Evita, the classic musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, returns to The Playhouse Theatre for one week only, and it is a classic show in every sense starring Emma Hatton as Eva Peron, Gian Marco Schiaretti as Che and Kevin Stephen-Jones as General then later President Peron.
Coming to the role of Eva after recently playing the lead role of Elphaba in the West End production of “Wicked”, Emma Hatton is in top form and brings a strong and powerful Eva to the stage, a a combination of emotionally powerful vocals and acting presence define this role as hers for a long time to come. The choice to use a lead person with a strong career in musical theatre over someone who is just famous for a few months on the back of some reality television show really shows here. With Emma’s portrayal of Eva we are given a woman of many flaws who has will and determination to do whatever it takes to break out of her poor origins and take full advantage of every situation that comes her way. This is an Eva Peron that an audience can actually take an interest in, and the final scenes of Eva’s life are played with emotion that could be felt throughout the theatre.
Kevin Stephen-Jones as Peron is a good counterbalance to the far more politically ambitious Eva, and it is interesting to watch how the dynamics of power shift from one to the other. This is no “Romeo and Juliet” love affair but there is a sense of both knowing that they need the other to survive (at least publicly) whenever Kevin and Emma are on stage.
Narrating the whole story to us is Gian Marco Schiaretti as Che, and from the first few minutes on stage, Gian has the stage presence to make Che a strong enough figure that the audience want to listen to his story and follow him on stage. That may sound a simple task to do, but it is not, and a weak Che in this role somehow lets everything not fall properly into place. With clear and commanding vocals, Gian gives us at times an almost operatic Che that clearly takes us through our story from end to beginning to end again.
Evita is one of the great classic musicals out there, and after all these years it is easy to forget just how groundbreaking this production was at the time. Between them, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber broke many of the perceived rules in how you could construct a musical and how music and songs for a production could be written, and even now, listening to Tim Rice’s wonderful lyrics and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music, you realise that this is a production of two huge talents at their creative best.
For many people there is probably one song that they know from this show (even if they have never seen it performed on stage), the iconic “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”, and Emma Hatton gives one of the great performances of this song here tonight, but there are so many other classic musical theatre songs and music here including “Oh What A Circus”, “Requiem for Evita”, “Buenos Aires”, and my favourite song from this show –“Another Suitcase In Another Hall”. Sarah O’Connor as Peron’s soon to be removed mistress by Eva gives a classic performance of this number here. It is a statement to the strength of the music in this show that one of the classic songs here does not go to any of the starring roles.
Evita is a class act from performance to all the little details that often go unnoticed. Very good sets that change scenes swiftly and flow with the story, good costumes, choreography and very good lighting that is used to good dramatic effect. Not forgetting either, live musicians doing justice to the original musical score.
The only problem with this show at The Playhouse is its short residency...running for only one week from Tuesday 7th to Saturday 11th February.
Review by Tom King