With a successful run of the intimate 10-member cast rendition of “Ghost the Musical” wrapped up, Maine State Music Theatre and director Marc Robin are switching gears to stage Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita.” The evocative musical features complex choreography and 46 cast members – the largest cast in the theatre’s history.

The production uses a masterful score, under the direction of Edward Reichert, to drive the dichotomous story of Eva Duerte Peron, who rose from poverty to become a silver screen starlet at 22 and first lady of Argentina at 27. She was revered by the masses and reviled as a social-climbing hussy by the aristocracy and oligarchic military. Musical dissonance intermingles with lush melodies, establishing the opposing perceptions.

Robin artfully captures the overwhelming adoration of the working-class people in the opening scene as moviegoers watching an Eva Peron film begin wailing inconsolably upon learning of her death at age 33.

Historical images, designed by Dan Efron, flash to the sides of the scene while the actors replicate the pictures, as if frozen in time, individualizing the grief of the masses.

Tim Rice’s lyrics in songs such as “Peron’s Latest Flame” highlight the military’s scathing view of Eva, punctuated by the clockwork precision and cynicism of the tin soldier-like dancers.

Kate Fahrner makes her Maine State Music Theatre debut as Eva, bringing an opportunistic ferocity to the role as her character does whatever it takes to achieve her goals. Fahrner meets the challenges of the operatic score with a soaring soprano that is elegant and gripping on the iconic “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”

“I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You” is another highlight for Fahrner, complemented by the rich baritone vocals of Nat Chandler as Juan Peron. It’s a seductive musical tête-à-tête, made even more alluring by the fluid agility of dancers Jaime Verazin and Mark Stuart.

The inherent sociopolitical undertones of “Evita” sizzle in the hands of Maine State Music Theatre newcomer Matt Farcher, who plays the revolutionary Che. The smooth-voiced tenor delivers the ironic commentary with a commanding combination of seething disdain and charming impertinence. “And the Money Kept Rolling In” is one of several standout vocal performances by Farcher.

Ben Michael and Salena Qureshi further flesh out the social hierarchy as Eva’s first flame, Magaldi, and the mistress she displaces to win over Peron. Michael delivers a beautiful rendition of “On This Night of a Thousand Stars,” and Qureshi is heartbreaking and vulnerable on “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”

Standout performances also are given by Mike Backes, Kyle E. Baird, Billy Clark Taylor, Siri Howard, Jessica Lorion and Liz Shivener in various roles.

Robin brings the perfect touch of sarcasm to the mix with the foppish aristocrats, whose elegant costuming by Kurt Alger lends a striking contrast to the shabbily clothed masses.

And set designer Charles S. Kading adds to the fun with a literal revolving door for Eva’s many lovers, as well as providing depth and multi-level staging to accommodate the massive cast.

Maine State Music Theatre has packed an immense amount of talent onto the stage, combining veteran actors, interns, local talent and a 14-member youth ensemble.

The 46-member cast gives substance and weight to the political unrest of the time, and supercharges the unwavering adoration that the common people felt for their flawed first lady, whose fire was extinguished far too soon for them.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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Twitter: @ahboyle