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The Marriott Lincolnshire Takes 'Evita' To An Intimate Stage

Capturing the renowned musical retelling of Eva Perón-Argentinian fashion icon, pop culture staple and political powerhouse-is no small task for any theater. Combine that with the incomparable music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the deeply dynamic lyrics of Tim Rice and you've got Broadway-sized shoes to fill. This season, the Marriott Lincolnshire Theater decided to take on this challenging show, setting the classic rock opera 'in the round'; and it was well-worth it.

The grandiose extravagance was not lost on the Marriott's intimate stage. Instead, audiences were able to hone in on the claustrophobic world of Eva Duarte, a young woman with ambitions that take her from 'rags to the riches' (albeit not without sacrifice). The production paints a picture of a woman infatuated with climbing the ladder of success, allowing audiences to almost sympathize with the stark and honest reality of a young leader thrust into the limelight.

Evita opens with a haunting melody, depicting the people of Argentina mourning the loss of their worshiped icon. We're introduced to Che, a rugged, passionate member of lower-class society, hell-bent on sharing a less angelic side of Eva with his audience. He's both a flesh-and-blood character, witnessing the rise and fall of the First Lady, and a phantom narrator who serves as the story's "Greek chorus." Fresh off the ensemble of Broadway's critically acclaimed Something Rotten, Austin Lesch (also seen in Broadway's Violet and Billy Elliot) takes the stage as the show's cynical storyteller. His performance is exceptional (both vocally and acting-wise), without a weak moment during the show's two-hour run time.

As the plot travels back to a young, 15-year-old Eva, dreaming of a "big and bold" Buenos Aires, we're introduced to-arguably-one of the most complex leading ladies ever to grace showbiz. Hannah Corneau, whose previous credits include Off-Broadway's Daddy Long Legs and Paramount's Les Mis, tackles the demanding role of the titular prima donna with radiance (Note: Eva is played by Samantha Pauly during select performances). Corneau delivers an Evita bogged down by the weight of her country's expectations and the dismal prospect of a worsening ailment. She plays the role well and with honesty...and with a worthwhile rendition of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina"!

One of the most impressive feats of the production is Director/Choreographer Alex Sanchez's usage of the arena-style stage. The show's dynamic ensemble works the space well, engaging in rhythmic tangos, emotional ballets and amusing dancing militia sequences. Along with spectacular lighting and a small (but vibrant) orchestra, the Marriott manages to bring this gigantically lavished tale justice. In the words of Ms. Perón, herself: It's "just a little touch of star quality!"