Critics feel mixed emotions for Evita
The West End revival of Evita starring Madalena Alberto opened at the Dominion Theatre this week
...Tim Rice's theatrical telling of it is trenchant, witty and far subtler than he's sometimes given credit for... [Madalena] Alberto can Lauren-Bacall and Machiavell in colours more magical than anyone I can remember... Former Phantom Matthew Cammelle is a handsomely baritonal Perón who brings dramatic depth to his scenes with Alberto... The ensemble is a further delight... a free-flowing, uncluttered performance set amid layered colonnades... Matthew Wright's designs are elegance itself, and so too is the production...
On the opening night of its return to the West End, lighting up a fancily refurbished Dominion Theatre for a limited season, did I care about the fate of its heroine, played here by radiant Portuguese star-in-the-making Madalena Alberto? Not really until the closing stages... Alberto's powerfully affecting performance had me teetering on the brink of tears... It's as if Lloyd Webber and Rice are so ambivalent about whether Evita is a good soul underneath her populist airs and graces that she's kept at one remove.... You may end up feeling that the show's heart is in the right place... But it's a close call.
...Never has the all-conquering double act's equivocation seemed more pronounced than in this efficient revival: she's gutsy then glitzy... Portuguese actress Madalena Alberto sings impressively but lacks the warmth and vulnerability... Yet those indestructibly fine songs — of which "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" isn't the best — wow us once more... Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright direct slickly, employing a large ensemble to give a sense of both the lighter and darker sides of Buenos Aires life... But the limited seven-week run is the best thing for this Evita.
The one flaw in this highly skilled revival of the 1978 Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice show is the lack of attention to vocal detail... The virtue of Madalena Alberto's excellent Eva is that she refuses to sentimentalise the heroine... Alberto is at her best when she sings softest and treasures the words... Marti Pellow as Che has a harder task in that many of his numbers are in a decibel-busting hard rock style but he certainly conveys the character's abrasiveness... One day I'd like to see this musical in an intimate, studio version where audibility trumped spectacle.
The music is brilliant as ever; it's the bits in between the songs that are the problem. The actors' over-blown gestures seem strained... [Alberto's] vocal range is fabulous as both a coquettish teenager and imposing First Lady but she lacks charisma... There's a moving cameo from Sarah McNicholas as Peron's mistress, who manages to wring more emotion from one solo than the others combined... Don't cry for me Argentina? The only chance of a lachrymose audience at this production is if they're bored to tears.