Evita Peron. Whether you revere her or revile her, Caroline Bowman wants you to understand her.
“She’s an iconic symbol and a political figure, but I want to show her human side,” says Bowman, who plays the Argentine First Lady in “Evita.” “You have to watch her for two hours (on stage). I want to make her a relatable character and stay true to who she was as a human being. I let the audience decide whether they like her or not.”
Bowman will be singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” when “Evita” opens Tuesday at the Straz Center.
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of charismatic political leader Evita Peron who rose from the slums of Argentina to the presidential mansion, her charity work and her death at 33. The musical also stars Josh Young as Che, Sean MacLaughlin as Juan Peron and Christopher Johnstone as Magaldi.
Bowman says the role of Evita tests even the most seasoned actor, and she calls it her most challenging role yet.
“It’s a very emotional role,” says Bowman, who also was in the ensemble of “Kinky Boots” and “Monty Python’s Spamalot” on Broadway. “She (Peron) was an extremely passionate woman, and you have to keep that passion throughout the performance. She (Peron) is on stage most of the time; it’s a constant challenge for an actor. I sleep very well every night.”
To prepare for the role, Bowman, who was cast as Evita in May, says she read some books and watched documentaries about the iconic leader.
Bowman’s age, 25, works to her advantage, she says, and makes her feel more connected to the story.
“(Peron) lived such an enormous life in such a short amount of time,” Bowman says during a recent telephone interview from Charlotte, N.C., where the musical is playing. “She never let anything hold her back. She was young and always looking ahead. I think because of her age, she wasn’t afraid to take risks, and she didn’t take no for an answer. I have that similar drive.”
Each time Bowman steps onto the stage in the wig and costumes — which were patterned after Peron’s wardrobe — she’s humbled, particularly when she steps onto the balcony for the show-stopping song “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina.”
“When I walk out (onto that balcony) in that ball gown it’s very emotional,” she says, adding the dress was custom made for her. “It’s such an iconic scene and so full of emotion. The first time I sang it, I cried the whole song through. I couldn’t believe I had the honor and gift of playing this role and I remember that each time I step onto the stage.”