U.Va. Department of Drama Brings Down Season Curtain With 'Evita'

April 12, 2011 — The University of Virginia Drama Department is ending its 2010-11 season with the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical, "Evita."

Directed by Robert Chapel, longtime drama professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, "Evita" will be presented from April 21 to 22 and April 27 to 30, at 8 p.m. each night, with a 2 p.m. matinee April 30.

"Evita," which debuted in London's West End in 1978,  chronicles Eva Peron's rise from the streets of Buenos Aires to its loftiest heights of power, highlighting the trademark and unique combination of glamour, guile and greed that catapulted her to power and worldwide fame. Originally developed as a concept rock album, "Evita" was a crossover cultural sensation. The iconic anthem "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" helped make it the first musical since the Rodgers and Hammerstein era to top the pop charts.

Chapel, who last directed the play in 1986, has been struck with its unique staying power, both in terms of its artistic quality and historical context.

"One of the main questions you have to ask yourself when considering a show like this is 'Do you have the voices to do this?' And I realized that we definitely do. The ensemble has an enormous amount to do in this show. They are onstage 70 to 80 percent of the time, playing all kinds of different characters, and our ensemble is really outstanding."

Chapel said he is equally pleased with his lead actors. "All four of our leads are really fine young actors and singers. Gracie Terzian as Evita and Gavin Rohrer as Che have an awful lot to do, an enormous amount of singing. Ali Stoner, who plays the mistress, sings one of the show's most memorable songs, 'Another Suitcase in Another Hall,' and also has done a splendid job as the show's choreographer. Adam Smith, who graduated in 2009, is playing Peron and brings a maturity to the stage that we really needed."

Tickets are $16 ($10 for students and $14 for seniors, U.Va. faculty, staff and Alumni Association members). Full-time U.Va. students can receive one free ticket to every performance of "Evita." Those tickets must be reserved in advance and are not available on the day of a performance. For information, contact the U.Va. Arts Box Office.

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 434-924-3376. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the U.Va. Arts Box Office, located in the lobby of the Culbreth Theatre, weekdays from noon until 5 p.m. A $3.50 processing fee applies to Internet, phone and mail orders.

While the details are different, the story of a ruthless dictator's fall also resonates with his cast and with today's audiences, Chapel said. "Although the Perons did some good, this was a story of a terrible dictator who eventually fell. And while the situation today in the Middle East is different in that we are looking at popular uprisings versus, in this case, a military coup, I think it still resonates with the kinds of sweeping changes we are seeing in that region and beyond."

The show's historical context is expressed through creative use of sound and video, Chapel said. "This particular production has a significant amount of sound, video and pictures. So our set designer, Katie Springmann, along with sound designer, Michael Rasbury, found some incredible footage, and they have come up with fascinating photos that help put the whole thing in its proper perspective and add really exciting visual and aural elements to the show."

"Evita" is driven largely by its signature music and trademark dynamic look. The show's music, Chapel said, is in the hands of his frequent collaborator Greg Harris, and its look will come courtesy of Springmann and costume designer Janine McCabe, a former M.F.A. student at U.Va. who is now a professor at the College of Charleston, and lighting designer Dale Marshall.

Though construction has begun on the new Ruth Caplin Theatre, the work will not impact access to the theater. Culbreth Road will remain open, as will the parking garage, which is located alongside the theaters and continues to offer free parking.

For information on the 2010-11 season, visit here

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