Evita, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1978 musical biopic of Eva Duarte Peron, the former first lady of Argentina, is a daunting challenge for any company to take on. The through-sung score features many angular rhythms and dissonant harmonies that do not sit easily on the ear; that is the point. Peron was an enigma and the show does not set out to portray her in any soft-focus glow.
That the cast were able to tackle this challenging show with so much confidence on a first performance is a credit to the production team of Director Faye Easto, Musical Director David Easto and Choreographer Jemma Tiso. The whole show flowed easily, and the simple set and few props used were enough to allow the story to unfold unhindered. I particularly enjoyed the musical chairs played by the Colonels in The Art of the Possible
Essentially Evita is a 3 handed show, with supporting chorus. The three lead parts are all extremely vocally challenging, and were all delivered here with strength and character. Che, our Narrator, is one of the most obtuse characters written in musicals, not really having a personality of his own, but rather reflecting the Argentinian people’s attitude to Eva and different times in her life, and guiding us through how we might think about her. Pete Beck as Che oozes easy charm and charisma, and displays a find rock tenor voice, as well as showing us easily all the differing colours of this complex character.
Alistair Jolliffe was a full-voiced Peron, Eva’s husband, showing us first a man scheming his way to power, but later the human side of a husband losing a wife.
Vickie Beck as Eva was, rightly, at the centre of the production, going from ambitious teenager to statesman with a performance convincing both in voice and physicality. You must love me was a particularly heartbreaking moment in the show.
Good support came from the louche Matt Collins as the entertainer Magaldi, and Kim Waldron as Peron’s jilted Mistress.
The chorus did well creating the background for many scenes very effectively, from street scenes to elegant soirees and military training; you often cannot tell where the director’s work ended and the choreographers work began, so well did the movement flow.
There were times that the sound balance did not help the production; other patrons I spoke to who did not know the show were struggling throughout to keep up with the plot as the diction could not always be heard clearly. Hopefully this will settle down as the show beds in over the week.
Evita runs at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall until 30th March.
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