As previously tipped (See The Goss, 26 Aug 2005), Philip Quast will star opposite 30-year-old Argentinian actor, singer and dancer Elena Roger in Michael Grandage’s upcoming revival of Evita (See News, 30 Jan 2006). The new production, which returns Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s hit 1978 musical to the West End after more than 20 years, is now confirmed to open at the Adelphi Theatre on 21 June 2006 (previews from 2 June).

Quast, who will play General Juan Peron, is a triple Olivier Award winner – having scooped Best Actor in a Musical trophies for Sunday in the Park with George, The Fix and South Pacific. His many other credits include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Stuff Happens, The Secret Garden, Macbeth and White Devil.

Also confirmed for the Evita cast is Matt Rawle, who will play narrator Che. Rawle’s previous West End credits include Camelot, Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre, Into the Woods and Hard Times.

Evita is based on the life and times of Eva Peron, the second wife of Argentine dictator Juan Perón. It chronicles her life as one of Argentina’s most complex and powerful public figures, against a backdrop of political unrest, until her death of cancer aged 33 in 1952.

Following the success of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Lloyd Webber and Rice began working on Evita in 1974, originally releasing it as a concept album. The stage version – in which Elaine Paige originated the title role - premiered in January 1978 at the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre where it ran for seven years, finally closing in February 1986. In 1996, Alan Parker’s film version starred Madonna alongside Jonathan Pryce as Juan and Antonio Banderas as Che.

In addition to the original score – which includes classics such as “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” - Grandage’s new production will feature for the first time on stage the Oscar-winning “You Must Love Me”, which was written especially for Parker’s film and became a Top Ten single.

Evita is directed by Grandage, designed by Christopher Oram and choreographed by Rob Ashford, the same core creative team behind the current West End revival of Guys and Dolls. Lighting is by Paule Constable, sound by Mick Potter and musical supervision by Simon Lee. The musical is produced by André Ptaszynski for Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company.

At a press conference held this morning at the Langham Hilton (See The Goss, 24 Jan 2006), Michael Grandage and Andrew Lloyd Webber officially launched the new production and introduced Elena Roger, who, accompanied by Lloyd Webber on the piano, sang the show’s best-known number, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”, which was a chart-topper when released as sung by Julie Covington.

Speaking today, Lloyd Webber said, "I am delighted to welcome Michael Grandage and his team to the show which was the pinnacle of my collaboration with Tim Rice. It promises to be an exciting summer."

Producer André Ptaszynski added: "Evita is such a rich musical that Michael Grandage's new production can show a different side to Hal Prince's ground-breaking original. We are bringing colour, dance and a new Argentina to London audiences." Booking for Evita opens today (31 January 2006). Tickets range from £15 to a top price of £55.

(Check back later for photos from today’s launch event.)

- by Terri Paddock