Following the rise and untimely demise of Eva Peron, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice's musical, Evita, is lesser performed on the amateur circuit. Therefore, it's an achievement in itself that the courageous Brownhills Musical Theatre Company tackled this spectacle.
Charting her short life, the musical captures snapshots as she ultimately becomes the ‘Spiritual Leader of the Nation.’ The audience were transported to Argentina almost instantaneously, drawn in by the clever direction from the offset. The cyclical nature of the play results in the opening being the announcement of Evita’s death and that same image is what you leave with at the end.
The dark, solemn beginning lulls you in and then the stage explodes with colour as Alison Room’s Eva takes centre stage in the thrilling Buenos Aires. Room was a joy. She transitioned from the young, vivacious Peron, to the determined leader into the fragile woman. It was utterly captivating, to the point that by her last number you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. Strong in both character and voice, many of the iconic numbers shone through. Don’t Cry For Me Argentina was beautifully understated, it wasn't a show-stopper, but this was a good thing – it was well-crafted and sumptuously delivered. Compared to the vibrancy of Rainbow High and And The Money Kept Rolling In – which were colourful, delightful ensemble numbers, led confidently by Room.
Richard Ainslie’s Che held his own amongst the bustling stage; with many complicated numbers he narrated the action exceedingly well. However, with moments of such quick melodious exchanges, there were times where words became lost, but this is only a minor point in what was an overall accomplished performance.
Jamie Norgrove was well suited to the role of Peron. Commanding on stage, it was a strong pairing between himself and Room. Meanwhile, Brett Dewsbury as Magaldi and Emma Annis as The Mistress were both excellent supporting principals. With Annis’s glorious rendition of Another Suitcase In Another Hall and great vocals from Dewsbury in On This Night of a Thousand Stars.
Karl Steele’s production was suitably elegant and visually stunning. It was a well-executed and sophisticated show, with each member of the cast, whether principal or ensemble, playing their part. A shining example of this was during the opening of Requiem, as four mourners gathered and harmoniously sang (Emma Annis, Leigh Haywood, Helena King and Linzie Booth).
Under the musical direction of Ian Room the band glowed and with choreography from Jill Horne and Elizabeth Hill, it added yet another layer to this impressive production. The whole company should be mightily proud.
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