The most celebrated Manatee Players of recent years are returning to downtown Bradenton today for the opening of "Evita."
Dianne Dawson stars as Eva Peron while her husband, Steve, plays Che in the production running through Oct. 7.
The show is directed and choreographed by Rick Kerby. Scenery and projections were designed by Marc Lalosh with lighting by Joseph Oshry.
Back in October of 2010, the same team staged the Stephen Sondheim musical "Sunday in the Park with George," which went on to place third overall at the national AACTFest11 in Rochester, N.Y.
Dianne won in New York for Best Actress.
"I love working with Rick and, of course, Steve," she said. "It doesn't feel like two years, it feels more like a few months."
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Evita," the Best Musical Tony Award winner about Argentina's famed political, has been elating audiences since the late 1970s.
A revival version, starring Ricky Martin, returned to Broadway in April.
The musical's best-known number, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," was a hit for Madonna, who played the title role in the 1996 movie of the same name.
Over the years, the song has been covered by a long list of pop stars including Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Petula Clark and Sinead O'Connor.
"That was probably the most pressure," Dianne said of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." "As a little girl I heard that song on the radio."
The large cast also includes Bradley Barbaro (Juan Peron), Omar Montes (Magaldi) and Melanie Bierweiler (The Mistress).
Aaron Cassette is the musical director and costumes are by Jean Boothby.
"I love this team and love working with the Dawsons," Kerby said. "We also have new actors from as far away as Tampa. It's a very collaborative process and I'm just enjoying the ride."
Details: Sept. 20-Oct. 7; 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; 2 p.m. Sept. 29. Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre, 102 Old Main St., Bradenton. Tickets: $26 (adults), $15 (teachers) and $13 (students). Information: 941-748-5875 or www.manateeplayers.com.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer and columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow him on Twitter@wtatangelo.