Director Heather Braaten is devising clever strategies to make her Lower Ossington Theatre production of Evita work.
As everyone knows, Evita is a musical about Eva Perón, who rose from the slums to become first lady of Argentina. Producing it takes some serious money.
“Some casts on Broadway have been up to 30 ensemble members. They have extremely elaborate sets, extremely elaborate costuming. Which all comes with an extremely huge cost,” Braaten says.
Evita’s cast includes large groups of soldiers, peasants and aristocrats that would usually be played by about 30 people employing lots of props and costume changes. Braaten is working to accomplish the same effect with 10 people. “It’s more through gesture and movements that we’re telling those different stories,” she says.
Christopher Benjamin plays Ché, the narrator and, in this production, the leader of these groups — when they all become peasants, he’s the lead peasant. “At a moment’s notice, suddenly you have to move from being a peasant to an aristocrat,” he says.
These 10 intrepid thespians will have a base costume, that of a peasant, onto which they must project their characters. But not to worry: Evita will be resplendent! “I’ve tried to scale back, but she needs costume changes, and even with a keen eye to scaling back, I think she has about 20 different outfits,” Braaten says.
Benjamin, an Australian, has been in Canada two years, and this is his second performance with LOT. Evita has never been on his theatrical wish-list, but he’s looking forward to his juicy role. “[As the narrator], I can speak to Evita’s subconscious. I can speak directly to the audience. I can become a poor Argentinian. I can become an admiral. It’s a great role because I get the ability to play everyone.”