Touring – reviewed at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Classic musical Evita has been thrilling audiences in the UK and around the world since it opened in 1978, winning the Olivier Award for Best Musical. Multiple re-incarnations have allowed various portrayals of the iconic characters and different takes on the tale of Eva Perón. Despite not having a huge amount to compare to, having only seen the 1996 movie and 2006 West End production, I don’t hesitate to say that this current tour helmed by Lucy O’Byrne, Glenn Carter and Mike Sterling has created an almost perfect production and showcases the music and story of Evita wonderfully.
Sterling commands the role of Juan Perón with power and fight whilst also showing off a softer side with his wife. He is vocally wonderful and complements O’Byrne’s voice well. As Che (in some productions based on Che Guevara, and others as working class Everyman base of Peronism) Carter is versatile. A strong voice and all-knowing-rock-god-vibe means he brings a unique but perfectly suitable strength to the role.
As the leading lady, O’Byrne grows and blazes as Eva Perón. Starting out as a 16-year-old who knows what she wants to a dying politician’s wife, O’Byrne’s transition is breathtaking to watch. Standout moments include ‘Rainbow High’ and ‘You Must Love Me’ which show the drastic differences between Eva’s character. O’Byrne performs the role with passion and drive whilst maintaining brief innocent moments. Her vocals grow as the character does and her stellar diction means we don’t miss a word of the fast-paced passages.
Bill Deamer’s choreography brings to life the world of Argentina and cleverly moves us from one moment of action to another. Matthew Wright’s sets and costumes create a vibrant world which draws you in from the opening. The fairly simplistic sets echo the world of the Perón’s and at times provide a stark contrast to the glamour of Eva.
It’s hard to pick fault with such a strong production but one thing in particular strikes me as odd: the decision to give the entire cast English accents. This doesn’t take away from the performances at all but feels like a bit of a cop out, and makes us forget the show is set in Argentina at times.
However, overall this production is well thought out and does a brilliant job of bringing Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music and lyrics to life once more. This show is not glitz and glam happiness, but it is a raw and moving story which should certainly be seen. Stellar music is brought to life by a magnificent cast who make Evita a must see!
Evita runs at the New Victoria Theatre until July 21st before continuing it’s tour.
photo credit: Keith pattison