Robert Tanitch reviews Evita at Dominion Theatre, London
First there was the record album in 1976 with Julie Covington and it went straight to the top of the British charts. Two years later there was the London stage production with Elaine Page, David Essex and Joss Ackland, directed by Harold Prince.
The New York production with Patti LuPone followed in 1979. 15 years later there was the film directed by Alan Parker with Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce.
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic was last seen on the West End stage eight years ago with Elena Roger. Webber’s score is a mixture of pop, rock, opera, Broadway musical, waltz, Kurt Weill, Latin and church music. Sadly, Rice’s abrasive lyrics are not always audible.
The musical traces the rise to stardom of Eva Peron: bed by bed, from illegitimate child to small-time prostitute, to big time poule de luxe, to mistress and finally wife of Argentine’s dictator. Eva had an insatiable lust for fame, fortune, furs and jewellery. The army and aristocracy loathed her; but she was worshipped by the poor. The national outpouring of grief when she died in 1952 at the age of 33 was not equalled until the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright’s touring production stars Madalena Alberto who is at her best the softer she sings. The production, awkwardly acted, is never as politically convincing as Alan Parker’s film version; and Eva’s death, which should be an operatic tearjerker in the Puccini manner, is surprisingly unmoving.
Bill Deamer’ choreography is at its most effective in the juxtaposition of the marching soldiers and the sophisticated rich women. Marti Pellow, underpowered, isn’t right for Che, the cynical commentator, who constantly cuts Eva Peron down to size. Much more successful are Sarah McNicholas as Peron’s dumped mistress singing “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” and the exuberant Ben Foster singing “On This Night of a Thousand Stars.”
Evita is at the Dominion Theatre for only 55 performances and then continues its tour.