Evita is one of my favourite musicals. It’s probably one of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s best musicals, I’ve watched the Madonna/Antonio Banderas film numerous times and the 2006 revival that I saw for my 13th birthday has been etched in my brain for years. So to say I had high expectations for this production is probably something of an understatement. And whilst there were moments that were brilliant, this is probably not a production that needs to be seen.
Evita is the story of Eva Peron (Emma Hatton), who rises from being a nobody in rural Argentina, to becoming the wife of President Juan Peron (Kevin Stephen-Jones), and gaining the love and respect of the working classes of Argentina; before passing away at a tragically young age.
On the plus side, the raw source material of this show is just so good that it doesn’t fail to make an impact. Whilst it was a shame that the quite small band meant that certain scenes didn’t have the sweeping strings that they begged for; the score is just one of Lloyd Webber’s best; and songs like ‘You Must Love Me’ just hit you right in the heart.
As Eva, Emma Hatton really grows into the role. Whilst I was slightly unsure during Act 1 (especially as A New Argentina was sung quite a lot lower than I expected), she is really great as the wife of the President, and really captures the sadness of Eva’s situation towards the end of the show. She also looks frighteningly like a young Elaine Paige, and her rendition of ‘Rainbow High’ in particular is pretty great.
As Che, the narrator of the show, Gian Marco Schiaretti is not only aesthetically pleasing but reveals a pretty solid set of pipes as the show progresses (his ‘And the Money Kept Rolling In’ is great). I also loved the short turn by Sarah O’Connor as Peron’s mistress, usurped by Eva; her rendition of Another Suitcase Another Hall is beautiful. The ensemble as a whole work incredibly hard, being soldiers and priests one second; members of the working class or Peron’s cabinet the next.
This production is one that is on tour a lot, it will go out on tour again following this West End engagement, and the pretty minimal set and other ‘add-ons’ is an indication of this. Things like a pre-recorded track in the background of some numbers; including a small child very obviously lip-syncing just felt a bit off, considering that tickets for this production were as much as £85-90. When compared to Dreamgirls, which I saw for the third time this week from £20 stalls seats, this does appear to be unnecessary cost-saving.
The West End run ends on Saturday; and it’ll then be going out on tour again. I’m lowkey hoping the international tour which is being directed by Harold Prince (who did the first productions back in the 1980s) will make an appearance on these shores to maybe burn my memories of the 2006 revival from my brain.