Review: ‘Evita’ at Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace a powerful revival of Webber classic

Richard Bermudez (Che, from left), Michelle Aravena (Eva), and Sean MacLaughlin (Peron) star in the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical "Evita," playing at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace through March 20.

Princess Diana. Jackie Kennedy. Eva Peron. All of these beloved icons had countless fans, but only one has been the subject of a Tony Award-winning musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. As the song “And the Money Kept Rolling In” in the second act of “Evita” says: “Never been a lady loved as much as Eva Perón.”

The Drury Lane Theatre production of “Evita,” now playing in Oakbrook Terrace through March 20, is a wonderfully sung and acted staging of the show about Argentine political leader Eva Perón, the second wife of Argentine president Juan Perón. The musical, which went from a rock opera concept album in the late 1970s to a Best Musical winner in London and on Broadway, begins with an upsetting 1952 radio announcement that Eva has “entered immortality.”

Our narrator throughout is Che (Richard Bermudez), whose cynicism and stark honesty are evident as he sings about Eva’s mourners, “Oh, what a circus, oh, what a show … As soon as the smoke from the funeral clears, we’re all gonna see … how she did nothing for years.”

We get the chance to see whether that’s the case or not when we go back in time to see a 15-year-old Eva (Michelle Aravena) in 1934. She’s already an ambitious young woman at that point, determined to escape her small-town, lower-class upbringing, no matter what. She initially sets her sights on visiting tango singer Agustin Magaldi (Paul Aguirre), persuading him to take her to Argentina’s “Big Apple,” Buenos Aires, where she hopes to become an actress. Once there, she dismisses Magaldi and uses one person after another to climb the social ladder. As Che sings in “Hello and Goodbye,” “We’d love you to stay but you’d be in the way, so do up your trousers and go.”

When Eva meets Colonel Juan Domingo Perón (Sean MacLaughlin), a rising star in the military who Eva believes could be a key political figure in Argentina, she convinces him in song that – for multiple reasons – “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You.” She immediately ousts Perón’s current mistress (Keila Hamed-Ramos), who sings the poignant “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”

Nina Poulimas (Young Eva) and Michelle Aravena (Eva) star in the Tony Award-winning musical about the life of Eva Peron, "Evita," playing at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace through March 20.

For those who’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy “Evita,” whether in a stage production or the 1996 movie with Madonna and Antonio Banderas, I won’t relate the remainder of this based-on-fact musical’s plot, but with this cast and the leadership of director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Drury Lane definitely has a winner.

Aravena, appearing in her third show at Drury Lane, has a beautiful, powerful voice and the ability to transform throughout the musical, becoming whatever Eva thinks will get her fame, power, and/or the love of the entire country of Argentina.

Richard Bermudez (Che) and Michelle Aravena (Eva) in an early scene from the musical "Evita," playing through March 20 at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.

Bermudez, who’s played Che before but is making his debut at Drury Lane, is the perfect narrator to draw us into this entertaining biography, whether Che is providing commentary to the audience or confronting – and even waltzing with – Eva to force her to face reality and her own mortality.

As Magaldi, Aguirre – another Drury Lane newcomer – elicits the audience’s sympathy and laughter with his musical ability being disparaged by everyone. Aguirre gets one of the best lines of dialogue, though. After Magaldi’s sung the same song (at a benefit for earthquake victims) that he’d sung when Eva met him, she says, “You haven’t changed your act much,” and he – accurately noting her continued use and dismissal of lovers – says with just the right amount of sarcasm, “Neither have you.”

MacLaughlin is a strong Perón, but appropriately shows a reluctant ambition. In fact, Perón wouldn’t mind just going to Paraguay instead of running for president (“All exiles are distinguished; more important, they’re not dead,” MacLaughlin suggests in “A New Argentina”). Of course, Eva’s powers of persuasion steer him away from that more sedentary future.

In addition to Aravena, Bermudez, MacLaughlin and Aguirre as the superbly cast leads, I also was impressed by the:

  • Beautiful costumes by Ryan Park (that sparkling white gown Eva wears is stunning);
  • Great dancing/singing by the entire ensemble, including Hamed-Ramos; and
  • A creative multi-story set that allows the Act II balcony scene to bring Eva closer to her people (including the audience members, who are just as entranced with Aravena’s character at that point).

“Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” – the most recognized song from “Evita” – is also touchingly sung by Aravena. But in my view, the only crying should be by those who miss this excellent production.

• Paul Lockwood is an enthusiastic singer, local theater actor, Grace Lutheran Church (Woodstock) and Toastmasters member, occasional theater reviewer, columnist, and past president of TownSquare Players. He lives in Woodstock.


WHAT: “Evita

WHERE: Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace

WHEN: Wednesdays through Sundays until March 20; mask-wearing required

INFORMATION: 630-530-0111,

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