Musical Review: EVITA ON TOUR
Thursday, 30 May 2013


The new touring production is a huge hit and Marti Pellow’s ‘Che’ triumphs

Written by Georgina Brown
georgina-brown 2805Touring musicals tend to be the teensiest bit tatty, and those who can’t gird themselves to get to a West End show often feel that they're making do with secondbest. But there’s nothing remotely dog-eared or tired about Bill Kenwright’s first-rate production of Evita, which he co-directs with Bob Thomson, and has just set off on a national tour.

Not least because it’s brandspanking new. Spectacular arches and spacious balconies capture the architectural splendour of Buenos Aries in the 1950s, where the rags to riches Cinderella story of the trashy showgirl who becomes the First Lady of Argentina unravels.

Portuguese actress and singer, Madalena Alberto, kicks off the performance in a flowery girlish frock, her locks lustrous brunette.

‘They need to adore me, so Christian Dior me,’ she trills as she is power-dressed to thrill, and the wardrobe department has taken Tim Rice’s terrific lyrics literally. And with every determined step up the ladder, her dresses get sharper, more Hollywood, until, at her peak, she’s a vision of Grace Kelly glamour, all platinum hair, a shimmering white gown, and dripping with diamonds. Evita was surely one of the first politicians to grasp that politics isn’t a world away from showbiz.

Her power to transform herself is matched only by her power to seduce. ‘I’d be surprisingly good for you,’ she whispers flirtily, even a bit dirtily, in the ear of Mark Heenehan’s towering, rather wooden Peron who she quickly elbows into the shadows. But she seduces us all too: when, at the curtain call, the audience sprang to its feet as one, it was principally for her.

Some, of course, were standing for Marti Pellow who plays Che, the sexily grizzled narrator who occasionally comes over a bit cynical about Eva’s bid for sainthood and stardom. He is as easy on the eye as he is on the ear, but I couldn’t, alas, hear every word. And some, perhaps, for the new passionately pulsing Latin-inflected orchestrations of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music, which makes this soap-opera story truly operatic.

Bill Deamer’s choreography makes it dance, filling the show with teasing tangos and whipsharp waltzes and putting the military through their paces whenever possible. You’ll know most of the songs: Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, superbly sung by Alberto’s dying diva, which achieves the opposite by making everyone snivel. And showstopper Another Suitcase In Another Hall, from Sarah McNicholas as Peron’s mistress, whom Eva kicks out as she marches in.

The show’s a hit, all over again.

On tour until 19 October. For tour dates:

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