Venue: Grand Opera House York
Bill Kenwright LTD’s Evita at York’s Grand Opera House has made the West End classic its own through bold choreography, a simple set and unique casting. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famed masterpiece depicts the life of Eva Peron, second wife of Argentine President Juan Peron and first lady of Argentina, a musical album piece at the heart of which lies an epic score.
During the first number, with the lack of the trademark blond hair, it was difficult to immediately identify Evita amongst the chorus. However, as soon as the words ‘I wanna be’ were uttered in Madalena Alberto’s distinct, strong voice it was clear who the leading lady in this production was. Moving swiftly onto the well-known ‘Buenos Aires’ it was clear that this is a woman worth more than ‘just a little bit of success’. Her vocal talents dominated the show, coming to full power in her rendition of the infamous ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina!’ Albreto’s acting abilities were flawless as she seamlessly transformed from confident, full-of-life lady of the people to a broken, dying woman, and still managed to maintain the essence of Eva’s personality.
Female star quality seemed to reign supreme in this production as Peron’s mistress (Sarah McNicholas) also carried off a fantastic, and heart moving solo of ‘another suitcase in another hall’ which was successful in removing my thoughts away from Evita for a few minutes. However Alberto’s star quality, (rightly so as the central character), outshone her other co-stars; a conundrum especially noticeable within her duets with Colonel Peron and Che. The latter particularly was an interesting casting choice and his voice did seem to stand out against the other cast; which can perhaps be attributed to his pop culture roots. However, ultimately, it was disappointing that in his first solo (and the first of the show) it was difficult to decipher his words above the orchestra. Although, he did compensate for this primary deficiency in later scenes with his suitably comic acting always present to provide sarcastic relief.
The staging, composed of mainly two staircases and a balcony, moved smoothly to create the various locations so succinctly that the changes were barely even noticeable. Other creative aspects also worth a mention are the use of chairs to create a simple bus, and the soldier’s dance choreography which was mesmerising to watch.
Overall, I would rate this production as a faithful reproduction of ‘Evita’, yet with its own style and character; an easy-to-watch musical that takes you for, under the surface, a tragic journey through post-war Argentinian history.