Reviewed Tuesday 22
The story of the rise of a young woman from a humble background to becoming the wife of President Juan Peron, the resulting vast wealth and power, and the establishment of her effectively becoming the spiritual leader of the Argentinian people is pretty familiar to many as a result of this Lloyd Weber/Rice production first staged in 1976.
This production, which has only recently opened, is stunning on all fronts, not least because of the three main leads who have a wealth and variety of experience between them. The stunning Madalena Alberto (Eva), commanding Mark Heenehan (Peron) and charismatic Marti Pellow (Che) all perform with consummate professionalism but more importantly with honesty, integrity, emotion but no sense of the sentimental. These are supremely confident and secure performers which in turn instills the audience with confidence. It was a pure delight to be present this evening.
Pellow is on stage almost constantly and is superb as Che. He has a most beautiful voice ranging from a delicate fragility to a belting roar at times. He hits the right balance between narrator, satirist and commentator in each scene. Mark Heenehan is perfect as Peron both in size and stature and in his ability to turn from hardened ruler to loving partner from moment to moment. Whilst taking nothing away from Pellow and Heenehan, the star is Alberto. She is solidly brilliant from start to finish; completely believable, more than the sum of her parts in that there is a clear three-dimesionality to her utterly convincing interpretation of a character who was far from perfect. Alberto's emotional engagement with her character's strengths and weaknesses is very powerful. Her final scenes were out of this world, especially her performance with Heenehan of 'You must Love me', which was deeply moving, almost heartbreakingly so, and clearly emotional for both the performers; absorbing work from both of them.
The ensemble are excellent and the performances were, as with the main players, faultless with sharp footwork (choreographed by Bill Deamer) and a pitch perfect chorus. It is abundantly clear that there is a genuine cohesiveness on stage to this particular combination of artists and, so rare in theatre now, you lose yourself at times in their performances.
The staging by Matthew Wright is dynamic, dramatic and managed so creatively here that it was unobstrusive, seamless and integral to the drama. One of the most effective scenes being the performance of 'Don't cry for me Argentina' from the balcony which is projected high above the very front of the stage so the audience is manipulated into being Eva's Argentinian crowd momentarily. Alongside the wonderful staging is the lighting by Mark Howett; again superbly managed and highly effective.
A point I seem to often raise in reviews is the quality and volume of voices in musical productions. Here the performers wore almost completely invisible microphones, the orchestra levels were set just so, and whilst at times this is a very loud performance, particularly in the first half, the balance between the various individuals on stage, the ensemble and the orchestra were spot on so no aspect was ever disadvantaged. It does beg the question, if this production can get is SO right then why can't others?
So, this is the most enjoyable evening I have had in the theatre for a long time. A standing ovation at the end, something not seen commonly nowadays, and the humble response to this by the cast and particularly Alberto confirmed the impression that there are no grandstanding performers here but instead, as stated at the start of this review, outstanding performers of integrity.
I cannot recommend this Evita highly enough. It plays at MK Theatre until 1st June and you really should book tickets now!
For tickets box office 08448717652 or visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes bkg fee applies
More details of the tour at http://www.kenwright.com/index.php?id=888
Reviewed Tuesday 22