Review: Evita (Marriott Theatre, 2016)

| April 29, 2016

Samantha Pauly as Eva Perón in Evita at Marriott Theatre          


Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice 
Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire, IL (map)
thru June 5  |  tix: $50-$55  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Hit or miss lead makes production good, not great


Austin Lesch as Che with cast in Evita, Marriott Theatre

Marriott Theatre presents

Review by Lauren Whalen 

Evita is an intriguing musical. For all the time the audience spends with the title character, who is onstage for nearly all of the show’s three-hour running time, we’re never fully inside her head. Narrator and revolutionary Che frequently guesses at Eva’s motives but doesn’t yield any real answers. As well, the Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera is vocally taxing, for everyone from the ensemble members to Eva herself – the latter must have incredible range and staying power. The Marriott Theatre’s Evita is hit or miss. Much of the talent is extraordinary, but Hannah Corneau’s Eva is decidedly devoid of charisma.

David Schlumpf and Hannah Corneau in Evita, Marriott TheatreBased on actual events, Evita follows the title character (Corneau and Samantha Pauly in alternating performances) as she rises from dirt-poor teenager to Buenos Aires actress to wife of President Juan Perón (Larry Adams). Eva Perón arrived in Buenos Aires at 15, became the first lady at 26 and died in 1952, at age 33. She was beloved by the people of Argentina, admired for her style and her compassion for the working class of which she was once a part, but distrusted by the military. Rebel Che (Austin Lesch) guides the audience through the action while questioning Eva’s every move.

Evita debuted on Broadway in 1979 with Patti LuPone in the title role. (LuPone also had an alternate, as the role is so taxing.) In terms of how it’s aged, Evita falls somewhere between Cats (terrible) and Jesus Christ Superstar (still wonderful). Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score, with lyrics by Tim Rice, is over-the-top and screechy at some points, but quietly rewarding at others. In fact, the show’s most poignant song could conceivably be cut entirely. “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” is sung by Perón’s final mistress (Eliza Palasz) before Evita assumes the role of his wife. The Mistress has no name, is introduced briefly before the song, and is never seen again. A sung monologue, “Another Suitcase” is a lovely, heartfelt moment in an otherwise very cynical musical, and Palasz’s interpretation is wistful and brilliant.

Samantha Pauly as Eva Perón with the cast in Evita, Marriott TheatreAustin Lesch as Che in Evita, Marriott Theatre Larry Adams and Hannah Corneau in Evita, Marriott TheatreHannah Corneau as Eva Perón with soldiers from Evita, Marriott Theatre Eliza Palasz as Mistress in Evita, Marriott TheatreSamantha Pauly as Eva Perón with reporters in Evita, Marriott Theatre

Director and choreographer Alex Sanchez has come under fire for casting mainly white actors as Argentinians, but it can’t be denied that this Evita boasts real talent. The ensemble harmonizes beautifully, molding to music director Ryan T. Nelson’s capable hands, and their dancing skills are equally impressive. Though Lesch stumbles a bit on Che’s lower notes, the New York actor makes up for his shortcomings with a bravado that’s strangely charming. David Schlumpf soars as Magaldi, a tango singer and Eva’s first lover, and Adams displays remarkable vocals and stellar acting as Perón, a powerful leader who’s nonetheless a softy for his wife and has genuine compassion for the poor. If only Corneau were as impressive. Her voice is excellent, if a little thin, but the actress displays none of the sexual magnetism and charisma that enabled the real Eva to rise to the top. She displays no real character growth or confidence, which is a real issue considering that the character is a powerhouse and a driving force.

With a stronger lead, this Evita would have been much more memorable. As it is, the production is hit or miss. The ensemble and other principals do fantastic work, but one can’t argue that the show is called Evita, not Che or Magaldi or even The Mistress. (The latter could have been an interesting spin-off, though.) Corneau tries, but just isn’t up to the task of playing a dynamo. She’s merely good, when any actress playing Evita must be great.

Rating: ★★★

Evita continues through June 5th at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire (map), with performances Wednesdays 1pm & 8pm, Thursdays and Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 4:30pm & 8pm, Sundays 1pm & 5pm  Tickets are $50-$55, and are available by phone (847-634-0200) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 2 hours 50 minutes, includes an intermission)

Larry Adams as Juan Perón and Hannah Corneau in Evita, Marriott TheatreAustin Lesch as and Hannah Corneau in Evita, Marriott Theatre

Photos by Liz Lauren




Hannah Corneau (Eva), Samantha Pauly (Eva alternate), Austin Lesch (Che), Larry Adams (Juan Perón), David Schlumpf (Magaldi), Eliza Palasz (Mistress), William Carlos Angulo, Lauren Blane, Brian Bohr, Brianna Borger, Jameson Cooper, Bobby Daye, Alana Grossman, Anne Gunn, George Keating, Lauren Kias, Josh Kohane, Kristina Larson-Hauk, Russell Mernagh, Christine Mild, Eliza Palasz, Samantha Pauly, James Rank, Todd Rhoades, Emily Rohm, Laura Savage, Jason Slattery (ensemble), Sayiga Eugene Peabody (ensemble, dance captain)

Understudies: Samantha Pauly and Christine Mild (Eva), David Schlumpf (Che), James Rank (Perón), Jason Slattery (Magaldi), Alana Grossman (Mistress)


Patti Garwood (conductor, keyboard), Kevin Reeks (assistant conductor, keyboard 2), Dominic Trumfio, Emily Beisel (reeds), Chuck Bontrager (violin), Zach Thomas (trumpet), Steve Duncan (trombone), Dave Saenger (guitar), Trevor Jones (bass), Ethan Deppe (drums)

behind the scenes

Alex Sanchez (director, choreographer), Ryan T. Nelson (music director), Thomas M. Ryan (set design), Jesse Klug (lighting design), Nancy Missimi (costume design), Robert E. Gilmartin (sound design), Sally Weiss (properties design), Michael Hendricks (production stage manager), Brian Bohr (asst. stage manager), Jill Walmsley Zager (dialect coach), Geoff Josselson (NY casting director), David Siegel (orchestra reductions), Patti Garwood (musical supervisor, conductor), Jen Donohoo (asst. to the director), Deya Friedman (production manager), James Guess (sound engineer), Samantha Holmes (wardrobe supervisor), Peter Blair (associate producer), Peter imMarston Sullivan (associate artistic director), Aaron Thielen (lead artistic director), Andy Hite (artistic director), Terry James (executive producer), Liz Lauren (photos)

George Keating, Larry Adams and Jameson Cooper in Evita, Marriott TheatreHannah Corneau as Eva Perón in Evita, Marriott TheatreDavid Schlumpf as Magaldi in Evita, Marriott TheatreHannah Corneau as Eva Perón in Evita, Marriott Theatre 3


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Category: 2016 Reviews, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lauren Whalen, Marriott Theatre, Musical

Comments (2)

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  1. Nicki Padron-Glass says:

    Where is the comment section? I could not disagree more with this review. I’m wondering if this writer saw the same production I did. Corneau was not only charismatic, but absolutely charming, seductive, and full of character and confidence in this role. I completely disagree with this writer. I recommend you consider another critic for the next production reviewed here. Thank you

  2. NealR says:

    Even though I gave up on Marriot long ago (due to their insistence on putting the orchestra in a sound-proof box), I still feel the need to defend this production because (as someone who is very familiar with the original Broadway production) the reviewer’s many misunderstandings of the text makes me wonder if she is also wrong about the actress playing the playing the titular part.

    First, to suggest as the reviewer does that a play must be primarily about whatever character has the title is absurd. (Should “To Kill a Mockingbird” been named “Scout”?) “Evita” is an exploration of the human condition, as revealed in he behavior of all of the characters toward her (and of course her toward them), including the sycophantic (and easily swayed) crowd and the lone voice of reason (Che). [Very analogous to our political times I would submit.]

    Further, to suggest that the play does not provide adequate motivation for “Evita” and that Tim Rice’s lyrics are somewhat sub-par is also ludicrous. In fact, the lyrics are some of the most insightful ever written for the musical stage, including:

    “Now Eva Peron had every DISadvantage
    you need if you’re going to succeed” [emphasis added]

    That is, the play makes the insightful observation that it is often the people who grew up in poverty and without the love of a father (or mother) that most feel the need to become rich and famous. Whereas those who grew up in a more loving and secure environment often prefer a more genuine and organic life built around having their own family and a career that reflects their true interests and abilities (without regard to any fame that may result).

    Eva herself begins realizes this in end, when she speculates that her very early death (33 I believe) is likely due to her life choices and behavior:

    “Remember I was very young then
    And a year was forever and a day
    so what use could fifty sixty seventy be?
    I saw the lights and I was on my way…
    …but how soon the lights were gone
    …understand what I have done”

    One thing that the review did get right was how beautiful (and heartbreaking) “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” is. But to suggest that it could be omitted because it isn’t directly about Evita (but only shows the effect her superficiality has on others) makes no sense once you realize the play is (in large part) about Evita’s effect on others.

    P.S. THANK YOU for making it clear to those who have only seen the (horrid) film that this beautiful number was written for Peron’s dumped mistress, NOT Evita.

    (For those who don’t know: Madonna bought the rights to the musical so she could cast herself in it even though she couldn’t even sing the part in the proper key. She then had the further audacity to steal the bulk of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” for herself.)