Evita – review

Feb 3 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩   Force & Frailty

Marti Pellow and Madalena Alberto in Evita

Marti Pellow and Madalena Alberto in Evita

Edinburgh Playhouse
Mon 27 Jan – Sat 8 Feb 2014
Review by Thom Dibdin

A real sense of human frailty pervades the latest touring revival of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s late-seventies hit Evita to arrive at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

At its best, this is seen in Madalena Alberto’s interpretation of Eva Peron, the self-made girl, born Eva Duarte, who travelled 150 miles to Buenos Aires to become a radio star.

While Alberto is big and brash enough of voice to play Eva at her most manipulative, she excels in those moments when the upwardly thrusting new wife to Colonel Peron is being snubbed by society women, or as she begins to succumb to the cancer which was to kill her.

In these instances she creates a fully complex character, a woman who is much more than her iconic image of tightly contained hair and strictly formal dress. And she does so while producing a fascinating swing from go-getting teenager to calculating national figurehead.

At its most disappointing, that frailty is manifest in Marti Pellow’s vocal performance as Che, the voice of cynicism who prowls the stage as an arch-narrator, commenting on Eva’s rises to power.

The Wet Wet Wet star has the physical presence for what is a very static role under the direction of Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright. And the necessary mental strength to maintain his steely demeanour during his long periods on stage.

Yet his voice is surprisingly slight and breathy, most noticeably in his opening number, Oh What a Circus, where the contrast with the words he is singing is so great, as to almost be a rebuttal of them.

Still, as the production progresses, he begins to get the nuance right, and the theatricality of his vocal lines is well put. More importantly, he is utterly clear throughout. Indeed, there is not a line in the whole production that is less than clear.

Pellow’s voice has warmed up enough by the time of his big Act II number, And The Money Keeps Rolling Out, for him to hit and sustain the big notes. Unfortunately, in what is a key song pointing up Eva’s lining of her own pockets and the bankrupting of Argentina, he milks the number – instead of allowing the song its place in the production, driving the story on.

A full and sumptuous lower register

Madalena Alberta, by contrast, serves the musical throughout. She has a full and sumptuous lower register but, despite a brightness to her higher register, when she is belting out the big numbers her brash lack of depth and subtlety echoes Eva’s own attitudes.

Elsewhere there are musically strong and theatrically supportive performances all round.

Nic Gibney has a nicely lecherous leer to his demeanour as Magaldi, the first man picked by Eva in her rise from obscurity. His On this Night of a Thousand Stars is a treat, every time.

As Peron, Mark Heenehan has a broad, rich voice and his presentation of the Colonel who becomes President is certainly consistent with the myth of Evita. Although there’s no strong attempt in the production to emphasise the totalitarian nature of Peron’s time in power, leaving Heenehan little scope for depth.

Indeed, the biggest criticism of Eva levelled by this particular production is on a personal level, coming with Sarah McNicholas as Peron’s former mistress – deposed by Eva – who is fantastic in her Another Suitcase in Another Hall.

Choreographer Bill Deamer should be right up there at the top of the credits, even if Pellow’s Che is never given the chance to shine in the dance front. Deamer has created some stunning ensemble routines for the storytelling numbers, and with a well-drilled chorus there is always something to watch.

This might not be the best interpretation of Evita to tour to the Playhouse nor, indeed, the most nuanced interpretation to play in the capital, but it is a bright piece of musical entertainment.

Running time 2 hrs 15 mins.
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA
Run ends Saturday, 5 October.
Daily 7.30pm, matinee Wed, Sat, 2.30pm.
Full details on the Playhouse website: www.atgtickets.com
There are plenty of recordings of Evita available. Here’s the London revival from 2006

(Click the image to purchase from Amazon):

Evita on tour:

27 Jan – 8 Feb 2014 Edinburgh
Playhouse Theatre
0844 871 3014 Book Online
10-15 – Feb 2014 Dublin
Bord Gais Theatre
+353 (1) 677 7999 Book Online
17 – 22 Feb 2014 Cardiff
New Theatre
029 2087 8889 Book Online
24 – 29 Feb 2014 Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 11 21 21 Book Online
10 – 15 Mar 2014 Carlisle
Sands Theatre
01228 633 766 Book Online
17 – 22 Mar 2014 Manchester
Palace Theatre
0844 871 3019 Book Online
24 Mar – 5 Apr 2014 Canterbury
Marlowe Theatre
01227 787 787 Book Online
8- 19 Apr 2014 Birmingham
0844 338 5000 Book Online
21 – 26 Apr 2014 Hull
New Theatre
01482 300 300 Book Online
28 Apr – 3 May 2014 Llandudno
Venue Cymru
01492 872 000 Book Online
6 – 10 May 2014 Malvern
Festival Theatre
01684 892 277 Book Online
Mark Heenehan will be replaced in the role of Peron after 10 May
12 – 17 May 2014 Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book Online
19 – 24 May 2014 Plymouth
Theatre Royal
01752 267222 Book Online
27 – 31 May 2014 High Wycombe
Wycombe Swan
01494 512 000 Book Online
2 – 7 Jun 2014 Dartford
Orchard Theatre
01322 220000 Book Online


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