Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: "Evita" - King's Theatre, Glasgow 11th June 2011

In recent years, the show's co-composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has kept a high profile with a number of casting shows which have kept his latest productions in the spotlight. In the meantime, one of his most enduring hit shows has continued to tour the world and has returned to the UK for its latest theatre tour.

I refer of course to "Evita" which has been running for over 30 years and still pulls in the crowds. This was certainly true this weekend, as the matinee show played to a very appreciative audience in a packed King's Theatre in Glasgow. This is the second time we've seen this show at the King's which is an absolutely gorgeous and traditional old theatre which is currently in the middle of an ongoing restoration programme.

Unfortunately I forgot to buy a programme so had to do some research for my review. Whilst doing this I came across a review site and couldn't believe some of the bad reviews I read about this year's production. Yes certainly there were some minor flaws - the tango singer was too young, and the actor playing Che had a nervy start and didn't always match the narrator role's required sarcasm - but these are only very minor flaws and didn't detract from the show as a whole.

Apart from the political/historical narrative, "Evita" is always relevant and topical due to its main character's portrayal as a fame-hungry wannabe actress who slept her way up the ladder of success and ensured she caught the biggest fish of all - who equally realised that she would be a good asset to his political aspirations ("I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You").

The soundtrack, like the show is fast-moving and timeless - like "Joseph", the whole show is sung rather than spoken, and even thought the rock opera style probably belonged to another era, it still sounds fresh.

There were no big casting-show names in this one, but I researched and discovered that they were a group of experienced and established musical theatre performers. Leading lady Abigail Jaye gave a fine and professional performance as Eva Peron, although was a little high-pitched at times.

Whilst the first half of the show provides lively numbers such as "Buenos Aires" and ends with the rousing "A New Argentina", the second half starts with Evita on the balcony and the show's most famous song "Don't Cry For Me Argentina". Just like all politicians everywhere, the Perons increasingly fail to deliver on their promises and Eva heads off on a European tour with mixed success. On her return home she tries to win favour with the launch of her own foundation but even this is clearly suspect ("And The Money Kept Rolling In And Out"). Che is the glue who binds the show together and represents the voice of the Argentine people. (Of course, as with every performance of Evita, Che always gets the biggest cheer at the end).

Eventually Eva becomes ill and the latter part of the show packs an emotional punch culminating in Eva's death.

Unfortunately, the end of the show has everyone leaving the theatre feeling rather heavy-hearted and emotionally drained from the latter part of the show. Maybe it's totally inappropriate for such a dark ending but dare I suggest that the show could benefit from a discofied megamix, Joseph-style to lift us all up again. A hi-energy Don't Cry For Me Argentina? On This Night Of A Thousand Stars set to a Europop beat? No? OK then.

Purists may sneer at Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber making a song and dance out of Argentinian political history, but you can't argue with their always successful recipe of a true story mixed with good, memorable songs which ensure that this show's success will endure for many years to come. I'm sure that many of those in the audience yesterday afternoon will come back again for more next time round - we certainly will.

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