‘Evita,’ tale of love and ambition, benefits from talented cast at Axelrod PAC in Deal

evita review


Remember Jones, far left, and Gaby Albo, second from left, co-star in “Evita” at The Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal.

There is a song in “Evita” titled “The Art of the Possible,” which is about political machinations.

But “Evita” itself is about the art of the impossible.

The 1978 rock opera’s creators Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics and book) gave themselves the nearly impossible task of building of musical around Eva Perón, who was First Lady of Argentina for six years before dying at the age of 33, of cervical cancer. As portrayed by them — and whether or not that portrayal is historically accurate is a whole other question that I won’t get into here — she is a cold, calculating creature of ambition, capable of great charitable works, but interested primarily in herself, and building her own legend. Her marriage to President Juan Perón is not shown to be anything close to a great love story, but a passion-free tale of two people who just want to use each other for their own benefit. They don’t fall in love as much as they seize an opportunity for advancement.


Remember Jones in “Evita.”

The play’s third major character, Che — inspired, at least in part, by Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara — serves as a kind of narrator, with a perspective that sometimes seems neutral or positive in regard to the Peróns, but at other times is sharply critical of Evita.

“Instead of government, we had a stage/Instead of ideas, a prima donna’s rage/Instead of help, we were given a crowd/She didn’t say much but she said it loud,” he sneers — in lines that can’t help but bring up thoughts of current political nonsense — in his introductory song, “Oh What a Circus.”

Lloyd Webber is in top form here. The ballads “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” boast two of his most memorable melodies, and there is a bristling energy to his rock songs, and the occasional nods to traditional Argentine music sound natural, not forced. But Rice’s book races from one episode in Evita’s life to the next without giving audience members any opportunity to really absorb what is happening.

Maybe that was really what Evita’s life was like: She did pack a lot into her 33 years, after all. But a whirlwind of often controversial activity, followed by a sudden, senseless death, does not easily make for great drama. Director José Zayas embraces that whirlwind, keeping everything moving at a brisk pace — especially in the first act, in which 15 songs are covered in less than 50 minutes.

I think the key to enjoying this production (and I did, despite my misgivings about the way Rice delivers the story) is to just revel in the Lloyd Webber’s music, played flawlessly by the nine-piece orchestra; the singing, which is first-rate; the production’s stylish look; and the vivid personalities of the three lead characters.

evita review


Gaby Albo, right, and Samuel Druhora in “Evita.”

Remember Jones, the accomplished rock singer-songwriter who co-produced this production, gets top billing as Che, and effectively summons the character’s rabble-rousing rage at the moments when it is needed. Gaby Albo has a fiery, commanding presence as Evita — her ambition is palpable — and Samuel Druhora’s rich, confident baritone helps make the one-dimensional Juan Perón seem like someone who could exude enough charisma to rise to the position of President.

Madison Figueroa does a great job with the heartbreaking “Another Suitcase in Another Hall,” though the power of the song is diminished, somewhat, by the fact that her character — Juan Perón’s young, naive mistress, casually discarded after he meets Evita — plays virtually no role in the story, before or after that. Similarly, Olivia Jones sings “Santa Evita” well, near the end of the musical, though her character, a young girl who worships Evita, comes out of nowhere, and vanishes just as quickly.

Still, these are wonderful moments. There are many others, too. Like “Buenos Aires,” when the young, small-town-girl Evita hits the big city for the first time and can barely contain her excitement; “Waltz for Eva and Che,” in which the two finally square off, face to face; and “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You,” in which Evita and Juan Perón have their first, fateful encounter, sizing each other up as they seduce each other.

Crucially, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” featuring Albo in full diva mode, is as transcendent as you would hope, even though you don’t quite believe Evita when she sings that the fortune and fame she so desperately sought are “illusions” and “not the solutions they promised to be.” These politicians, they’ll say anything to win over a crowd.

The Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal will present “Evita” through June 16. Visit axelrodartscenter.com.


Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


Custom Amount

Personal Info

Donation Total: $20.00

Leave a Comment

Sign up for our Newsletter