Evita | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Evita, at the Chicago Theatre. When Che Guevara--the conscience of this editorializing rock opera--says that Eva Peron "did nothing for years," he's dead wrong. The musical exists because Eva did far too much, as if knowing she'd die at 33; thousands bled as a result of her cult of personality. But Che is right to declare, "She didn't say much, but she said it loud." The same holds for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's documusical, and Webber's chameleonic score is as opportunistic as Eva herself. Yet this amiable hodgepodge of rock tangos, vaporous ballads, and clumsy lyrics never ceases to entertain.

Though the touring production of Broadway's latest Evita features Latino actors in the leads, the show remains relentlessly Anglo. Natalie Toro (who alternates with Ana Maria Andricain in the title role) is a cross between Madonna and Joan Blondell. Despite a strident and metallic voice, she emotes adequately and dies superbly, aging before our eyes. Raul Esparza is as fiery a Che as anyone could wish, but Raymond Jaramillo McLeod as Peron is curiously bland. They'd all fare better if the orchestra would restrain itself.

Though the score now supposedly incorporates salsa rhythms, it doesn't feel noticeably more Hispanic. Larry Fuller's choreography, however, puts the tango center stage in red-hot duets between Amir Levy and R. Kim Jordan. Timothy O'Brien's blend of newsreels, period photos, and scads of posters and banners makes the action look more authentic than the music sounds.

--Lawrence Bommer

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