You’ll find few better opportunities to appreciate “Evita” than in this emotionally charged Engeman Theater reincarnation in Northport.
Don’t cry for Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sir Andy needn’t work a day the rest of his life. But while I don’t lose sleep over it, whenever “Evita” is revived, I wonder what might’ve been had he continued collaborating with Tim Rice.
We won’t cry for Sir Timmy, either. He went on to pen lyrics for “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.” Still, Webber never wrote a richer score than the last one he composed with Rice — “Phantom of the Opera” notwithstanding.
You’ll find few better opportunities to appreciate “Evita” than in this emotionally charged Engeman Theater reincarnation in Northport. Forget the 2012 Broadway revival with Ricky Martin as Ché or the dreadful 1996 Madonna movie — this “Evita” feels authentic. Never mind the poetic-license story line. The only evidence that Ché, the revolutionary martyr who narrates this life story of the ambitious poor girl Eva Duarte, later Perón, had anything to do with her is that he, too, was Argentine. But Ché, in the sardonic person of Aaron Finley, is the perfect critic of a junta opportunist who sleeps her way to the top.
Rice’s flamenco-to-classical operetta lyrics paint an Eva we can all relate to — if we’re shameless enough. Janine DiVita (rhymes with “Evita”) could be the pretty girl next door, except for her Latina chutzpah. In a macho society, she treats men like horses, riding them until they’re spent. Then she finds another mount. Her ambitions are captured in such feisty merry-go-round numbers as “Good Night and Thank You” (Ruben Flores plays her first casualty) and the musical-chairs masterpiece depicting Generale/El-Presidente-to-Be Perón’s ascension, “The Art of the Possible.”
Bruce Winant as Perón looks the part and sings it convincingly in “She Is a Diamond.” But without Eva, Perón would remain a soldier. Her ruthless humanity is encapsulated in perhaps the greatest number ever written for a minor character, identified only as “Mistress.” Eva reassures the girl she’s displacing in Perón’s bed, before Ashley Perez Flanagan sings with resignation for her dignity, “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”
Daniel Willis’ bi-level set and Kurt Alger’s costume and wig designs encapsulate time and place. Conductor James Olmstead and choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo keep the cast going with the flow. One complaint with director Igor Goldin’s casting: The adoring crowd beneath Eva’s balcony, where she pleads, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” is too sparse. DiVita’s Evita deserves legions.
WHEN l WHERE Weekly: Sun. 2 p.m.; Thu. 8 p.m.; Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat. 3 p.m., 8 p.m.Through Sun. 11/2. Additional dates: Thu. 10/23 2 p.m., John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St., Northport
INFO $69, engemantheater.com, 631-261-2900