‘Evita’ christens SSC’s new space

By on July 24, 2019

Susquehanna Stage Company rehearses and performs at the Marietta Center for the Arts, located inside an historic church at 133 W. Market St., Marietta. (Photo by Morgan Rose)

 

In 1973, composer Tim Rice heard a radio show about Eva “Evita” Perón, and he was intrigued. A stamp collector as a kid, he had been fascinated by her image on the Argentine stamps, but was unaware of her significance in Argentina’s history. The more he learned, the more fascinated he became. So fascinated, in fact, that he named his own daughter after her.

Rice suggested the idea of a musical based on the live of Evita to his writing partner, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the rest is history. “Evita” went on to be the first British show to win a Best Musical Tony Award, also bringing Tony-wins and fame to a young Patty LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.

“Evita,” described as a rock opera, contains a staggering 29 songs. But the music and action really propel the show along. It moves quickly, for the most part. As it centers around the life — and eventual death from cancer at 33 — of its title character, the show doesn’t have a feel-good ending.

The show chronicles Eva Perón’s life from age 16 to her death. She rose from poverty to first lady of Argentina, much of it through less-than-scrupulous or moral behavior. And yet, she was beloved by the people of her country.

The show is narrated (for lack of a better word) by a young Che Guevara. His character helps with plot exposition and also serves as a voice of conscience for Eva as the show progresses.

I sort of remembered most of this from when I saw the movie version of “Evita,” starring Madonna, back in 1996. But seeing it performed by Susquehanna State Company on Saturday night made me appreciate the show much, much more.

The venue

“Evita” is the show christening SSC’s new venue, The Eater (pronounced ATE-er) Theatre, located inside the sanctuary of a former church on the main drag in the town of Marietta. It’s cavernous, air conditioned, and currently has cushioned pews for seating.

Artistic Director Jim Johnson was affable and his booming voice pinged off the walls as he greeted friends and strangers alike before the show. Because of its Catholic iconography, Johnson explained, “Evita” was a perfect first choice for Eater.

Jared Korb, as a young Che Guevara, gave a stand-out performance in Susquehanna Stage Company’s “Evita.” (Image from Facebook)

The players

The entire cast and orchestra deserve a standing ovation for their marathon two-hour performance. Because the music was nearly non-stop, there was nary a break for the musicians or the players — especially for Eva Perón actress Julia Tighe Howey, who was required to be onstage for 27 of the 29 musical numbers.

The backstage crew was extraordinary, balancing multiple quick scene and countless costume changes for every member of the 38-person cast.

A standout vocal performance came from Cara Ditzler, who played Juan Perón’s (unnamed) Mistress. Her rendition of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” was heart-wrenching.

But, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Jared Korb, who played the role of Che Guevara. A fantastic singer, yes, but he brought to the role some acrobatic dancing skills, and a face that never lost character. It was clear during the curtain call that he wasn’t just my favorite — but the audience’s as well.

Kevin Ditzler as Juan Domingo Perón. His wife and kids were also part of the cast.  (Image from Facebook)

Family first

Family is important at SSC. When “Company” was cast back in May, four real-life couples were chosen to play the married couples in the show.

Perusing the “Evita” program, I saw many families in the cast and crew: Lily Chow and her dad, George; father and son Kurt and Zac Snyder; young Jared Mackison in the dance ensemble while his dad, Scott, served as technical director, and mom, Colleen, worked the concession stand; and four members of the Ditzler clan: mom and dad, Cara and Kevin (he played Juan Perón), and their kids, Elliot and Norah.

I love that.

While “Evita” does not have a fairy tale happy ending, it does have amazing, full company dance numbers, poignant solos, fantastic costuming, and all around evidence of hard work. Go see it. Tickets for “Evita” are available through Aug. 4 at susquehannastageco.com.

Melissa Hunnefield is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments at mhunnefield.eph@lnpnews.com.

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