In just over a week, Lyric Arts will open their newest production, Evita, on March 22. This show has been the show I have been most excited for since it was announced last year. Full disclosure, I used to work at Lyric Arts and immediately called Laura, their Artistic and Executive Director, to both congratulate her and beg her to let me play Eva. Of course we laughed about it and I still let her know, almost monthly, that I’m ready to jump into the role if anything happens.
Not only is this my favorite musical but there are a multitude of reasons as to why I’m thrilled Lyric Arts is producing it. First, it’s the perfect time to celebrate it’s creation, as it recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. The masterpiece, by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, had a strong opening on Broadway with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, who both won Tony’s for their roles.
The second reason I’m itching to see it is the fantastic direction that I’m sure Matt McNabb will bring. McNabb is used to directing large scale musicals at Lyric Arts, having previously directed ones including RENT and Young Frankenstein. He’s very familiar with this intimate space which makes him a great choice to direct.
That being said I jumped at the chance to ask if I could chat with Kiko Laureano, the actress who was cast as the title role of Eva Perón, about the role and her time in this show.
BB: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. I’m sure you’re very busy with rehearsals for this beast of a show! How are rehearsals going? Opening night is next week already!
KL: Rehearsals are going very well! The cast and crew are a dream to work with. I’m especially grateful that we’ve worked hard to finish staging quickly enough to run through the show many times before even getting to our technical rehearsals!
BB: Before you were cast, was there something that drew you to auditioning for this show? Was it a bucket list role?
KL: To be honest, I didn’t like this show until l heard the 2012 revival recording with Elena Roger as Evita, so I never considered it a bucket list role. To hear someone from Argentina connecting with a part of her nation’s history is very powerful. Those of us that are of Latino descent don’t have a lot of opportunity to tell our stories, so I’m very grateful that Lyric Arts gave us an opportunity for our voices to be heard.
BB: Let’s just jump into it, how do you even begin to rehearse for a show like this? For readers who don’t know, Evita is a sung through production.
KL: I began learning the music for this show long before rehearsals started so that I could come in almost memorized. First I learned the melodies and then I concentrated on the text. A lot of these words are more powerful than you might think at first glance. I have a little notebook in which I go line by line through the entire show and write down all of the character’s motivations and thoughts in every given scene. Even the ones for which I’m not onstage.
BB: As performers we have to take care of ourselves, specifically our voices, and I think that goes to a whole new level with a production, especially for you being the title role. What are you doing to protect your voice?
KL: I protect my voice by being honest with myself about what my body needs. I badly damaged my voice in college by waltzing into 9am classes without warming up. Now I have a full routine that I do at the piano or in the car if I have to drive directly from work to rehearsal. Being honest with yourself includes knowing when you need to take it easy. No one needs to sing full voice in a rehearsal space every single time. There’s no shame in that and anyone who tells you otherwise, does not have your best interest at heart. You’ve got the job, you’re there. You don’t need to go out of your way to impress with big belting numbers if you feel strained. Sing the octave down if you’re tired, sing lightly if you’re sick, and always stay hydrated.
BB: The role of Eva Perón is such an iconic role not only because her story is so incredible but also there are so many legendary actresses who’ve played her. When you were developing the character, how were you able to almost honor their portrayals while still making her your own at the same time?
KL: I honor other actresses by reminding myself that I am not the first or the last person to play this role. I listen to their recordings, I watch their videos, and I recognize that not everything that works for them will work for me. I pick and choose the pieces that I like that work for my body. The rest is my interpretation of Eva and the woman she was. I am grateful to all of those who played Eva before me who have made their work public to share with those of us who are still learning.
BB: When a lot of people think of Evita I feel like they immediately go to “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” or Patti LuPone or the Madonna movie. To many it’s a fun glitz and glamorous musical but I think there are some deeper political themes to it that makes this show so rich in history. What are some of the bigger message that this show tells other than just a rags to riches theme?
KL: Those who see this musical as glitz and glamour have missed the point. This show should leave you understanding that even those who are loved and adored had dark sides of manipulation to get what they wanted. She started off as a poor and downtrodden and rose to riches because she knew how to get what she wanted out of people that could help her career. She was only seen as human when she died of cancer. Even then, many people couldn’t see it. She was that good.
BB: Have you learned anything about yourself as a performer in this role? What are you going to take away from it?
KL: I’ve learned a lot about myself as a performer during this show. I come from classical/operatic vocal training. I have learned how to fit this show to how my voice naturally sounds rather than pushing it to sound like LuPone. I’m going to take away that this role can be done in a variety of vocal styles, as long as you stay true to the heart of the words and the text.
BB: Do you have a favorite song that you personally get to sing in the show? If so, why is it your favorite?
KL: My favorite song in the show is, “You Must Love Me.” Eva sings this song to her husband, Juan Perón (played by Jake Sullivan in our production) when they find out that she’s dying. It’s her most human moment. All manipulation is dropped. All her power forgotten. The relationship between Eva and Perón was formed knowing that they would be beneficial for each other to rise to power. She sings this song to him realizing that they have truly grown to love each other and she’s not just a pawn in his success anymore.
BB: Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
KL: I hope that those who come to see this show are challenged and that they leave the theatre feeling emotions they did not expect. I hope they leave with enjoyment from the big dance numbers and the spectacle. I hope they leave with a better understanding of how celebrities and politicians are glorified actors who get what they want by manipulation. Most of all, I hope people leave feeling conflicted about Eva’s morals. This is a show that should make you think, and I believe that our fantastic cast has done the work to achieve that. We all hope to see you there!
Evita opens at Lyric Arts on March 22nd through April 14. Tickets can be purchased by clicking the button below. To learn more about Eva Perón and her legacy, visit their blog post to dig deeper into her life!