Society has long been fascinated with the wives of powerful men. From Lady Diana to Michelle Obama and now the Duchess of Cambridge, the beguilement continues. But it all started with a very special First Lady back in the late 1940s. Eva Peron was an iconic figure that rose from poverty to become half of a political powerhouse in Argentina before suffering an untimely demise at the age of just 33.
The icon’s life was turned into a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice in 1978 (the last musical the pair worked on together) and is seen by many as their greatest work.
Personally, I have always found the show a bit bland, with the discordant nature of the score and the reliance on the big song “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (with continuous repeats of the hook) making the rest of the production anticlimactic.
That said; I always go to see a new production with an open mind and the revival – which first toured the UK before settling into the newly vacated Phoenix Theatre in the West End – has given me a little extra love for the classic musical.
That is mostly down to the leading lady Emma Hatton’s quite wonderful performance. Hatton is no stranger to big singing shows – having recently finished playing Elphaba in Wicked – and although some of the songs in act one fail to showcase her powerful belt, when act two begins, you know you’re in for a display of vocal virtuosity.
She slightly overshadows her costar, Gian Marco Schiaretti, with her stagecraft – although not in stature as he cuts a majestic figure. Schiaretti struggles to come to terms with the depth of Che’s character and his historical significance. Nevertheless it is an extremely charismatic portrayal and he does a great job of lifting songs like “Rainbow Tour” and “Goodnight and Thank You” out from under the continuous onslaught of the monster tune.
The other real surprising highlight – as you don’t think of Evita as a dance show – is Bill Deamer’s choreography, which is both intricate and interesting and adds fervor to the limited number of ensemble numbers.
Evita is a show that is a must see for musical fans – purely for its significance to modern theatre – and this production is as good as it gets.
Photos by Pamela Raith Photography