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Evita, Phoenix Theatre – Review

Pros: Beautiful voices and some emotional scenes – this is a production where the women shine!

Cons: A rushed plotline and poor sound design.

Pros: Beautiful voices and some emotional scenes – this is a production where the women shine! Cons: A rushed plotline and poor sound design. It had been almost ten years since I last saw Evita, and with fond memories I was looking forward to seeing it again, at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s glitzy West End. With Wicked’s Emma Hatton following in the footsteps of Elaine Paige and taking on the leading role this was surely going to be a memorable production. The plot of a musical is rarely its best feature but of course that isn’t necessarily a musical's priority.…

Summary

Rating

Good

The second act is far stronger than the first and will definitely have you reaching for the tissues, but the production suffers from a rushed storyline.

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It had been almost ten years since I last saw Evita, and with fond memories I was looking forward to seeing it again, at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s glitzy West End. With Wicked’s Emma Hatton following in the footsteps of Elaine Paige and taking on the leading role this was surely going to be a memorable production.

The plot of a musical is rarely its best feature but of course that isn’t necessarily a musical’s priority. Evita, however, written by Tim Rice, does have a brilliant plotline. It is the phenomenal story of a young woman who craves fame, fortune, power and love. The performance starts in a cinema as breaking news interrupts the film to announce the sad passing of Eva Perón, Argentina’s first lady, wife of dictator Juan Perón and lovingly named ‘Spiritual Chief of the Nation’. The rest of the performance flashes back through Eva’s life story from lowly worker, to budding actress, wife of Argentina’s president and the most influential woman of her time.

The story is huge and there is so much to cover but directors Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright rush through it far too quickly, spending too much time on the unimportant and glancing over the crucial. The first act is all about the dancing, rarely showing Eva’s growing success or giving much sense of character. Juan Perón’s scenes, particularly his arrest and swearing in as president, are practically non-existent as though Tomson and Kenwright decided to skim over them for fear of boring the audience. The second act however, is far more successful, with greatly improved performances and storytelling. We see Eva breaking the hearts of people all over the world as she works hard to build the Perón name and then her demise as she falls ill with cancer and passes away at the age of just 33. There are some beautiful scenes between Hatton and Kevin Stephen-Jones’ Juan Perón that are guaranteed to pull on the old heart strings.

Evita is surely one of the most challenging roles for a musical theatre actress, with humongous showtunes like Don’t Cry for me Argentina, Buenos Aires and You Must Love Me, but Emma Hatton does a fine job as Argentina’s first lady. Taking on the role of Che, in his West End debut, the rather gorgeous Gian Marco Schiaretti certainly owns the stage as the narrator and voice of the people, but there is slightly too much posing happening and not quite enough telling. Playing Perón’s mistress, Sarah O’Connor sings with emotion and passion and is definitely one to watch; her rendition of Another Suitcase in Another Hall is absolutely stunning and a highlight of the show.

I was quite disappointed by the design elements of the show. A trip to the West End often means being mesmerised by the extravagant set and stunning sound design but that isn’t the case with this production. Design by Matthew Wright is kept very simple, with an archway and a staircase. Though the beginning scenes in the church impress, with a portrait of Eva hanging between the large archways, their constant use is somewhat underwhelming. Sound design includes poor quality sound of applause and chanting of “Perón”, and is a far cry away from normal West End standard.

Overall, this production is slightly underwhelming. Though there are some good performances, it doesn’t feel West End ready, let down by notable imperfections, particularly the rushing of the plot  But Evita is a fantastic story and so whether you are a diehard fan or have never seen it before, forget the imperfections, go along and see for yourself why Andrew Lloyd Webber will be celebrating 40 years of its success next year.

Lyricist: Tim Rice
Composer: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directors: Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright
Choreographer: Bill Deamer
Box Office: 08448717615
Booking Link: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/evita/phoenix-theatre/
Booking Until: 14th October 2017

About Grace Ward

Grace Ward
Grace is a director, writer, teacher, telephonist, daughter, wife and friend all rolled into one. Being a native northerner, she moved from Yorkshire to London over 10 years ago and has never looked back. Before taking the plunge into directing, Grace studied Physical Theatre and although there's nothing she loves more than gritty dialogue, she loves it when she's surprised by something a bit more physical. A lover of all things dark and disturbing, she will be the first to put her name down for anything that is not-so-middle-of-the-road.