By Susan M. Gardner For the Saturday Gazette-Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Light Opera Guild's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Evita" opened Friday night with somber song and dance in honor of the late Eva Peron, former first lady of Argentina.To this day, Argentines and people around the world debate whether Peron was a saint or sinner, victor or villain. However, Emily Capece, who performs as Eva Peron in the Guild's production, portrays her as sparkling and spectacular. Her performance brings Peron to life in fashion, song and dance. Her booming voice gave the audience chills as she sang "Don't Cry for Me Argentina."
Ryan Hardiman portrays the character Che, who is constantly demanding the audience remember that Peron is more actress than political savior. His talent as a character actor is evident in his performance. Although at times it was a bit difficult to discern the lyrics he was singing, Hardiman's stage presence made him one of the best in show.Other Guild favorites also make appearances, including Beth Winkler Bowden, who wows the audience with her magical voice while portraying Juan Peron's mistress. Ted Brightwell portrays Migaldi, a tango and milango singer who is responsible for Peron's early rise to fame. As always, Brightwell never disappoints. His performance is memorable without overshadowing Capece and her fellow lead, Bill Rainey (Juan Peron). Although Rainey's role is less flashy than his co-stars, one gets the sense that Juan Peron himself was likely overshadowed by Eva.Although the ending is quite somber -- after all, the play is about the life and death of Evita -- the power in the song and performances throughout will have you singing the songs long after the curtains come down.The storyline leaves the audience contemplating how the contributions of one life can be marred by two distinctly different perspectives. The performance also raises questions about the motives of Eva Peron -- always remembered as both fabulous and controversial.Shows are 7:30 p.m. today, May 10, 11, 17 and 18, and at 3 p.m. on May 12 at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater. Tickets are $20 each.