Evita is the product of musical theatre royalty, a collaborative symphony of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s music and Tim Rice’s lyrics. This multi-award winning musical has been consistently delighting audiences for just over 40 years, and Pieter Toerien and David Ian’s staging is taken from Hal Prince’s original version. Though original does not always prove to be best, in this case it almost certainly is, treating audiences to an absolute top-drawer piece of musical theatre.
British performer Emma Kingston was hand-picked by Weber and Rice to play the title role of Evita, and it’s easy to see why. Kingston is clearly a name to watch. Her voice is incredibly powerful and the balcony scene where she sings ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ is a guaranteed chill-inducer. And with a role that requires her to be on stage for the majority of the show, her stamina, range and dedication is showcased, along with her unquestionable talent.
Crowd favourite Jonathan Roxmouth is also fantastic as Che. By turns pensive, irreverent or angry, he says it how it is. The rest of the cast then pulls entire piece together beautifully. With a stark and fairly minimal set, the onus is put on the performers, rather than creating distractions using special effects. And they more than live up to the task.
The backdrop of Evita is Argentina’s political turmoil of the 40s and 50s. Conflict arose from the immense wealth controlled by a select wealthy elite in contrast to the impoverished masses, named the ‘descaminados’ (meaning shirtless) by Peron.
Real footage is used on a large screen above the stage showing images of the life and times of the real Eva Peron. It adds context and interest to the show, although occasionally it detracts from the action on stage below. Flashes of humour are stitched into the performances as well – a sinister game of political musical chairs, the upper class’s disapproval of Eva – which is both surprising and impudent.
A controversial figure in real life, the Eva Peron portrayed in Evita is not particularly likeable, but certainly she appears as a fascinating force of nature, showing her increasingly influential lovers through a revolving door as she climbs wisteria-like up the Argentine social pecking order. Yet, her naked ambition is a contemporary theme, really not so different from many of today’s wannabe celebrities.
Evita seems so all-powerful and indestructible that the ending, although predictable, still comes as a shock. The final scene, in fact, feels very abrupt and accurately mirrors how Eva Peron’s life was cut unexpectedly short.
Saint, sinner or force of nature, opinion remains divided, making her story both intriguing and relevant so many years after her death. The overall end result is a tour de force and with gut-busting performances, this is an epic chart buster of a show that shouldn’t be missed.
Evita The Musical is on at Montecasino’s Teatro until 26 November 2017.