Evita: London - 18 September 2014 Review

Evita is one of the most famous musicals ever. Even my non-musical friends have heard of Evita; it is one of the shiniest jewels in Andrew Lloyd Webber's “King of Musicals” crown. This is a show that is so enjoyably written and so delightfully orchestrated that it should be hard not to love; I certainly found this to be the case when I saw the 2006 London Revival. Unfortunately on seeing the latest offering of the show at the Dominion Theatre, I felt somewhat underwhelmed.

Madelena Alberto delivers as leading lady Eva Peron (Evita), however she is notably best at playing the glamorous social climber in her more mature years as beloved stateswoman, rather than as young floozy… There is no doubting that this lady’s voice can soar and she delivered a crowd pleasing rendition of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” which I am sure is what half of the audience came to hear alone. I did feel that other musical numbers such as “Buenos Aires” could have packed more punch, but this was perhaps an issue with a small ensemble on a vast stage.

Andrew Wandsworth was somewhat forgettable as Peron, although his character is written as such, so one can’t entirely blame this particular performance. Nonetheless, I do wish I had felt slightly more sentiment between him and Alberto during “Eva’s Sonnet.”

I really wanted to love Wet Wet Wet front-man, Marti Pellow, as Che. I have seen him in Blood Brothers and he did a fairly solid job, however in this production he sort of blended into the background but not in required “am I here, am I not here” way, but mostly in a “I can’t actually hear what you are singing” way, which was disappointing. Furthermore, whilst I didn’t think this back in 2006, this production made me question Che’s role in the show. Here I didn’t really find him the bringer of cutting edge social commentary, but more just a (barely audible) stick in the mud. Boo.

One surprisingly delightful performance came from Sarah McNicholas who demonstrated real emotion as Peron’s ousted mistress in “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” I believe this is McNicholas’ West End debut and with such a fabulous set of pipes on her, hopefully we will see her tread the London boards in the future.

I suppose it is no secret that this production of Evita has been taken directly from the UK tour with the principle cast and creative team relatively unchanged. Before seeing the show the problem I could foresee with a tour to West End transfer is the dramatic change in space (let alone expectation.) As I predicted, this was the main issue. Coming from regional theatres to one of the biggest venues on the West End was a noticeably uncomfortable jump for this show. The stage is too big for the disappointingly minimal set, the ensemble feels small and fails to generate the mob-like mentality needed for crucial sections of the show and, worst of all, I couldn’t really hear what was happening.

That said, many audience members seemed unaware of the issues and just wanted to gush along with “Don’t Cry For Me…” Personally I felt this production Evita was a little half arsed. Always nice to hear (where possible) a classic score and watch a lady frolic about in an enviable white dress.

The Return of the Soldier review
18 September 2014, Dominion Theatre