For three years, prohibitively high costs and the desire of the Harvard-Radcliffe Drama Club (HRDC) to present "straight drama" meant that the Loeb Theater's Mainstage was barren of musical productions.
But last weekend, with the HRDC's premiere of "Evita," the story of Argentinian states woman Eva Peron, that all changed. After its first four performances, the show, which tells the tale of the woman who rose to great power from destitute beginnings, is already sold out for its final showings this weekend. In fact, says Co-Producer Timothy J. Corbett '89, the show is also the first show in at least two years to make money at the Loeb Mainstage.
But because of the traditional difficulties of putting on a musical, the road toward producing the show, which took the theatrical world by storm a decade ago, was by no means an easy one, say those involved in the production.
HRDC President Fouad S. Onbargi '89, who acknowledges the club's bias toward non-musicals, credits the show's director Adam J. Fratto '90, with the ideas that succeeded in passing the club's highly competitive process for selecting its shows.
Fratto "had lined up fantastic lighting and technical crews," Onbargi says. "The director also had really great and creative ideas, like he thought that he wanted to do a rock version of the show rather than following the traditional style," he says, explaining why Fratto's was one of two productions the club approved this semester.
Fratto describes this opportunity to do "Evita" on the Mainstage in terms that make it seem like a dream come true. "I've always loved the music from this show, and when I saw a badly done production of it years ago I decided that I wanted to do it," he says.
Presenting "Evita" on the Mainstage is a milestone in his Harvard directing career, he adds. "I think that this is the most ambitious thing that I've done here at Harvard and it is probably the most ambitious thing that I will do at Harvard," Fratto says.
The director says he thinks he has interpreted the show very differently from other productions of "Evita." "I see it as a colder production than ones that are usually done. `Evita' is a cynical, harsh portrayal of a totalitarian regime," Fratto says. "To accent this perception, I stripped down the music to a hard-edge,rock score," he says.
Despite his love for the show, Fratto, who also directed "The Foreigner," "March of the Falsettos," and last year's Lowell House Opera, "The Merry Wives of Windsor," says there have been many trying moments in putting the show together.
When the show began its rehearsals, Fratto says, he felt a lot of pressure to produce a good show. "I knew a lot people would be coming to see the show. And whereas I try not to concern myself with audience response, I realize that it is a factor," he says.
To acclimate his crew to the Loeb's high-tech set-up, Fratto devoted a 12-hour rehearsal just to work through the lighting and technical cues. During the rehearsal, called a "wet-tech," the cast walks through the entire show, stopping every few minutes to allow the lighting and technical crews to mark their cues.
Fratto describes this rehearsal as frustrating. "During this rehearsal, it was not my rehearsal. I couldn't direct the actors," he says.
In itself, directing a show on the Mainstage is a challenge "because you basically have everything you want at your disposal. It challenges you to be as creative as you can." Fratto says.
In addition, the show posed difficulties for the producers, says Co-Producer Ricardo J. Dopico '89. He said he was forced to approach the logistics of producing "Evita" differently than he would a smaller production. On the Mainstage, he says, producers oversee the operations behind the scenes while a large crew takes care of more menial tasks. In a smaller show the producers often end up taking care of most of the minute details themselves, he says.
"You have to delegate more authority in a Mainstage production," Dopico says. "In a house production you may be responsible for getting the props and building the set yourself. In a Mainstage you have someone in charge of getting props, a master technician, and a master carpenter."
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