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Kiko Laureano is starring as Eva Perón in the musical “Evita” March 22 through April 15 at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage in Anoka. (Photo by Twin Cities Headshots)

Anoka’s Lyric Arts Main Street Stage is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the musical masterpiece “Evita” with performances starting Friday, March 22, and running through Sunday, April 14.

“Evita” is based on a true story. It brings to life the rags-to-riches rise of Eva Perón (Kiko Laureano), the First Lady of Argentina. Set between 1934 and 1952, the musical follows Eva on her journey from being a poor illegitimate child to becoming an ambitious actress to the most powerful woman in Latin America, before her death from cancer at age 33.

“‘Evita’ is really about the intersection of celebrity and politics,” said director Matt McNabb. “It details this woman’s amazing journey to political power and her ultimate downfall. What’s really interesting about the musical is it really examines the joys, sacrifices and struggles that come along with fame.”

Laureano said playing Eva Perón has been one of the most interesting but difficult roles she has ever undertaken.

“Trying to connect with Eva Perón has been very hard because I’m only 23 ... and I’m trying to imagine at my age now she was already a talented actress,” Laureano said. “She had this strong confidence in herself and she was succeeding and becoming the person she was always meant to be, but then it’s all taken away. Eva Perón’s life was a straight-up roller coaster. She was all energy and all drive, and I think that’s what’s so compelling about her. She was always wanting, and she fought for what she wanted.”

Laureano said Perón was a deeply complex person who was smart, manipulative, determined, loving and generous person.

“It’s cool to play a powerful character who was such an amazing Latina who went from being poor and ended up breaking all the barriers and rose to the top,” she said. “It has been very humbling,”

Laureano, whose father is Puerto Rican, said playing Eva Perón has been exciting not just as a woman but also as also as a woman of color.

“When I was younger and watching theater I did not see people who looked like me on stage, and performing has been a gift to me,” said Laureano, who’s also a theater teacher at the Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins. “Also with having students of color it has been so rewarding to show that it’s possible. I hope young Latina women who come to the show become inspired and realize that performing is something they can do as well. Skin color should never be a factor when taking on a role.”

“Evita” also freatures Adan Varela (Che), Jake Sung-Guk Sullivan (Juan Perón), Derick Taylor-White (Agustin Magaldi) and Laila Sahir (Perón’s Mistress). The ensemble cast includes Nuriel Abdenur, Dan Britt, Andrew Elfenbein, Lucy Juncosa, Brandon D. Lund, Stella Murphy, Sophie Negrete, Gianna Schiller, Rachel Sulentic, Benjamin Thacker, Rick Wyman and Robert Zalazar.

The crew includes music director Louis Berg Arnold, stage manager Samson Perry, scenic and lighting designer Chad Van Kekerix, costume designer Sara Wilcox, properties designer Cory Skold, sound designer Paul Estby, choreographer Lauri Kraft, dialect coach Keely Wolter, sound board operator Tom Pinckney, spotlight operators Blues Bland and Lisa Frietag, ASL interpreters Tammy Hansen and Rebecca Rick and assistant stage managers Allison Peterson, Pat Campbell and Sophenia Marchant.

“Evita” originally began as a rock opera concept album, which was released in 1976. The album’s success led to productions in London’s West End in 1978 and Broadway the following year.

“Evita” is filled with well-known numbers such as “Oh What a Circus,” “Buenos Aires” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”

McNabb said Lloyd Webber and Rice’s music has challenging rhythms and musical numbers.

“It’s has been very challenging performing this musical,” McNabb said. “All of our actors are and needed to be a great musicians, but they’re so gifted that they have done an excellent job bringing this musical to the stage.”

Laureano said she was raised on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music, but “Evita” has been “the most challenging musical I have ever done,” she said. “It’s written like a pop opera, and it’s nothing like anything else.”

McNabb added, “Despite it being challenging, the music is so incredible, and you’ll never know how many songs you will go away humming.”

Laureano said “Evita” is the musical audiences won’t want to miss.

“‘Evita’ is going to challenge and excite audiences, and I hope people leave the show questioning and examining the life of Eva Perón,” she said. “You’ll see the rise and fall of a beautiful and powerful woman who eventually finds her humanity. Ultimately, though, you’ll be asking yourself, at what cost? At the end audience members will understand the reason why we loved her so much.”

For more information on “Evita,” visit lyricarts.org.

If you go

What: “Evita”

When: March 22 through April 14. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Where: Lyric Arts Main Street Stage, 420 E. Main Street, Anoka

Tickets: $27-$35

Info: 763-422-1838 or lyricarts.org

 

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