Director and choreographer Gustavo Zajac brings an informed take to Skylight Music Theater’s new musical Evita.
Zajac was born and raised in Buenos Aires. Everyone knows him in Buenos Aires because his musical hit “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” is being broadcast all over the world. But Zayak said he would never stage “Evita” in his hometown. Because Peronistas – supporters of the late dictator Juan Perón – bomb the theaters.
As a girl, his mother experienced anti-Semitism at school and was even beaten after World War II for being Jewish in a country that hosted many Nazis.
So it’s no surprise that Zajac personally sided with Che, a character in the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. We’ve heard the defense against introducing better wages, but we can’t overlook the repression, violence, and economic collapse that the Peron regime has brought.
The musical follows Eva Duarte’s rise from street penniless girl to actress and star, and eventually to the wife of a president and politician. Like some of her Kander and Eve musicals, such as “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” “Evita” has a beautiful structure with her two main characters, Zajak said. One (Evita) lives the story, the other of her (Che) speaks to the audience.
For Zacac, Che is not Che Guevara, the Marxist revolutionary from Argentina who was the driving force behind the Cuban Revolution. Zajak said Guevara had a record of atrocities and could not be a good critic of Evita.
Zajac also brings a happier part of his experience living in Argentina to the Skylight production: a big infusion of tango. His cast includes Guillermina Quiroga, whom Zajak called “his one of the best tango dancers in the world”, and Mariano Loziudice, her partner in her dance. He said that sometimes they would dance in shows as part of a company, but there would be three or four points of prominence by performing themselves.
Zayak said that the “Evita” will also feature Argentinian folk dances, lest people from his hometown think only of tango.
if you go
Skylight Music Theater presents the musical Evita from February 3-19 at the Broadway Theater Center (158 N. Broadway). For tickets, skylightmusictheater.org Or call (414) 291-7800.
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