Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Tim Rice
Directors: Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright
Reviewer: Naomi Stevens
Evita. The story of the actress-turned-first lady of Argentina is perhaps not the most well known of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s productions, but as is the case with most of his music, the score contains some famous numbers alongside some tricky harmonies and enjoyable chorus tunes.
Expectations are always high when seeing productions such as this, and the show is slick with smooth set changes and a fabulous ensemble. Opening with the news of the death of Evita, the scene is immediately set and from the off the choral Requiem For Evita is sung beautifully. The chapel setting is cleverly done, the lighting creating a very real feel of being inside a church-like building.
Narrator Che (Marti Pellow) is on stage virtually throughout, an important rôle in carrying the story along both through his songs and in his conspicuous presence. It is vital, then, that he is not only vocally capable but also has clear diction. This musical is solely that – a musical – with no other dialogue, so in order to follow the events on stage the audience needs to be able to hear every word the actors are singing. Sadly, although Pellow delivered solid vocals, throughout most of act one it was difficult to understand the story as many of the lyrics were lost. This appeared to have been corrected in act two, however, as everything was much clearer for the latter part of the performance.
Eva Peron, born Eva Duarte and known by the people as Evita, is played by Madalena Alberto. Alberto, like Pellow, also shows off her vocal strength throughout, alongside her acting and dancing skills, but again, much of the storytelling is lost and for her there is no improvement in act two. Certainly as the young hopeful with ambitions of an acting career, she shines, and notably her rendition of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina – an iconic scene – is not only wonderfully sung but she also makes it her own, something which is not always easy to do with such famous compositions.
Mark Heenehan, as Colonel Peron gives a strong performance, diction-wise being the clearest of all. Another enjoyable character was Nic Gibney’s Magaldi, the tango-singer. His portrayal adds comedy to the production and vocally he is flawless. Peron’s original mistress (Sarah McNicholas) is only a small part but she gives a rather sweet version of Another Suitcase In Another Hall.
Matthew Wright’s set design is fairly simple, but looks effective and is put to good use, and choreographer Bill Deamer has done a stellar job; the ensemble dance numbers keep the South American rhythms and movements but they are also cleverly designed according to the characters position within society – for example the soldiers are very orderly, the working classes much more fancy free. Highlights include And The Money Keeps Rolling In (And Out) and Peron’s Latest Flame.
Unfortunately a fire alarm was sounded during Act One so the entire theatre had to be evacuated, but this did not seem to put the cast off their stride and everything was resumed as fast as possible. The show itself, however, does not really set the theatre alight and it drags a bit in places and without the clarity of diction, the story is hard to follow. Despite the cast clearly giving everything to their performances, this show is at best good and at worst mediocre. It is worth a watch but does not have enough appeal to draw in folk other than the most hardened musicals fans.
Runs until 19th October 2013