Evita, Monday 20th March, New Theatre, Reviewer: Hannah Hopkins
Evita has always, for me at least, been one of those musicals known for a few great songs whilst the rest of the plot has often faded into obscurity. Yet, this production completely changed my mind. The story is powerful and poignant, though the musical elements make it fun and all the more engaging.
Following a hit run of London’s Dominion Theatre, this Bill Kenwright performance of Tom Rice Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Evita tells the story of Eva Peron, wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron. Evita progresses through the story of Eva, from her humble beginnings, through to her extraordinary wealth, power and to her iconic status as she came to be regarded the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’ by the Argentine people.
Evita has more than 20 major awards to its name, alongside the Oscar-winning film version with Madonna, featuring some of the most prominent songs from musical theatre, such as On This Night of a Thousand Stars, You Must Love Me, Another Suitcase in Another Hall, and of course, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. If you had any doubts about seeing this production, see it for the soundtrack alone – it’s perfection and it’s complimented by the flawless singing of the cast.
An all-singing (and sometimes all-dancing) performance, I was worried at first that I’d be unable to follow the story, but I had no issues at all. Evita doesn’t follow a particularly tricky storyline, and although the production begins by opening onto a scene focused on Eva’s coffin which then steps back in time to follow her from her humble beginnings, this is easy to grasp. The story does move seamlessly and very quickly from scene to scene, though so at certain points you may lose your way. The character of Che (Gian Marco Schiaretti), does however gel this together. Albeit through song, he serves to narrate the production and does a very good job of this – he provides charisma and interjects, at times, some humour.
The set was lavish; a three-part raised platform-come-balcony formed the centrepiece and this was moved around depending on what the scene demanded, and pillars were often dropped in depending on where the scene was set. The supporting cast contributed to the sometimes festival, sometimes stately atmosphere and provided great supporting vocals. My only negative, which I feel I have to point out as there are very few negatives, is that the moving balcony was in fact moved by members of the crew – though wearing dark black clothes so as to conceal them – wearing headsets. Not quite in keeping with the time on stage.
Following a stint on the West End in Wicked, Emma Hatton as leading lady Eva Perón shone through. Of course, her voice is impeccable, but she provided all of the emotion and charisma required to play the rags-to-riches story of Eva Peron. She completely commanded the stage, no more so than for her pinnacle number – Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, which received all of the applause you might expect from a moment so poised in emotion and social and political tension.
At certain points, the orchestral score was a bit too loud for the singing, but this is only a niggle.
What makes the production even more interesting is the complete fascination that took over creator Tim Rice’s life with the story of Eva Peron. As a child he collected stamps and was fascinated by her image on those from Argentina, and when he came to research her for Evita, he travelled to Buenos Aires to research her life, and became even more drawn in by her. As such, the production pays perfect homage to such a powerful and dignified individual such as Eva.
A fun, yet incredibly poignant snapshot of the life of Eva Peron, done justice by a colourful, fun and engaging production.
by Hannah Hopkins