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Local production of ‘Evita’ hopes audiences won’t cry for Columbus

Courtesy of Barb Young

“Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” will be ringing from the Columbus Performing Arts Center on Friday at 8 p.m. as the character Evita Peron takes the stage.

Senior Repertory of Ohio will be performing a concert version of the Broadway musical, “Evita,” from June 3-12 at the Shedd Theater.

The musical tells the story of Peron, the first lady of Argentina who was known as the saint of the poor during the 1940s. During her short life, she supported labor unions and  women’s suffrage, while the military’s hostility conflicted with her fight for the people of Argentina.

Nancy Nocks, artistic director at SRO, said the production will have five leads and a chorus on stage, but there will not be full staging and costume.

SRO was originally founded as the Grandparents Living Theater by Joy Riley, associate professor of theatre at Ohio State.

Nocks said the group is focusing on the acronym instead of the senior title to encourage more community members to audition for shows.

“We have done main stage shows that include many generations, not just those 55 or 60 and older,” she said.

The “Evita” cast has a performer from every decade, ranging from 9 to 89 years old. Nocks said the middle-aged cast members are benefitting from the Broadway experiences of the older members.

“The older (generation) you put them with the younger generation and it’s like their energy doubles,” she said.

Nocks said SRO members come from different backgrounds from casts of original Broadway shows to drama teachers.

Columbus native Todd Lemmon is playing Juan Peron in SRO’s production of “Evita.” Lemmon said he has been involved in drama productions since high school and through college, where actor Steve Carell was his freshman-year roommate.

At 5-feet-5-inches, Lemmon said physically playing Peron is challenging, as he was a military figure with more of an actual presence.

“The most challenging thing is (portraying) the scope of who he was, the power and the image that he had at the time he was in power in Argentina,” he said.

Lemmon said “Evita” is his fifth show with SRO over the past two years, and Nocks’ husband was his drama director in high school.

Danielle Thompson, a first-year in speech and hearing sciences and Spanish, said she has seen “Evita,” the 1996 movie version of the Broadway musical. She said she thought the film was strange, but she doesn’t know very much about the history behind it.

“I thought the music was really powerful, and the visual elements that went along with it complimented everything really well,” she said.

Thompson said the SRO production of “Evita” could be weird with older cast members, because society constantly focuses on youth and beauty.

“I think it would be weird to see the really old with the really young, because it’s different than what society usually puts together,” she said.

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