The Director and Choreographer Discuss Gateway’s “Evita”

Assistant director and choreographer Andrés Acosta of The Gateway’s new production of “Evita,” leads a dancer in rehearsal. Director Keith Andrews is sitting in the background. Courtesy photo.

“Evita,” the legendary blockbuster with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice is by now considered iconic, starting as a rock opera concept album in 1976, then on to productions in London’s West End in 1978. A year later it went to Broadway, ultimately winning a Tony Award for Best Musical in 1980, the first British musical to hit that mark. Several Broadway revivals ensued, ultimately winning eight Tony Awards; the Madonna movie emerged in 1996. But its subject, Argentine political leader Eva Perón, the wife of President Juan Perón, and her determination, glamour, spirituality and influence, has branded an indelible impression on people still clamoring for more.

The Gateway in Bellport, is providing that with their new production, a show that chronicles Eva Perón’s history, runs from Friday, May 5 through Sunday, May 28. Fire Island News spoke to director Keith Andrews and assistant director and choreographer Andrés Acosta this week in The Gateway’s lobby.

Andrews had just directed four scenes that morning and was asked what he would be changing.

“Evita was done a certain way until the early 2000’s, and then a new version emerged,” Andrews said. “Most of the show is the same as originally written but they moved some things and changed some things. Ricky Martin was in the revival in 2012 and they wanted to be more authentic and we’re trying to do this too. Most of the cast are Latino actors, about 90 percent, which brings me to why I wanted Andres.”

Acosta was asked about the dancing. “There are tango elements infused throughout,” he said. “A lot of the rest is more solo. The movement has a lot of Latin American flair, cha-cha, salsa, tango. We also have a tango couple representing Eva and Juan when they met and their passion. It’s staged in a way that through her sensuality she incorporates herself into his life. The woman activates and initiates the action to seduce him. Musically when they meet, it grounds us back to the dance of Argentina.”

“Good Night and Thank You,” intimates Eva sleeping her way up.  “It’s what’s next and she’s manipulating where she gets to the next step,” he said. “There’s a line in that song, `Argentine men call the sexual shots. Someone has altered the rules.’”

How was Andrews presenting Eva Perón? A beautiful woman, who became powerful in the 1940’s, she died at age 33 from cancer in 1952 with controversial stories still surrounding her, many perhaps unfairly. The show is set in Argentina between 1934 and 1952.

“The production shows a strong woman who is confident in herself, aims for and gets to the top, and it’s amazing the heights she rose to,” he said. “An Argentinian cast member was asked about the impression she left. He said, `she’s loved as a saint, and with others she makes them angry.’ She’s a complicated person but I really think she really believed in her causes.”

She started the Eva Perón Foundation which distributed thousands of sewing machines, shoes, cooking pots to the poor and built new houses, schools, orphanages and hospitals. She was also largely responsible for the law giving Argentine women the right to vote. “But she was hated by the military and the Perón administration silenced their opposition,” Andrews said.

As for the role of Che Guevera, who narrates some of the scenes, “It makes him more of the people of Argentina with opposing views of her and challenging her ideas.”

“Che starts out saying, “how can you not see it?’” added Acosta. “He’s looking at the bigger picture.”

Andrews has a theater resume at least a block long with directing roles in national tours and regional including numerous Gateway productions as well and choreography.

Acosta, is a NYC-based actor with favorite roles including Bernardo in “West Side Story” National Tour, Joe in “Flashdance” National Tour and a host of regional credits including “Evita” at Asolo Rep. (This writer had the pleasure to dance with Acosta when he pulled me out of my seat during “On Your Feet” at The Gateway. An honorable mention in my diary, he was superb; alas, I was not.)

The leads are played by Amanda Rivera Torres and Ryan K. Bailer. Torres has starred regionally as Maria in “West Side Story,” Maria in “The Sound of Music,” Eponine in “Les Miserable” and Belle in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Bailer, has the magnetic heft for Juan Peron and in fact played the role in the 1st National Tour as well as at Act of CT, Barn Theatre and was Maldi playing Perón as an understudy at the Marriott Lincolnshire. With an impressive roster of theater roles, he was last seen at The Gateway as Captain Von Trap in “The Sound of Music.”

Pablo Francisco Torres plays Che and has appeared Off-Broadway and in regional productions of “A Little Night Music” and “Mary Poppins.”

There are 31 in the cast including children, the set is a structural abstract steel frame with pieces moving in and out, and projections and lighting will illuminate background scenes; Buenos Aires has more of a European look than Latin. And yes, that gorgeous strapless ball gown is in it. (Ever the fashionista, Eva wore a Dior ballgown in 1951 at Argentina’s 141st Independence Day. Dior is mentioned in the song, “Rainbow Tour.”)

The show is also graced with musical director Andrew Haile Austin Andrew Haile Austin who has headed over 100 productions of operas and musicals across the country,

As for the socko production numbers, “Buenos Aires,” “The Money Kept Rolling In,” “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, and “Rainbow Tour” will have you riveted (or dancing) in your seat.

“This is an iconic mega musical from the British invasion,” promised Acosta.

Tickets can be purchased through their website,