Evita, a classic in the Lloyd Webber canon, is revised by Bill Kenwright Ltd for the West End’s Phoenix Theatre. The story is set in Argentina and focuses on the life of political leader Eva Perón (Emma Hatton), with the musical opening at her death and leading us through the years of power and relationships which leads to her defeat, narrated by Che (Gina Marco Schiaretti), a member of the public and witness to the political uprise.
Hatton was last seen playing the green lady in Wicked, and performed phenomenally in the role. Whilst her talent is still very much evident in this production, there seems to be less material for her to get her teeth into. Scenes oddly transition from one to another, as we wait for the clunky set of cardboard pillars and staircases to move into position, not quite fitting together. This is an ensemble piece, yet the ensemble mostly appear unbothered, unmoved and uninvolved. These feelings are powerfully transposed onto the audience. We don’t get any sort of emotional build up. We don’t care much for any of the characters. We wonder why so often characters are standing in the background with nothing to do; no set purpose of being on the stage. We finally get to ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’ and we’re just not that fussed really. As elegantly as Hatton delivers the song, she has not been given the foundations to allow any emotive response to the lyrics, and this feeling, unfortunately, carries the second act all the way to her inevitable death.
Schiaretti moves around the space awkwardly, amidst the cheap pillars and frozen Argentinian chorus, his hands in his pockets for an awfully long time. His lack of fluidity complements the rest of the choreography, which too lacks in fluidity. Movement is basic; all the chorus turning at the key moments, a few spins, synchronised leg work; at one point they try to be more adventurous by splitting up and doing different moves, which just looks clumsy.
In a musical which can be manipulated from so many political angles (particularly in the current climate), the obvious elephants in the show are completely ignored. Bob Tomson’s direction has no new concept; the musical is dated and this production begs the question of why nothing’s been done with it. Even blocking is ultra basic. Characters speak a lot through the fourth wall; it’s like watching a concert, with two or three of the same songs drained through this 2hrs 25 mins production. Nothing is magical or takes us by surprise. It’s just, frankly, dull. The storytelling is non-existent, despite having a dedicated narrator who guides us through. We can’t possibly believe in Eva as a character; there’s no depth.
Tomson seems to rely on the slow walking of characters as they enter the stage to fill the scene gaps, whilst we wait for another cumbersome set change before the next song begins. Meanwhile, the stage is lit with block colours of light, whilst in one scene we’re blinded by moving spots, which I believe is supposed to set the busy Argentinian streets but just forces us to have a well-deserved nap until we can open our eyes again.
You have to have extreme patience and admiration for the music to enjoy this production. A standing ovation suggests that perhaps the rest of the audience enjoyed the show more than I did, but I think it’s equally as possible they were standing to show their appreciation for a talented cast in an uninspiring production.
Review by Joseph Winer
The story of an ordinary woman’s meteoric rise to power at a time of extraordinary political unrest, Evita is playing for 12 weeks at the Phoenix Theatre from 28th July to 14th October 2017, with a press Gala performance on Wednesday 2nd August at 7.00pm.
The season marks the 65th anniversary of the death of Eva Perón which will be commemorated in Argentina in July. This enigmatic figure, whose rise from humble beginnings to extraordinary wealth and power is immortalised in the musical Evita, passed away on 26th July 1952 and was laid in state exactly 65 years prior to the commencement of this latest West End season.
Taking on the iconic role of Eva Perón is one of musical theatre’s most exciting young leading ladies Emma Hatton, who has performed the lead role of Elphaba in the West End production of Wicked, the principle roles of Scaramouche and Meatloaf in We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre, and Donna in the West End production of Dreamboats and Petticoats.
Leading Italian performer Gian Marco Schiaretti plays Che, a character who reflects the voice of the Argentine people. Linked to Eva by destiny; he brings balance to the story of Eva’s rise to fame. Gian Marco Schiaretti most recently played the title role of Tarzan in Disney’s Musical Tarzan, in Stuttgart. Prior to this he played Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet across Italy.
The cast is completed by Oscar Balmaseda, Sarah O’Connor, George Arvidson, Lewis Barnshaw, Jessica Ellen, Callum Fitzgerald, Kellie Gnauck, Dominic Adam Griffin, Joe McCourt, Jude Neill, Jordan Oliver, Chrissie Perkins, Oliver Slade, Matias Stegmann and Yuval Zoref.
Telling the story of Eva Perón, wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Perón, Evita follows Eva’s journey which ultimately led her to be heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’ by the Argentine people.