San Francisco Playhouse stages Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice hit ‘Evita’

Eva Perón (Sophia Alawi) addresses her people in the San Francisco Playhouse
production of ‘Evita”

In what must be the highlight of the current season, San Francisco Playhouse stages the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice hit musical Evita. Winner of 9 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score, Evita was described by The Stage as “…. the greatest musical the UK has ever created”.

Juan Perón (Peter Gregus) is charmed by radio star Eva Duarte (Sophia Alawi) as
Che (Alex Rodriguez looks on

The musical tells of the rise of Eva Peron from a poor illegitimate child, born in 1919, to the most powerful woman in Latin America, rallying the nation of Argentina to bring about a new era in the country’s history. Set between 1934 and 1952, the story is told in part through the eyes of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, and follows the journey of Eva Duarte through her life as an actress, to the wife of the military leader, Juan Peron, who became president of his country. Evita, as she became known to the people of Argentina, died of cancer at the age of 33.

Juan Perón (Peter Gregus) embraces Eva Perón (Sophia Alawi) as she addresses the public

Evita was originally a rock opera concept album which was released in 1976, the success of which led to the creation of a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice. Originally directed by Harold Prince, Evita premiered at the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End on June 21st, 1978, with Elaine Paige in the title role, and David Essex as Che Guevara, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical. It opened on Broadway a year later, starring Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.

It was hailed by The Guardian as “Audacious and fascinating. A beautiful score from Andrew Lloyd Webber”, and The Hollywood Reporter described it as “a ravishing spectacle”.

The Descamisados rally for the Peróns

Andrew Lloyd Webber is known for composing the scores of some of the world’s finest musicals – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sunset Boulevard, CATS, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Phantom Of the Opera among them. He has the distinction of having had shows continually running in the West End for 48 years and on Broadway for 41, and equalled Rodgers & Hammerstein’s record of four shows running simultaneously on Broadway.

Lloyd Webber is one of the select group of artists with EGOT status, having received Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards – one of only 17 people worldwide. He was knighted in 1992, created an honorary life peer in 1997 and has now become a member of The Most Noble Order of the Garter – an order of chivalry founded by Edward III of England in 1348 and the most senior order of knighthood in the British honours system.

Che (Alex Rodriguez) and Eva Perón

Lyricist Tim Rice is also among those 17 people known as EGOTs, having worked in music, theatre and films since 1965 – the year in which he met Lloyd Webber. Their first collaboration was The Likes of Us, based on the life of Victorian philanthropist Dr Thomas Bernardo, since when they have worked on Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as Evita.

Rice has also collaborated with distinguished contemporary composers such as Elton John on The Lion King and Aida, Alan Menken on musicals such as Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, and Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson on Chess. He has written the lyrics for songs for a number of high-profile artists including Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford, Sacha Distel, Placido Domingo, Elton John, Elaine Paige, Elvis Presley, Bobby Vee and Rick Wakeman. He was knighted by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1994.

Eva (Sophia Alawi) and Juan Perón (Peter Gregus) address the crowd

This production for San Francisco Playhouse is directed by Bill English, with music direction by Dave Dobrusky and choreography by Nicole Helfer. In the title role is Sophia Alawi who won the 2019 San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Groundhog Day The Musical. The role of Che Guevara is taken by Alex Rodriguez, seen at the Playhouse last season in A Chorus Line and winner of a Theatre Bay Area Award for his performances in Ray of Light’s Triassic Parq, Bay Area Musicals’ Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Broadway By the Bay’s Evita. Peter Gregus makes his Playhouse debut as Juan Perón. He originated the role of Bob Crewe in the Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys, and other Broadway performances include Ain’t Broadway Grand and the Tony Award-winning show Contact.

Evita runs at the San Francisco Playhouse until September 7th. Further information and details of ticketing can be found on the San Francisco Playhouse website.

All photographs by Jessica Palopoli

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Playhouse program notes

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

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