Evita (Abigail Jaye) escapes poverty by forming relationships with entertainers and politicians only to be defeated by illness. Writer Tim Rice suggests that Eva Person provided a fairy-tale role model to which the public could aspire. Alternate ways of inspiring people are illustrated by the use of a Che Guevara look-alike (Mark Powell) as a caustic narrator.
The show suffers though from a lack of atmosphere and sense of place. The upper class Argentines sound like they come from Henley and Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s generic soft rock score fails to capture the region’s exciting rhythms.
It is, therefore, not what is said but how it is presented that makes a success of the evening. Directors Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright do not stint on spectacle. Bill Dreamer’s fast-moving choreography compensates for the bland music and Mark Howett’s gothic lighting sets a surprisingly sombre tone to illustrate the shady political deals.
Rather than gloss over her many failings Jaye displays the maniac willpower of Evita before allowing a degree of vulnerability to be revealed in the most well known song, "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." Powell’s critical narrator lacks the killer instinct and slides into a cheeky chappie. Deposed Mistress Abigail Matthews gets to deliver "Another Suitcase, another hall, the one song that has a decent melody with heartbreaking pathos.
Evita demonstrates that even dodgy material can be entertaining if performed with this much passion.