It is hard to realise that its thirty years since I queued outside the Prince Edward Theatre in London in the hope of securing a return ticket to see the hit musical Evita. The time span ironically is just short of Eva Peron’s own life, which was cut short at thirty three.
In this revival of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, directors Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright have brought us a clear and expansive touring production that is a delight to watch.
The show opens with the death of Eva, then takes us back to when she was a teenager. The musical, which is sung through, is linked by the narrator Che (played by Seamus Cullen) and we follow the young Eva as she meets the man who will change her life, Juan Peron (Mark Heenehan) in 1943, when she already an established actress and radio broadcaster. Within two years they are married and she is crusading on his behalf and becomes the First Lady of Argentina. But in 1952 she succumbs to cancer.
The set designs by Matthew Wright are excellent, giving the expansive feel to the Argentine buildings, but simply changing to provide staircases, balconies and airplane steps. Although at times it has to be said, the numerous stage hands in view, despite moving the set silently and swiftly, were an intrusive sight.
Hit songs litter the score, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, Oh What A Circus and High Flying Adored, but it is the rendition of Another Suitcase Another Hall, which stands out. Carly Bawden, as the mistress, makes this number her own and proves to be the star of the production.
While the male leads are perfectly cast, Rachel Wooding as Eva does not make an impression until well through Act One when Eva starts to age. Acting as the teenage Eva just did not work, she appears too old to make the scenes believable. While there is no doubting her capabilities, her voice sounds harsh and therefore she comes across as a very cold person, with no warmth at all. It was only after Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, when Eva starts to feel ill that I could connect with the character and from this point there is no faulting her portrayal of the Eva.
This is a very large scale touring production that pulls no punches; it is a visual treat, with a terrific score that will introduce itself to a whole new audience who were not around when the phenomenon that is Evita was first born, all those years ago.