Ever since it first appeared in the West End, way back in 1978, Evita has been recognised as one of the truly great musicals but now, with the supreme talents of Marti Pellow and Madalena Alberto in two of the lead roles, it has reached new stratospheric heights.
From the moment that the curtain lifts and the live orchestra, under the direction of Matthew Loughran, fills the auditorium with the opening number of this fantastic score, the audience realise that they are in for a real treat, a classy, West End quality, slick and professional show – and that is exactly what we get.
Marti Pellow, who plays the role of Che, stands tall and menacing to one side of the stage as Evita’s funeral takes place, before berating the mourners for their stage-managed grief and warning them about the future of their country in the hit song “Oh What a Circus”.
During the first half we see Eva, who is just 15 at the start of the show, manipulate and manoeuvre the situations, and the men, in her life until she finally meets Juan Peron, and quickly realises that he is the man who will provide her with everything she desires.
Eva soon takes the place of Peron’s current mistress, played by Sarah McNicholas, who, despite having a relatively small part in the show, brings the house down with her fantastically moving version of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”, as she is unceremoniously dumped by her former lover.
Andrew C Wadsworth stars as Juan Peron in this production and is simply perfect in the role. He realises that Eva will get the people on his side and, despite the protestations of the army, and the obvious hostility of the upper classes, he soon installs the former actress and radio star as his First Lady.
Throughout the entire show, the set of interlocking staircases and balconies is constantly changing shape and, together with the pillars which fly gracefully in and out, allow us to believe that we are in a church, in the halls of government, at a mass rally or even on a bus, with subtle changes in lighting used to enhance the effect.
Taking on the enormous task of conveying the combination of manipulation and vulnerability that make up Eva Peron is Portuguese actress Madalena Alberto who, despite having a large and extremely talented cast around her, dominates the stage from start to finish.
Watching her rise, and then fall, is an emotional rollercoaster of a journey which has many of the audience in tears, especially during her amazingly passionate number, “You Must Love Me”. With tears streaming down her face, and mascara lines running down her cheeks, she has the packed house totally silent and gives absolutely everything over to the song, and the role.
It has just been announced that, after this regional tour is finished, Evita will transfer into the, newly refurbished, Dominion Theatre in London’s West End. It’s nice to see that such a wonderful theatre will be reopening with such a truly magnificent musical.
***** 5 stars