Review: Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts’ “Evita” “is a Diamond”

Laura Laureano (Photo: Courtney Braun)

Continuing on with their 17th season, Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts took on an ambitious feat with presenting Andrew Lloyd Webber’s six-time Tony Award-winning musical “Evita.” However with an all-star cast and production team at its helm, the production was set up for success – and it delivers.

The brilliant Laura Laureano stars as Eva Perón, an Argentinian woman married to dictator Juan Perón who climbed her way up to the top of society – to the dismay of the rich – with a lust for fame and fortune while eventually advocating for the poor. With flawless vocals and a clear understanding of the character’s psychological struggle between greed and sincerity, Ms. Laureano rises far above the levels of local theatre as she gives one of the most professional performances I’ve witnessed on the Island.

Dylan Bivinga (Photo: Courtney Braun)

Ms. Laureano is well-matched with Dylan Bivinga as Che, the musical’s everyman narrator – loosely representing revolutionary Che Guevara. Mr. Bivinga’s impressive tenor resonates throughout the spacious theatre as he belts the rags to riches story of María Eva Duarte de Perón. Both actors do not attempt to imitate the memorable performances of Patti Lupone as Eva or Mandy Patinkin as Che, but instead make individual choices that are extremely effective.

Rounding out the leading players is Dennis Creighton as Juan Perón. Mr. Creighton does a fine job of portraying “Evita’s” quasi-villain. He executes the aura of a man with deceit behind his eyes while also displaying strong vocal ability. After seeing Mr. Creighton’s performance in “Fun Home” last season I wish there was more for this gifted actor to do, but he is terrific with what the score and books allows of the character.

Laura Laureano and Dennis Creighton (Photo: Courtney Braun)

While the musical does contain, in my opinion, a certain level of filler material, there is not a weak link in the supporting cast or ensemble. Lauren Tirado stands out as one of Perón’s dismissed mistresses with the heartfelt ballad “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” Meanwhile, Anthony Arpino impresses with his gifted vocal abilities as Magaldi.

One of the most exciting aspects of the show is its choreography. Ashley Nicastro, a regular choreographer at CM Performing Arts Center, succeeds with her Smithtown debut. She gives the skilled ensemble dancers energetic, eye-catching movement while representing the cultural significance of Argentina.

And, of course, this fantastic production would not be a reality without the talents of Ronald Green III – playing dual roles as director and costumer. His fine attention to detail with costumes is also displayed in his direction. Every performer on stage moves with motivation and purpose while the leads display a deep knowledge of their characters. Meanwhile, the costumes are utterly gorgeous with Eva’s signature “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” white dress as a standout. Mr. Green epitomizes the heart that goes on behind the scenes of Long Island theatre.

“Evita” continues to be debated for its historical accuracies and its portrayal of what some would call a ruthless dictatorship. However, the musical remains a beloved work from Mr. Webber and Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts does it justice.

Visit Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts’ website for tickets and additional information.

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