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Review of Evita at Churchill Theatre Bromley

EvitaAlthough I first heard Evita back in 1976 when someone gave me the original concept album, I had never seen the musical itself so Bill Kenwright’s new production of this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical gave me the chance to put that right when it came to Bromley this week as part of a tour that takes it from Glasgow to Portsmouth over a seven-month period.

Evita tells the story of Eva Duarte who claws her way up from an impoverished country girl to the First Lady of Argentina as the wife of dictator President Juan Perón. We first see her living in a provincial town where she meets tango singer Augustin Magaldi and persuades him to take her to the bright lights of Buenos Aires and her meteoric rise to power and fame has begun.

The show opens in 1952 where an audience sitting in a cinema in Buenos Aires are stunned when the film is suddenly halted and an announcement is made that Eva Perón is dead at just 33 and it then cuts to her funeral in Buenos Aires. From then on the story is told by Ché who acts as narrator and Greek Chorus and guides the audience along and tells this amazing story. We meet the men Eva sleeps with as her legend grows, Buenos Aires society ladies who look down on the country girl and the generals who oppose her. It’s a roller coaster of a ride and ends as we go full-circle and we’re back at Eva’s funeral as a nation mourns.

Having never seen a production of the show, I have nothing to compare it with but Matthew Wright’s set is quite spectacular with vast arches, enormous columns that drop down from the heavens, a high, split level bridge that acts as a balcony when needed and it’s all very seamless. One of the highlights for me was the superb lighting effects from Tim Oliver who used shadows and light to subtly alter the atmosphere with each change of scene. The
orchestra often sounded a lot bigger than that although I thought I heard some backing tracks giving the sound a lot more depth. However, not for the first time at The Churchill, I thought the drums were far too loud in the mix and at times drowned out the singers.

As for the performances, that’s where the production let itself down a little. In the past, Eva Perón has been played by Elaine Paige, Patti Lupone, Madonna (in the movie version) and Madalena Alberto in an earlier version of this tour. So, it really needs a big, charismatic performer and I just don’t think Lucy O’Byrne is quite that yet. She was good but not great and her voice on occasions sounded a bit shrill which wasn’t helped by having to sing over an unsympathetic drummer! Mike Sterling, however, was excellent as Juan Perón as was Oscar Balmaseda in his short cameo as Magaldi. Glenn Carter as the other main character, Ché was good but once again didn’t quite have the charisma and the sardonic edge the character needed.

After over forty years with the original album, a movie, West End revivals and numerous tours, the songs from Evita have become very familiar and with the likes of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”, “Another Suitcase In Another Hall”, “High Flying Adored” and “You Must Love Me”, and has almost become a jukebox musical.

If you haven’t seen the show (or even if you have), try and get along to Bromley this week or one of the fifteen towns it’ll be appearing in between now and November. The audience at The Churchill last night loved it and gave it a standing ovation so it must be doing something right!

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Following its smash-hit runs in London Bill Kenwright’s production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s EVITA is thrilling audiences once again across the UK. Telling the story of Eva Peron, wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron, EVITA follows Eva’s journey from humble beginnings through to extraordinary wealth, power and iconic status which ultimately lead her to be heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’ by the Argentine people.

Led by three of the finest musical theatre stars and saying ‘Hello, Buenos Aires’ for the first time is Lucy O’Byrne (The Sound of Music, Les Misérables) in the iconic role of Eva Perón, with Mike Sterling (The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables) as Juan Perón and, award-winning West End leading man, Glenn Carter (Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar – on stage and screen, Les Misérables, The Case Of The Frightened Lady) as Ché.

Evita
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
TUE 24 – SAT 28 JULY 2018
https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/

Tuesday 30th October – Sat 3rd November 2018
Theatre Royal, Brighton

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