Prima Theatre was originally scheduled to put on a fresh production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical “Evita” during the weekends of September 9 and 15. The musical, with direction by Prima’s executive producer Mitch Nugent, was met with strong praise and acclaim. Unfortunately, after the first weekend, the production had to cancel its second week of performances due to issues with the rights holders of “Evita”. They gave Prima two options, they could either make major changes to the production or cancel the second week of performances. For the case of artistic integrity, Prima chose the latter option. As devastating as this decision was to all involved, making changes to the production would sacrifice the new vision that the “Evita” team sought out for in the first place.
Prima is a firm believer in bringing the community together through new pieces of theatre, so in true Prima fashion, Mitch Nugent along with the cast and crew of “Evita” decided to celebrate their success through a cabaret show. This cabaret show was put together very quickly, with some performers still rehearsing right before going onstage. The show that transpired that night was more than just a simple cabaret; it was a declaration. It was a reminder that even when life doesn’t go as planned, the show must go on.
The evening was hosted by Vinnie DePaul who did a great job moving the evening along. He started by giving some opening remarks detailing some background on what happened to Prima’s “Evita” production, while also setting up the welcoming tone of the evening. After DePaul’s introduction, the star of “Evita”, Millersville alumna Cara Clase, came onstage to sing a powerful cover of the song “Life of the Party” from “The Wild Party”. Later in the evening, Clase sang renditions of the classic ballad “On My Own” from “Les Miserables” and the title song from Kander and Ebb’s iconic musical “Cabaret”. All of her songs were nothing short of spectacular and were true highlights of the evening.
Another artist, who shined throughout the cabaret, was “Evita” cast member Kerry Ashton, who had some extremely kind words to say about Prima’s Mitch Nugent’s determination and humility as a director and person. The cabaret, along with showcasing cast members from “Evita”, allowed members of the creative team a chance to perform. One of the brightest artists of the evening was Mariah Keener, who served as the music director of “Evita”. Keener is a young performer who showed off her incredible vocal and instrumental chops with her acoustic performance of Katy Perry’s “Roar”. Irving Gonzalez, who served as the assistant director of “Evita” also got a moment to shine with the song “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by Cass Elliot. The song was not only well performed by Keener but was also a reminder of the individuality of theatre. Millersville alumnus Adam Rineer served as the piano player for most of the cabaret but also got to show off his playing skills with a medley of Billy Joel classics.
Later in the evening, Mitch Nugent himself came out to address the supportive crowd. He admitted and greatly apologized for his mistake with “Evita”, but also commended the entire “Evita” team for all of their hard work and dedication. His presence alone reminded the audience that although the company went through a tough time, they were going to come back stronger than ever. The cabaret closed out with a spirited and truly inspiring performance of the classic number “Seasons of Love” from Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking musical “Rent”. The number was performed by the cast and creative team of “Evita”. This closing number and the cabaret was a stunning and inspiring reminder that when life gets hard, the theatre community continues to persevere.