I know it’s really not cool anymore, but I am a sucker for an Andrew Lloyd Webber show and I definitely have a soft spot for Evita. I always find myself incredibly moved by the rise and fall of Eva Peron.
This production is nothing new, it is the same tour a lot of us have seen before but it certainly hasn’t lost anything during its short break. It isn’t the spectacular Michael Grandage production we saw in the West End in 2006, but it is also far from the cheap looking touring productions we seem to have become accustomed to!
Madalena Alberto shines in the title role and brings fantastic presence and a stunning vocal to the iconic role. From the first time we notice young Eva at the start of the show right through to her heart-breaking death and lament at the end, Alberto brings a glorious sense of class and poise to the role, which is truly thrilling to watch. After seeing her in the 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Miserables, which safely secured her a place as one of my favourite Fantines, I had very high expectations and she did not disappoint. Her rendition of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina is breath-taking and could easily rival that of powerhouse Elena Roger and even, dare I say it, Elaine Paige.
Sadly I cannot say the casting of Marti Pellow as Che is as big a success. Despite bringing a fairly pleasing vocal to the role (though some of his ‘money notes’ did seem slightly self-indulgent), Pellow fails to capture the charm, charisma and pure sarcasm of the character and unfortunately underwhelms in many of Che’s solo numbers – his diction also leaves a great deal to be desired. I am very familiar with Evita and so wasn’t too phased by the dropped lyrics; I do feel for those who aren’t though, especially in a sung through show such as this.
Mark Heenehan brings a pleasant sounding bari-tenor voice to his portrayal of Peron and plays the catalyst which starts Eva’s political career with a very believable warmth but an admirable determination. Nic Gibney gives a first rate vocal performance as Magaldi and revels in the fun of the character, giving the beginning of the show a real boost as the story rapidly unwinds.
The ensemble is strong and tackles the piece with a great energy, though a few of the company numbers are slightly messy and unpolished. I am optimistic this problem will solve itself as the cast settle into the tour. Having seen the choreography of Bill Deamer in the previous tour of this production before, I can definitely vouch for the fact it works very well.
Matthew Loughran conducts the orchestra with impressive skill and brings a wonderful sensitivity when required but also provides the grandeur and aplomb of the show’s bigger numbers with real conviction, but a few cues and vocal pick-ups are slightly misplaced.
Despite a couple of set pieces which refused to behave and one minor slip up during ‘Rainbow High’ (expertly sidestepped by Alberto) this is a very promising start to what I am sure will be another very successful journey for this touring production. Nothing would make me happier than to see this production return to the West End and show a few of Theatreland’s current residents exactly how it is done.
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By David Coverdale
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For more info and tour dates see HERE