Eva Perón, known affectionately as Evita, was a complex woman with hidden vulnerabilities who thumbed her nose at the aristocracy who berated her. Capturing the soul of this phenomenal woman takes a special actress.
Kathy Voytko’s excellent portrayal faithfully resurrects Eva Perón’s character and fortitude in this Tony Award-winning musical. Voytko wears Evita’s courageous, charismatic attitude like a second skin. As Evita, she walks with a swagger and boldness, and is never shy about her ambitions.
As the story continues, Evita quickly rises to fame as a popular radio star, which leads her to meet her future husband General Juan Perón who becomes Argentina’s president with Evita’s support. The clincher to Perón’s presidential victory is the famous balcony scene where Evita effectively connects with the people.
Voytko looked angelic in her ivory ball gown, sophisticated hairstyle and sparkling jewels when she performed the memorable "Don’t Cry for Me Argentina." The woman who gave generously to her country and championed for the working class also had no problem keeping many of the fruits of her labors. Yet this never seems to bother the people, who were so enraptured with her charisma and personality.
At every step on Evita’s road to success, Che Guevara (played by Bradley Dean) is constantly questioning her motives. While Argentina is blindly devoted to the former B-movie actress with a promiscuous past, Guevara freely mocks the people with an acerbic tongue and his ever-present cigar puffs. He laughs at the way they follow Evita like hypnotized sheep. Although Guevara acts as the voice of reason, he gets pushed aside by Evita’s spell on the people.
Guevara proves to be a worthier adversary to Evita than is her indecisive husband. Whereas Juan Perón constantly questions every move and its possible consequence, Evita is firm and clear on what will be done. Guevara and Evita finally have it out in their one scene together, "Waltz for Eva and Che," where the two defy each other but neither will back down.
Although it’s impossible to detail everything in a person’s life, especially if it’s a life with rich flavor like Eva Perón’s, director Larry Fuller carefully selects key moments to show why Evita became Argentina’s beloved First Lady. Even in her final moments, she refused to bow down. She remained strong in spirit though her body surrendered to the cancer that invaded her body.
The cast vividly comes together to create both an amusing and serious tale of Eva Perón’s life. Voytko is clearly the main attraction but the ensemble helps her shine. It’s evident that it’s a collaborative piece showing how Evita rose to power on the shoulders and love of her people.
A nice touch to the production is a huge screen high above the stage displaying images of Evita’s life and the way she related to people throughout it, culminating in an image of her body lying in a coffin still looking regal.
Fuller’s artistic vision not only gives an honest view of Evita but also how she affected people, the ire of the politicians she must have enjoyed stirring up and her husband’s unwavering love for her. The even-paced action cloaked in sensuality and politics will leave you wanting to know more about this enigmatic woman.
The Pantages Theatre is located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd., between Vine and Argyle Streets, in Hollywood. Tickets are available online from Ticketmaster or by visiting the Pantages Theatre’s Box Office. For box office hours, call the Theatre Information Hotline at (323) 468-1770. Price: $42.50-$67.50. For more information, visit www.broadwayla.org.