EVITA, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Maybe it's just as well that this docu-musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, 20 years old and aging well, is so exasperatingly ambivalent about its whore/saint/dominatrix protagonist. Narrator Che Guevara may mock Eva Peron's ruthless devolution from professional mistress to empress of mean, but the show itself is all about government as style and politics as illusion. Probably few audience members identify with Che, and many do with Evita--at least until she gets cancer.
A vibrant ensemble effort, Rudy Hogenmiller's staging is rich with the trappings of cinema verite clips and slides, perfect costumes (seemingly changed every five minutes), colorful union placards, and a clever balcony only four feet tall for the Casa Rosada. The company depicts a dysfunctional nation--army, workers, plutocracy, and the "shirtless ones"--through their rhythms, in soldiers' struts, labor anthems, sinister tangos, and a requiem for a false saint. More than Rice's lyrics, these movement-driven numbers define the time and its troubles.
Evincing the glamour that Eva's victims could never match, Susie McMonagle rings the changes on this antiheroine like a trouper, though she's more convincing playing Eva's weaknesses than her power. (Anne Gunn alternates in the role.) Though younger than the usual Peron, Robert Reid LaFrance proves a strong presence even as second banana. James Keith's Che is more gadfly than nemesis, but that's just what Lloyd Webber's starstruck "history" deserves.