Making a thirty five year old musical seem fresh and current is a testing task no doubt, but theatre luvvie and Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright with the help of co-director Bob Tomson manage it well with this touring production of Evita.
Telling the tale of working class Maria Eva Duarte’s rise to fame and fortune, Evita manages to woo us into falling for the charms of its heroine, just as Argentina did in the 1940’s. Madalena Alberto shines as Eva, shifting beautifully from the flirty adolescent we first meet to the frail and sickly first lady of Argentina with grace and style. Alberto’s voice is exceptional; she plays this role perfectly, full of ambition and fun, she transforms herself throughout the show to become a proud and dedicated first lady, loyal to her husband Peron and fiercely proud of her homeland Argentina.
But it’s leading lady Madalena Alberto who steals the show with her spine-tingling performance of the legendary Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.
Narrating the show in the part of Che is Wet, Wet, Wet singer Marti Pellow, his vocals are a touch too soft for a rebellious revolutionary figure but he appears comfortable in the role and certainly looks the part. The ensemble is superb, their vocals enchanting, Requiem for Evita is just beautiful, tremendously hard working and versatile each and every one is perfectly cast. Tim Rice’s lyrics are clever and still current over thirty years after being written and Andrew Lloyd Webbers score is timeless, a highlight being ‘Buenos Aires’ where we are transported to the carnival atmosphere of the South American city, full of hopes and dreams for our heroine. Choreographer Bill Deamer’s injection of salsa and tango does not go unnoticed and adds to the fiesta feel of the piece. The menacing military marching as Peron rises to power is simple yet effective. The set is slick, the marble staircases, pillars and moving platforms are impressive, this does not look like a touring production. Musical Director/Conductor Matthew Loughran guides the orchestra through the complex melodies perfectly.
Mark Heenehan plays Peron very well, enchanted by Eva from the minute they meet. But it’s leading lady Madalena Alberto who steals the show with her spine-tingling performance of the legendary Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. Her physical transformation is equally impressive; she appears to visibly shrink for Eva’s final days. While there were clearly many Wet, Wet, Wet fans in the audience its Alberto who receives the more than deserved standing ovation.