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Evita (Susan Elkin reviews)

By Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber
society/company: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
performance date: 08 Aug 2019
venue: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
reviewer/s: Susan Elkin


Samantha Pauly as Eva Perón and Company. Photo: Marc Brenner

There is no doubt that the story of Eva Peron is a timelessly powerful tragic one. And it’s hard to watch Evita, which premiered in 1978, without thinking of Diana, Princess of Wales and reflecting on parallels and patterns.

This revival opens dramatically with Samantha Pauly quietly appearing at the bottom of Soutra Gilmour’s tiered set. Once the audience has silenced she crawls up towards Trent Saunders as Che. Then there’s an explosion of noise, colour and sensation and, no, that’s not a metaphor.

Pauly is a fine Eva, with a terrifically wide singing and acting range from full belt to intimate and from flamboyantly public to privately anguished or manipulative. It’s a performance of impressive depth delivered with fine intonation and lots of resonance. Her rendering of the last reprise of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina which she sings through tears with a catch in her voice is pretty riveting.

Full marks to Trent Saunders too – the everyman commentator and narrator who is rarely off stage and develops into Eva’s inner voice. He gets the right balance between insouciance and sincerity and makes every single one of Tim Rice’s splendid words clear. The story telling here couldn’t be more direct and accessible.

Ektor Rivera is convincing as Peron and there are some nice cameos by children. Best of all, though, is the choreography (Fabian Aloise) which pounds along arrestingly in the hands (and feet) of a very fine ensemble company who bring the sort of energy and vibrance which lifts a show like this off the ground, often literally.

I also liked the positioning of the eighteen-piece orchestra visibly above the stage and making a first-class sound under the baton of musical director, Alan Williams.

It is a pity about the pointless pyrotechics though. Director Jamie Lloyd, and presumably, Gilmour have allowed themselves to get carried away here. Of course it looks good to have fireworks, rockets, ash (bits of ribbon) repeatedly showered on to the audience and lots of smelly, coloured smoke but it distracts and irritates rather than adding anything useful to an otherwise enjoyable show.

Trent Saunders as Che, Adam Pearce as Augustín Magaldi and Company. Photo: Marc Brenner

 First published by Sardines:
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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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