Evita takes pupils to Argentina

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Members of the chorus rehearse.

FOR the first time, James Hargest College will perform Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Evita.

It would be only the second time the musical had been performed by a school in New Zealand, director Jonathan Tucker said.

Based on the life of Eva (Evita) Peron, the production tells the story of how she starts out life as the illegitimate child of a poor family and makes a name for herself, first as an actress and then as the wife of Argentinian president Juan Peron.

“It was an extraordinary rise to fame.”

When she died of cancer in 1952 aged only 33, there was widespread mourning.

Tucker said he had just started boarding school at the time.

“The Argentine Embassy in Ireland sent out pictures of Eva. They were devastated with her loss.”

The musical began as a concept album, and Tucker bought a copy when it was released in 1976.

“I thought ‘I can’t wait to see this on the stage’.”

Tucker said it was a complex story with stunning music and clever lyrics which included smart and witty dialogue.

Alex Thomson (Juan Peron) and Sarah-Lene Hogg (Eva Peron) rehearse for Evita.

“It is intellectually challenging, but it shouldn’t put people off because of the superb music and the superb construction of the play.”

The story itself is narrated by an Argentinian named Che (played by Nepia Ruwhia), with Sarah-Lene Hogg as Evita and Alex Thomson as Peron.

Tucker said Che was outside of the action, but played a role in the story as well.

“He dances with Evita in a wonderful scene later on and… they never touch. They do a waltz while they talk to one another and she dismisses him. It’s like a conscience with her.

“He sees her and Peron as a couple of crooks.”

Another challenge was the many scene changes, he said. The musical started with a funeral and ended with a funeral, and in between there were numerous settings including a nightclub, backstage at a theatre and a tour of Europe.

Tucker said one scene also required Evita and Peron to be on a balcony.

Deputy principal Alan Pannett had been “genius” in helping with the scenery.

“You just tell him what you want and he produces it for you.”

Tucker said the chorus was also very strong, with Lesley Little doing a great job with the music.

Evita, James Hargest College Senior Campus, July 2-5, 7.30pm. Tickets are available from the Senior Campus office. Adults $15, students $8.

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