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Jun 20, 2014

'EVITA' Strives For Authentic Latin Feel

June 20, 2014

The Greenville News (eGreenville), Paul Hyde - June  20, 2014

The look and feel of the re-envisioned production of "Evita" coming next week to Greenville can be summed up in one word:

"Authentic."

That's the term that producer Hal Luftig frequently uses to describe the new staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1979 show, which runs for eight performances at the Peace Center, Tuesday through Sunday. 

This Broadway touring production strives to replicate the story's Argentinian backdrop with greater detail and flavor. 

"We have authentic sets, which actually look like places in Buenos Aires," Fluftig said, speaking by phone from his office in New York City. "The costumes are authentic because they're based on the actual style of the day. The choreography is authentic, featuring all kinds of tango. There's joyous tango, there's a wedding tango and there's even a funeral tango."

The Tony Award-winning musical, with a cast of 26, features all the familiar songs that made the show a Broadway blockbuster: "High Flying. Adored," "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" and, of course, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina."

The show, with lyrics by Tim Rice, tells of how Eva Peron used her beauty and charisma to rise from the slums of Argentina to the presidential mansion as first lady.

She became a champion for the poor and one of the most powerful women in the world. Her fragile health, however, would bring her short time of power to an end.

"I saw the 1979 Broadway production and it was just seminal in my life and career, adn I thought it was such a fascinating story." Luftig said. "It's been one of those stories that always stayed with me."

When Luftig met with director Michael Grandage and Lloyd Webber, one question was prominent in everyone's mind, Luftig said:

"Why don't we try to rethink this production in a more authentic way?"

Lloyd Webber's music was reorchestrated to give it more of a Latin feel.

"It's still the same songs but it sounds quite different from the 1979 score," Luftig said. 

The staging also takes advantage of recent research into Eva's life. For instance, it's often assumed that Eva was merely using her husband Juan Peron to achieve power. But recent scholarship suggests the two possessed a deep passion for each other. 

"Eva and Juan Peron's life together was a great love story," Luftig said. "A lot of people raise eyebrows when you say this. But off camera, they truly loved each other. And we try to include more of that emotional and sexual chemistry on stage." 

The new staging opened in 2006 in London. The Broadway debut of the new production followed in 2012. The national Broadway tour began last year in July and continues through October. The staging includes "You Must Love Me," a song written by Lloyd Webber for the 1996 film of "Evita," which starred Madonna. 

Eva is played in the tour by actress Caroline Bowman. 

"It's a dream come true," Bowman said by phone during a tour stop in Atlanta. "It's an iconic character in musical theater and an iconic woman in history."

YOU CAN GO 

What: "Evita," by Andrew Lloyd Webber

When: 7:30 p.m. June 24-26; 8 p.m. June 27; 2 and 8 p.m. June 28; 1 and 6:30 p.m. June 29

Where: Peace Center Concert Hall

Tickets: $45 to $75

Information: (864) 467-3000 or www.peacecenter.org