Richard Smith reviews Evita at The Palace Theatre
Evita is one of my favourite musicals, so when the opportunity came to see the latest touring production at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, I was, naturally, very excited. With this excitement came high expectations for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s classic musical about the life of the infamous first lady of Argentina, Eva Peron, although unfortunately my high expectations weren’t consistently met.
The production did not feel like a seamlessly combined culmination of elements. The staging had moments of greatness, and others that were confusing and awkward. The finale to act one ‘A New Argentina’, in which Eva campaigns for her husband to be president whilst he is in prison, worked brilliantly; combining her various campaigns over time with the excitement of the nation really displayed the passion and determination of Eva, although the volume of the orchestra was, perhaps, lower than it should be for such a rousing number. In comparison, the main chorus number of Act 2 ‘And the Money Kept Rolling In’ was limp and minimal. Intended to display the development of Evita’s charity, it was set at what looked like a village fete, and failed to show the huge momentum and hype around the national foundation. Additionally, the other large dance numbers had some moments of fantastic choreography from the ensemble in unison, but almost instantly would turn into messy solo sections to fill time.
What really let the show down, however, was its principal cast. The shows score is infamous for its challenging, belted numbers yet, Madalena Alberto, who took on the title role, didn’t quite meet the mark. Her voice was extremely nasal with peculiar inflections and although her acting toward the end, as Eva is dying of cancer, was excellent, her performance seemed very ‘stereotypical musical theatre’, without significant thorough characterisation.
As is the norm now for touring productions, in the shows narrator role of ‘Che’ was 80’s pop star Marti Pellow who was, to put it nicely, awful. His body language and stage interactions for the entire show seemed to scream ego. His voice was tired, diction ridiculous and timing horrendous. At the interval I had to explain half the story to my friend Jess, as you could not understand what he was saying, or the part he played in the narrative.
Perhaps as the run continues, and all the elements of the show come together, the production will live up to its historic reputation. If you are simply looking for a nice night out to the theatre, then Evita is the ticket. However, avid fans of the show should perhaps wait until nearer the end of the run, to allow the production to reach its full potential.
3 out of 5