Evita is one of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s more serious pieces, a true story encapsulated in a couple of hours with little dialogue but memorable songs telling the story of the young chorus girl who sees a glittering future with the man who becomes President of Argentina – with her help.
In reality it’s a fascinating story of a village girl who has ambitions to be an actress and in 1935 is working in various theaters and becomes film star and a broadcaster on Argentine radio. So begins her clime to fame and in 1943 she meets one of the leading figures in the military regime that seizes power in the country, Colonel Juan Peron. The attraction is immediate and Evita’s plan begins to take shape.
The mix of drama and romance is meat and drink to the Rice Webber partnership and they make the best of this famous piece of history.
The people love this feisty woman, a girl who becomes a sophisticated woman and because of her charisma and approval of all she does, in turn they love the man destined to become President Peron, (Mark Heenehan).
The two marry, Peron runs for the presidency and Eva becomes the first lady. She stands in for her husband on the Rainbow Tour of Europe and in Spain she wins friends and respect amongst politicians but Italy and France are less enthused and London isn’t interested so she cuts her tour short and comes home. But she is ill, she is slowing down and at the age of 33 she dies of cancer.
Madalena Alberto is brilliant in the part singing her way from”bedroom to saint” , rousing the people with “A New Argentine” and stopping the show with the heartbreaking ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’.
Somewhere in the mix is Che Guevara although he is only identified as Che but who is he? Is he in love with Evita? Is he a rebel without or with a cause? This does not become clear. I always liked Marti Pellow when he was a singer with the pop band Wet Wet Wet and undoubtedly he has a good voice but there is more to this part than singing and there is a lack of presence here and only on occasions is there any chemistry between himself and Evita. Stagecraft is vitally important with such an elusive character who is on the fringes and therefore must make his presence felt. Striking poses isn’t enough, but when he sings we listen.
The other members of the cast don’t put a foot wrong and there are some very precise routines.
Sarah Mcnicholas as Peron’s mistress has one of the loveliest songs, ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’, plaintively sung as she is thrown out by the new girl friend.
Eventually Evita’s rise to fame and her greed for wealth sours the people’s opinion , even the women she championed, until her illness cuts her down, the ultimate power of vice president eluding her. Only after death does she become the peoples saint, ‘High Flying Adored’.
The set, the lighting and the band are all worthy of mention.
This is a good show that just rolls along and I would say, ‘It’s Surprisingly Good for You’.
Review by ANNE HAILES