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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Dominion Theatre       Autumn 2014

On face value this latest outing for Evita can be recommended without hesitation… (a) it’s a timely chance to reappraise/experience for the first time one of the finest examples of the New Wave of musicals, yet to be bettered even by its creators even four decades on. And (b) it’s a timely chance to venture back to experience a large-scale show at one of the country’s finest performance spaces, long monopolised by 12 years of We Will Rock You and recently refurbished.
Looking a little closer, however, things do not appear so positive in this tale of Eva’s rise to become the iconic spouse of Argentine dictator Juan Peron. Don’t get me wrong, Bill Kenwright’s production is undeniably slick, complete with huge cast and full-on band, and you won’t waste your money.
But, if we are to be honest about it, directors Kenwright and Bob Tomson have come up with a show that niggles throughout, bedevilled by a string of minor imperfections that mount up as the show progresses and leave you feeling underwhelmed by the curtain.
Much of the problem lies in the fact that Evita was a bitty musical to start with. Despite the fact that it is sung through, Lloyd Webber’s score is too stylistically diverse and never really connects up its sections, while, on their own, the scenes are likewise hard to join up narrative-wise, remaining vignettes despite Tim Rice’s drolly incisive lyrics. 

The single, brilliant device that holds plot and music together is Che, the narrator who sustains not only the story but also provides an emotional barometer for the action and underpins the incisive comments on the perils of celebritydom.
Sadly this is mostly wasted here. Not only Che but almost all the other protagonists are unintelligible in their delivery due to an uneven sound mix on their headset mics, and then add to this a likewise uneven palette of acting abilities and voices. 

Sure Madalena Alberto’s Eva is all diva virtuosity yet she comes across as passionless, and her oddly offbeat-delivered Don’t Cry For Me Argentina woefully misses every ironic punchline. 

Marti Pellow as Che is unable to break out of his monotone warble and struggles with the material, giving the distracting impression that he is singing out of his natural register (note that in the original stage version David Essex, of a similar pop pedigree and light voice, was still able to create one of the most memorable musical stage roles around with apparent ease). 
Save for the versatile Ben Forster, whose tango guru Magaldi storms the house in every way, there is minimal stage presence or meaningful movement, resulting in wooden performances all round, which is perfectly acceptable – if this were a semi-staged performance. 

And while the orchestration admirably pumps up the Latino elements in Lloyd Webber’s score, the chorus numbers miss the spirit and are more like outtakes from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. 
As I say, there is still a lot here to compensate and so make this not a lost venture, but given the experience of the cast and creative team, and the fact that this production has already extensively toured, the audience is advised to approach this Evita a little more proactively than would usually be expected of a West End spectacular.

Nick Awde

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Review - Evita - Dominion Theatre 2014  

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