WARRENSBURG - The musical Evita, presented by 80 students at Warrensburg Central School two weeks ago, featured impressive, emotion-packed acting, energetic dancing and dynamic singing, observers said.
The production was the latest and among the best of 11 annual drama productions directed by Warrensburg vocal instructor Jim Corriveau - musicals that have risen far above the norm for student productions and prompted regional acclaim.
Cyndi Muratori, who for years has been involved in drama productions, discussed elements of the production's success after the Thursday performance.
"The portrayal of the characters by the principal actors - Jason Power as Che, Ben Nicols as Juan Peron and and Laura Corriveau as Evita - was so emotional and animated," she said.
Whether it was Power's powerful singing as the narrator/antagonist believably portraying the emotions of a dissident, or Corriveau taking on the multiple, evolving aspects of Evita's character, the acting showed a heartfelt intensity, Muratori and others said.
"Laura showed the different layers of Evita's personality, including her humanity, her newfound fascination with wealth and her excitement over all the new possibilities life had to offer, and she played the scene of her own death very convincingly," Muratori said. "Whether she was a spirit observing her own funeral, or crying in despair or pain, or as a hardened woman emerging from trying circumstances,she portrayed her character from her heart."
That included real tears when Evita's spirit discovered, by viewing her grieving husband, that he loved her for her attributes, rather than just as a political asset.
"We just fed off each others' emotions to get into that state," Laura Corriveau said after Thursday's performance.
Corriveau praised Nicols' acting, whether it was belting out a power ballad or crying real tears as she was dying onstage.
"Ben does an amazing job," she said, noting he used lemon juice to prompt tears if he couldn't produce them spontaneously.
The principal actors had hundreds of lines, enough to wear their voices out after performances and marathon rehearsals. Corriveau said she and others swigged vinegar and salt-water to keep their voices from giving out.
"This show demanded so much from all of us," she said.
Corriveau said that the live mini-orchestra her father hired - including some of the best musicians from Albany to Plattsburgh - inspired all onstage to do their very finest.
"With the romantic, live music, you felt the emotions so much more powerfully," she said.
The production was demanding, as the students spent the 10 days before the show practicing five hours daily after school.
Diane Newell coordinated and procured the costumes, which included an authentic Argentine military cap and various things she procured off E-Bay.
Jim Corriveau deigned the sets, which were impressive. Complete with a set of stairs and three balconies, they were built by Scott Thomas and drama club parents, and painted by students.
Regina Porter, who's attended dozens of Broadway productions over six decades, said the students' production of Evita was "phenomenal."
She burst into tears after the curtain fell on Thursday's performance, and she immediately bought a ticket to see the next night's show.
"I was overwhelmed at the performances Jim Corriveau was able to get out of the kids - it was compelling acting, solid singing, and excellent dramatic timing," she said, adding that Marissa Perrone's dance elegy was "outstanding."
"For a small school to produce something like this is truly incredible," she said.
Jim Corriveau said the crew had aimed to evoke such emotion from the audience.
"Those tears in the audience mean we did our job," he said. "The kids caught fire and stepped up to the challenge of playing demanding roles they were not accustomed to - portraying people from another culture," he said.