Evita – Review – A Classic Musical Full Of Pure Theatrical Perfection

William J Connolly
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Sheffield Lyceum Theatre | 10th July 2013, 7:45pm

Evita reins over Argentina as a theatre classic, centuries after its original creation. 

It would be almost impossible to find a part of this production that doesn’t excite, emote or touch you. Evita is a musical that millions across the years have had the pleasure of seeing, and thousands are adding their name to this ever growing list as a new UK production tours the country.

Stopping at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre for two weeks, Evita is led by Wet Wet Wet star Marti Pellow as Che and Portuguese-born Madalena Alberto as the famous Argentine rose, Eva Peron.

Evita follows the life of Eva Peron, later the wife of Argentine dictator Juan Peron, and her rise to become the First Lady of Argentina and her subsequent fall.

With lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show features some of the most recognisable songs to ever grace a stage including: ‘Oh, What a Circus’, ‘You Must Love Me’, ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’ and the iconic ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’, to name but a few.

Alberto’s vocals, seeming often effortless, lead the production, alongside a cast of immense talent. Her relationship with stage husband Mark Heenehan as Peron is often awkward yet touching. It’s great to see the passion of Eva often override the love of Peron, making the duo a great pair. Alberto recently starred in the 25th Anniversary production of Les Miserables as the vulnerable Fantine; she also features on the anniversary cast recording, and showcases this experience with a resounding performance.

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Alberto’s most credible performance came just before the end of act two with her hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘You Must Love Me’. Having taking the audience through two hours of excitement and love, the turn of reflection into what Eva now has or even had, mixed with Lloyd Webber’s music, reduced myself and many around to tears. This in itself is worth the ticket price alone.

The show has the delicate moments that anyone would expect in a Lloyd Webber and Rice musical, however it does also feature high-energy dance numbers to give a good balance. These include ‘Buenos Aires’, ‘A New Argentina’ and ‘The Money Kept Rolling In’.

Throughout the show, you could almost feel everyone around waiting for the appearance of the most famous dress in musical theatre, and they didn’t have to wait for long. ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ opens the second act and bound the entire theatre to watch eagerly as the Argentine figure made her way to the balcony.

With the entire audience locking eyes with Alberto as she took to the most famous balcony in the world, it was interesting how many that had never seen the show were anticipating this moment. A dress and balcony make an iconic pairing.

Alberto gave the Argentine lady energy and heart but did struggle at times to then bring her portrayal of Eva down to show a more delicate side during her decline mid-act two. Marti Pellow explodes into every scene with a great portrayal of arrogant Che, giving the production an honesty through Eva’s often resistant stance. However, his performance is often let down by vocals that don’t match the levels of his co-performers. With Alberto and many others in the cast with immense talent, it often highlighted his weaker vocal.

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The show’s supporting roles are in great hands as Nic Gibney gives a beautiful vocal as the tango singer Magaldi whilst Sarah McNicholas makes a beautiful supporting lead as Mistress. Her rendition of ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’ greatly deserving of the applause she received. Great credit must also go to the show’s ensemble that explode full of power, energy and on occasion delicacy, matching its leading lady and giving a great resistance at times to the rise of Eva.

With the magic of live theatre also comes problems, including a slightly excitable chair moving towards the orchestra mid-show, leading to Pellow shouting for assistance to stop it; adding a light humour to a rather touching moment. The show also features many local performers and children as additions to the production. Distractions did come regularly from the weak set. With a solid structure of stairs used in almost every scene, stage crew moving set after or even during scenes regularly distracted attention away from performances.

The greatest surprise came as the show came to a close with a totally silent, non-applauding audience, as the final curtain fell. The auditorium felt tense with the faint sound of many tears. So strong is the story of Evita that it can still move an entire audience. Suitably as its leading lady arrived for her bow, the entire auditorium rose to its feet in celebration. Alberto is as stunning on-stage as off and a pleasure to meet backstage.

If you see one show this summer, make it Evita. You wont be disappointed.

madalene william connolly

Evita closes at the Sheffield Lyceum this Saturday (13th July) before opening at the Theatre Royal, Norwich (15th-27th July).

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Tickets available direct at: www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

About William J Connolly

Theatre journalist | Ex: The Times Newspaper, London 2012 (PR) and Marketing Manager for CHTC (Sheffield Lyceum). Twitter: @WJConnolly