Point Park Globe

‘Music-driven’ rock opera brings history to life during ‘Evita’

Written By Nicole Chynoweth

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Justin Lonesome became fascinated with Eva Peron after learning about her on an episode of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” which described how her body disappeared for 17 years after her death but eventually emerged in a perfectly preserved state.”I just thought that was so weird and fascinating,” Lonesome, a senior musical theater major, said of the Argentine heroine he has admired and researched for years.Lonesome will help depict Peron’s influence when he stars as Che Guevara in the Conservatory Theatre Company’s production of “Evita” at the Pittsburgh Playhouse on March 4 through March 6 and March 17 through March 20.”Evita,” a musical with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, tells the life story of Peron, a First Lady of Argentina and political leader in the 1940s and 1950s, according to John Shepard, who is the director of this production of “Evita.” “It showcases, of course, the talent at Point Park [University] and allows the audience to see how versatile conservatory students can be, because this show is not your run-of-the-mill musical,” Lonesome, 22, said in an interview last Thursday in Lawrence Hall. “It’s a rock opera. It’s a far cry from ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie.'””[Peron] became an iconic figure because she made dramatic changes in how things were done in Argentina,” Shepard, chair and associate professor of the theater department, said in a telephone interview last Wednesday. “She went to bat for the working class and got women the right to vote.”The musical, which is almost entirely sung the whole way through, conveys to the audience Peron’s personal and public struggles, as well as her self-destructive determination, according to Shepard.”She was relentlessly ambitious,” Shepard said. “All of her dreams came true, and she was destroyed by them.”Shepard is revamping the musical, showing footage of this production’s cast edited alongside real documentary footage of Peron and using four different students to play the part of Guevara, a character that acts as narrator and Peron’s subconscious.”[Guevara] is every thought [Peron] has but does not want to admit to herself,” Lonesome said. “Anytime you have a character that links the audience with the actors like this, you will always be able to have people connect to the show because you have someone coming directly to you to tell you the story.”Jaclyn McSpadden, a sophomore musical theater major, plays the young Peron and fell in love with the story of “Evita.””It’s a very different animal,” McSpadden, 18, said of the musical in a telephone interview last Thursday. “It’s music-driven and so packed with history. It’s a different type of art-form to be exposed.”The production features songs the audience may know, such as “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” and “Buenos Aires.” Various themes can be taken away from the show according to Lonesome and Chris Hays, director of marketing for the Conservatory of Performing Arts.”The thesis of the show is man versus self, and that inner battle is something people will always be able to relate to,” Lonesome said. “No matter how strong a person appears, you never know what sort of battles they are fighting behind the scenes. I hope we as a cast can successfully plant that seed in the audience’s mind and make them think about what it truly takes to make change or be somebody.”Hays thinks the show will be inspirational, especially for students.”The message is to never underestimate what you as an individual are able to achieve,” Hays said. “It’s an against-all-odds story.”The production will be staged in the Pittsburgh Playhouse’s Rockwell Theatre with showings at 8 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are priced at $18 and $20, and student tickets are priced at $7 and $8. They can be ordered online, at the box office or by calling the Playhouse at (412) 392-8000 extension zero. For more information, visit the Playhouse’s website at www.pittsburghplayhouse.com.”It’s just one of those timeless stories,” Hays said of why students should see the musical. “It’s a colorful, powerful package that tells the story of an inspiring person.”

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