Evita play tells the story of the woman who inspired a nation

City Circle company is bringing the Tony award-winning musical Evita to Coralville Friday through Feb. 16.

Samantha Murray, Arts Reporter

Based on the real life story of the first lady of Argentina, Eva Perón, the musical Evita makes its way to Coralville at the City Circle Theatre Company Feb. 14-16.

The story follows Eva throughout her life, beginning humbly in her small town of Junin to the capital city of Buenos Aires. The plot later takes audiences through her marriage to the future president Juan Perón and their rise to political power.

The role of Eva, famously played by Madonna in the 1996 film version of the musical, is being divided up into eight roles for this production. Traditionally, the role is shared by two or three women.

“I’m most excited for people to see these eight women tackle different aspects of this character’s personality, and they’re utterly thrilling to watch on stage,” director Chris Okiishi said.

Okiishi is putting on the play concert-style, meaning there will be a full orchestra on the stage. He said the orchestra and the numerous moving parts of the play have been the most challenging part, but he wants audiences to know the play will be put on in its entirety.

While the play premiered on Broadway back in 1979 and is based on true events in Argentina that took place in the ‘40s and ‘50s, Okiishi said he believes the show’s presentation of the rise of fascism could show interesting parallels to today’s world.

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“There’s things that we didn’t think were going to happen again that may be happening, so it’s fascinating to watch how personalities and governments can change based on the influence of a relatively small number of people,” he said.

One of the actresses playing Eva is University of Iowa sophomore Sasha Tyler, an Iowa City resident and a previous member of Circle City productions. Tyler will be playing a late ‘10s-early ‘20s version of Eva.

“A few of the guys in the production actually are my mentors and friends, and they told me that I should watch this because Chris had this amazing concept to do eight Evas in the show,” Tyler said. “I just jumped at the opportunity because I couldn’t pass it up.”

Tyler said eventually, the eight Evas seemed so natural by the end of it, and they represented her complexities and changes throughout her lifetime.

Although Evita is a fictionalized version of Perón’s life, Tyler said she found it challenging to play a character that is grounded in a real person while still adding her own style to the role.

“She has a lot of admirable qualities that we can all relate to in terms of having these huge aspirations of just going to them and not taking no for an answer,” she said. “It really paid off for her, and I think we can just all remember that even though she was this icon, she was once just the same as all of us.”

Playing Ev’s husband and the president of Argentina, Juan Perón, is Michael Benson. To Benson, Juan Perón is a difficult man to portray as sympathetic given his portrayal in the play, but Benson warns of another character instead of his own, Che the narrator.

“He is unreliable and has his own agenda,” Benson said in an email to the DI. “He is not a neutral observer no matter how much he’d like you to believe he is.”