A cardiologist and a physics teacher walk on stage. The physics teacher says, “Don’t cry for me Argentina.” No, this isn’t the set up for a joke. It’s the true story of how a brand new, tiny theater company, Wandering Stars, set out to tackle, arguably, one of Broadway’s most challenging musicals, Evita.
Dr. Paul O’Brien, Dr. Christina Leidel, and Mary Cimino, all local theater veterans, started the troupe after realizing their shared passion for theater and now are debuting their first production for Piccolo.
“When Paul and Christina and I worked on last year’s production of Bug at Footlight, we started going to shows together, and we became really close friends,” says Cimino. “Paul knew that I’d had a company here for 10 years, and he asked if I ever thought of doing it again. It’s not easy, believe me. But I thought, if we could do a show and make some money to get the next show going, we would do that. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Cimino speaks glowingly of her two partners. “They’re an enormous help. They take a third of the work from me. Christina is doing costumes and marketing.” And that doesn’t even take into account their day jobs. O’Brien is a cardiologist at MUSC; Leidel teaches physics at the Citadel. But their hearts remain on the stage.
For the team’s first show as the Wandering Stars, a name pulled from a Yeats poem, they’ve chosen the heavyweight Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice musical. Following the storybook tale of the famously enigmatic Argentinian first lady, Eva Perón, the show is no easy task. “Evita is a big thing to tackle,” says Cimino. “It’s all music. You need two weeks of musical rehearsals without anything else. By the time you get to blocking, it’s almost like, they have to sing and dance too?”
Leidel plays the title character, while Cimino directs, and O’Brien plays the Juan Perón. The costumes, designed by Leidel, include flowing dresses and rich fabrics. Sets are being done by Jason Olsen, with a focus on the famous balcony where Evita sings “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”
The rest of the cast is filled out with veterans and newcomers alike. And as for their next undertaking? That’s still up in the air, says Cimino, “We don’t have a full season yet. We’re just taking it as it comes, seeing how it goes. But Paul and Christina love the stage. I love the stage. We plan to be here for a while.”