There is an earnestness to the Burning Coal Theatre production of Evita that screams, “You must love me.”
First, the likeness of Ilana Rivera (Evita) to the actual First Lady of Argentina, Eva Peron, is uncanny.
Also, the ingenuity of Artistic Director Jerome Davis to visualize just how persuasively the worn splintered exterior of a psych ward might morph into an Argentinian villa miseria, is creditable.
And perhaps it is that enterprising way of doing things and ability to reimagine even the most played-out work (think Camelot) in a fresh, new, and exciting way, that has audiences curious enough to sit in an ill-omened courtyard for two hours.
Indeed there are glimpses of just how groundbreaking this Evita might have been with some more forethought.
But Andrew Lloyd Weber’s sweeping score is unforgiving and demands vocal stamina and exactitude. There is not much room for miscues, which might make Evita just too taxing a show for Burning Coal, a company better recognized for its political and historical dramas than its musical mastery.
In fact, Burning Coal has three productions running simultaneously, including its two Second Stage series plays, Nine Lives and Girls & Boys. Both of these plays seem much more viable than experimenting with a musical as ambitious as Evita post-COVID.
Still, a determined multigenerational cast powered through fatigue, sweltering heat, and a host of technical problems to get through what can only be categorized as a perplexing performance last Saturday night. And that kind of doggedness is admirable. I just wish all that effort and enthusiasm had been channeled into something that was a little more practicable.
Evita runs through June 27th. The show is sold out, however, to be placed on a waiting list, visit https://burningcoal.org/.