Avoiding a recreation of the original 1978 London staging (which was later seen on Broadway), director Bruce Lumpkin has re-examined the pop-operatic fantasia about the life of Argentine leader Eva Peron.
What's new in Buenos Aires? Lumpkin opens the show not in a cinema, as in the indelible Prince version, but in a town square — still underlining the idea that public spaces are important in the show's script. Director Lumpkin told Playbill On-Line that not a note of the script or score is changed, but the visual language is different.
The famed "Art of the Possible" number, for example, showing a regime change, is no longer a musical-chairs experience, but a slightly more menacing scene with politicos disappearing.
"I'm not out to reinvent the wheel," Lumpkin told Playbill On-Line. "But it's not an homage to Hal Prince."
Lumpkin said he is a great fan of Prince's work, and when he first saw Evita more than 20 years ago he walked out of the theatre and felt "changed for life." "It was the beginning of another era of musical theatre started by Hal Prince," Lumpkin said. "There were concepts that were never heard of — never done. You learned about a lady you may or may not have heard of in a very theatrical way. If I could do one-third of what Hal Prince has done [in his career] I would be grateful. If I could make one person walk out of the theatre and have the same feeling I did, then I will have succeeded."
The Walnut Street staging is the third time Lumpkin and his collaborators have worked on a regional staging of the show, and they agreed they wanted to attack it from a different angle, "to explore a concept in depth."
To some degree, Lumpkin said, the audience will be able to see the mechanics of the show as they watch his Evita, and there will be exposed activity going on, adding a sense of voyeurism to the experience. Eva changes costume in full view of the audience, for example.
Richard Stafford serves as choreographer for the Philadelphia revival, which opens May 14. Louis F. Goldberg is musical director.
The cast includes Ana Maria Andricain (Eva), Jeffrey Coon (Che), Scott Holmes (Peron), Vincent D'Elia (Magaldi), Christina DeCicco (Peron's Mistress), Krissy Fraelich (Eva at certain performances).
Designers are John Farrell (set), Colleen McMillan (costume), Jeffrey S. Koger (lighting) and Scott Smith (sound).
Tickets range $10-$55. Walnut Street Theatre is at 825 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. For information, call (215) 574-3550 or visit www.wstonline.org.