte left home at 15 to seek her fortune. Instinctively, she used her sexual prowess to thwart her naysayers and overcame censure to become the first lady of Argentina in a mere 10 years.

Leading off this acclaimed production is Ariella Kvashny as Eva Duarte or Eva Peron. Evita! She is electric. Kvashny puts soul into her performance. Along with her is A.J. Mendoza as the storyteller Che, capturing the narrative with South American swag. Peron is played to perfection by the versatile Berto Fernandez.

Meanwhile – I can't seem to stop – Matthew Malecki Martinez is magnificent as the singer Magaldi. After all, it is his flamboyant machismo "On This Night of a Thousand Stars" that inspires the young Eva to accompany him to Buenos Aires. Without Magaldi, there wouldn't be a story.

Notable throughout are the mesmerizing swivels and flicks of tango artistes Tamara Rodriguez and Sebastion Montenegro. Son espectaculares.

Included in this cast of talented Cygnet newbies, in alphabetical order are: Susana Cafasso Alvarado, Julia Celano, Domo D'Dante, Augusto Guardado, Natalia Hill, Justin Lunsford, Daisy Martinez, Vanessa Orozco, Brian Osuna, Lilian Rodriguez, Jazz Ruiz, Matthew Ryan and Lucy Santos.

The behind-the-scenes crew starts with musical director Patrick Marion conducting his merry players: on guitar is PJ Bovee, trumpet is Devin Henderson, Nathan Hubbard plays percussion, Berk Schneider is on trombone and Michelle Gray is the second keyboardist.

Choreographer Carlos Mendoza adds South American flair with more kudos to Nicole Wooding, the Tango consultant. Mathys Herbert did the imaginative scenic design alongside Blake McCarty as the projection designer. Evan Eason did sound, Zoe Trautmann costumes and Peter Herman hair and wigs. Sound is by Harper Justus.

By the way, to enjoy the full impact of this production, sit as far back as possible from the stage, which is why you'll want to book early since "Evita" is playing to sell out performances closing Sunday, Oct. 1. The Cygnet Theater in Old Town San Diego is located at 4040 Twiggs St., and can be reached at 619-337-1525 or

Out of 10 this show is rated a solid 9.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected].


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