Long Beach has a new theatre company! The P3 Theatre Company, led by executive artistic director Jon Peterson, has taken up residence in the Ernest Borgnine Theatre and has begun its grand-opening season with the political rags-to-riches musical Evita.
The theatre, located in the Long Beach Scottish Rite Event Center, is both cozy and opulent, with champagne-colored walls adorned patterned with colorful motifs– a beautiful space in which to experience up close an enthusiastic cast belt out Tim Rice’s lyrics to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s rock-opera score.
Eva Duarte Perón was a real-life Argentinian first lady from 1946 until her death in 1952. Evita tells the story of Eva’s lower-class roots and climb through acting to political influence, mostly through relationships with men, the last of whom was up-and-coming military man Juan Perón, whom she helps get elected as President through aligning him with workers’ rights.
Christy Mauro-Cohen portrays Eva warmly, especially inhabiting the role in the latter half as Eva comes into her own as the first lady. Her voice radiates particularly well in the solos and duets, such as “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You,” sung with Juan Perón (also played warmly by Rudy Martinez, with whom she has good chemistry) on the night they meet, and the iconic, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina,” which she sings impressively on a high podium wheeled directly in front of the audience.
Eva’s foil in the musical is a figure named Che (as in Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara), excellently performed by Euriamis Losada. Che narrates her tale, but from an outside, critical perspective, needling the crowd who blindly follow her and even confronting Eva herself about her motives being self-serving rather than selflessly serving her adoring citizens. Losada is sharp from start to finish, not only in his tenor-voiced singing but fluid, confident acting.
An ensemble cast of about 18 high-energy performers portray military figures skeptical of Eva, as well as citizens of Argentina who suffer in poverty, unify into labor groups and mourn their beloved Evita when she passes. Of them, Zach Appel shines as Agustin Magaldi, a singer with whom the 15-year-old Eva runs away with to the big city of Buenos Aires, and Emily Abeles, who has a sweet and moving solo– “Another Mistress In Another Hall”– as Juan’s young mistress thrown out by Eva the night they meet.
Whether you have or haven’t yet seen Evita live, you’ll enjoy this local production for its wholehearted performances. Getting used to the new venue may cause a couple of minor sound glitches and occasional cast jostling, but the overall professional execution of a surprisingly fun, political play with great music and spirited troupe delights.
Evita continues at the Ernest Borgnine Theatre in the Long Beach Scottish Rite Event Center, 855 Elm Ave., Long Beach, through Sept. 29, with shows Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $25 to $35. For tickets, call (800) 595-4849 or visit p3theatre.biz.