'Imagine growing up in Argentina," says John DeGaetano, "loving musical theater, knowing all about Eva Peron, hearing the soundtrack to Evita your whole life—a musical that is set in Argentina—and hoping that someday, somehow, you would end up playing that role.
"That," he says, "pretty much describes Ana Laura Nicolicchia."
Nicolicchia, who was born in Buenos Aires, is now one of the two actresses who will be playing Eva Peron in the Raven Players' enormous upcoming production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Evita. The other actress, alternating with Nicolicchia, is Lauren Post, of San Jose. Each brings her own individual interpretation and personality to the iconic role—and as one might expect, Nicolicchia's approach is especially personal.
"Ana is totally connected to the history of Argentina," says DeGaetano, director of the show. "Her family lived this story. They lived through the times that are staged in this show. Some of those scenes are really intense. So it's been quite an experience watching Ana take this role on."
In addition to having two different actresses alternating the lead role—which will surely inspire some Evita fans to see the show twice—DeGaetano explains that the Raven Players production is going to be very different from other stagings of the show, including the one the Raven did just six years ago. That one was spare and minimal, with a bare stage, simple costumes and a comparatively small cast.
"There is nothing small about this production," he laughs, his voice conspicuously ragged after weeks of rehearsing a cast and crew of over a hundred people.
Fortunately, the Raven has recently undergone a major renovation, expanding the size of the stage and making other physical and technical improvements. Those renovations were completed just in time for DeGaetano, who counts Evita as one of his favorite musicals of all time, to launch his epic vision.
"This is a big show, and I wanted it to look big," he says. "I knew that my stage manager would be blown away when she heard that I wanted to put a hundred people in the Raven stage, so I took a picture of her at the moment I told her. It's a great picture! Her mouth is open wide, and her eyes are big. 'One hundred people!' I'm hoping that same sense of wonder and surprise is what the audience feels when they see the show."