Woodrow Wilson Senior High School
Two grand staircases led the way to a balcony at the center of the stage, the stately architecture standing in juxtaposition with its cracked and exposed brick. It was upon this backdrop of power, and the corruption that lies beneath, that Langley High School chronicled the rise and fall of Eva Perón. The rock opera, first conceived in 1976 as a concept album by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, explores the Argentinian first lady's rise to prominence, her incredible legacy, and her untimely death. Langley High School's polished, poignant production of "Evita" burst with passion and executed all facets of the immensely demanding production to a high caliber.
Assuming the challenging role originated by Patti LuPone, Jessica Peros exuded the dichotomy of elegance and cunning ambition embodied by the titular character. Peros' charisma shone throughout dynamic dance numbers and intimate scenes, and her commanding physicality manifested the drive which led Eva Perón to rise from humble beginnings to represent her nation. Executed with nuance as well was her transition to becoming ailing and fatigued as her character succumbed to cancer, demonstrating that the weakness of Eva Perón's body failed to quell the vigor of her spirit.
Meeting the character's success with bitter cynicism was Mark Bosset's Che, a representation of the frustration with Eva's work beyond her popularity with the people. Crafting character development beyond the limits of his role as a narrator, Bosset contrasted compellingly with the Eva's devoted fans, his clear, fluid vocals nonetheless capturing the grit and frustration of the character. Sean Leech as Juan Perón deftly navigated the Argentinian president's rise in popularity and power, both of which were eclipsed by his wife. He delivered with determined stoicism and tender emotion.
The ensemble of "Evita" displayed astounding versatility and crisp execution of the challenging musical and physical demands of the production. Whether they performed as the hobnobbing elites of Buenos Aires, disciplined and slick soldiers, or as the impassioned citizens of Argentina, rousing and expressive energy burst from the stage. As a featured dancer in several numbers, Mary Peterson impressed greatly, accentuating the likewise impressive skill with which the ensemble members carried out complex choreography. Memorable turns by Cole Sitilides and Kaylie Gibbs as Magaldi and the Mistress, respectively, added variety and depth to the production's first act with excellent vocal execution and characterization. Their appearances left an impact lasting well after they had left the stage.
All the actors were richly costumed and shone in tandem with the seamless work of the student crew and lighting directors, the latter underscoring the emotional turns of the plot with an impressive backdrop that changed colors throughout the show.
The saga of Eva Perón's life is one which displays the risks and rewards of fame and influence, and its manifestation in "Evita" channels these into a riveting and profound production. The raw intensity of Langley High School's exhilarating ensemble and lead actors, along with impressive technical elements, gave the production emotional heft which was no less than the seminal musical demands.
Albert Einstein High School
The cast and crew of Langley High School poured their hearts and souls into a production of the incredibly difficult and mature musical Evita that ultimately delivered on all fronts.
Evita first opened in 1976 with music by renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera) and his frequent collaborator Tim Rice. The story follows the life of former First Lady of Argentina Eva Perón as she charms her way from an unsuccessful acting career to becoming a nation's most beloved public figure. The original Broadway production dominated the 1978 Tony Awards, with 11 nominations and 7 wins, and spawned a film in 1996 starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas.
The leading actors of the show displayed remarkable depth and captivating stage presence. Jessica Peros set the stage on fire as Evita. Not only did she command a powerful and versatile singing voice to attack the difficult score, particularly in numbers like "A New Argentina" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina", but she developed a clearly flawed yet still magnetic character that you could see an entire country rallying behind, which is perhaps the most important aspect of the character and musical.
Ché, the show's snarky and cynical narrator, was a perfect role for the charismatic Mark Bosset. Bosset never let his character become a mere storyteller; he fully embodied his character physically and delivered a clear personality as he hilariously interacted with and criticized his scene partners. Sean Leech skillfully took on the tricky role of President Juan Peron, maintaining a stoic front while not being afraid to show emotion and loving chemistry with his wife in some of the show's more tender moments. Both Bosset and Leech also possessed very pleasant tones and huge vocal ranges.
Even with such exemplary lead performances, it was the ensemble that managed to steal the show in many respects. Not only did they sound like a professional ensemble in their chorus numbers, they managed to show off a very impressive emotional range, from utter despair in "Requiem" to hysterical arrogance in "Peron's Latest Flame" when they had to portray an increasingly nervous upper class in the face of revolution.
There was laudable attention to detail in all technical aspects of the show. Costumes and props were fitting and timely. The set, including a gorgeous balcony for Evita to look down upon her adorers, was very effective, and all scene transitions were seamless. Particularly in the second act, the lighting added to the production, with different colors being used to fit different moods and create some haunting images on the stage.
From this production alone, it's clear that Langley High School's cast and crew are capable of just about anything. Everything about Evita was well-rounded, polished, and full of personality.