Review: Evita at The Bristol Hippodrome
EVITA STORY SYNOPSIS
EVITA is based on the life story of Eva Peron, who became wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron. Eva was the youngest child born into a family of five children, all abandoned by their father. The story follows Eva’s ascent from a childhood of poverty to the extraordinary wealth and power her position as ‘first lady‘ of Argentina afforded her. Before her premature death from illness she was heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’ by the Argentine people.
The other key character is Che, who both narrates the story and interacts with Eva throughout.
I’ve seen a previous version of the show with my husband, back in the olden days, before we had children. To be honest I wasn’t certain whether this would be suitable entertainment for my usual 9 and 7 year old theatre companions. The fact that we were going to the Monday night performance helped convince me that this wouldn’t suit my 7 year old. I decided to split the difference and only take 9 year old Trainboy who can just about manage to keep going through a show which finishes after 10pm, without falling asleep at school the following day! This photo was taken after the show and I’ve just noticed how his eyes look like they’re being held open with matchsticks – poor boy!
At the performance we attended on Monday, Eva and Peron were not the headline principals. Eva was played by Hannah Grover and Juan Peron by Joe Maxwell. Che was played by Marty Pellow (of Wet, Wet, Wet fame).
The show starts with the announcement of Eva’s death, closely followed by the nation’s mass mourning for her. The sombre atmosphere is reinforced by the visual effectiveness of the cathedral set, in which long columns descend effortlessly from above and beautiful lighting shines through high windows.
The scene changes throughout the performance are cleverly and subtly executed with staging wheeled back and forth, amidst the action. I was amused at one point by Che, completely in character, elegantly propelling Eva’s chaise longue off the stage with just his finger tip.
The story throughout is told by Che, who represents the voice of the people. He and the people of Argentina are initially enthused by Eva’s promises when she appears to be one of them, but Che’s attitude towards her turns to disappointment and anger as she becomes more interested in her own fame and wealth than in the descamisados, the ordinary shirtless people.
I enjoyed Marty Pellow’s performance. His role as the rather mysterious narrator was charming and easy to believe. Unfortunately the sound levels on that first night meant that we had some problems hearing his dialogue. This is a fairly complex story which is difficult to follow without sufficient understanding of the political context.
MUSIC AND DANCE
My favorite song in the show is the emotional ‘Another suitcase in Another Hall’, sung by Peron’s shunned mistress. The beautiful rendition by Sarah McNicholas’ was one of the show’s highlights for me.
The elegant choreography and combined voices of the Ensemble were also spectacular.
Personally, I think I made a bit of a boob by not brushing up on my history first. Trainboy left the theatre with lots of questions about the plot which, at the time I couldn’t answer. I’ve been doing my homework since, but I think we would both have got more out of the show with a better understanding of the political context.
If you’re after a laugh a minute story then Evita may not be the show for you. There’s death, illness, a military coup and an earthquake which wipes out most of the city of San Juan!
On the other hand there’s oodles of glamour, mainly in the transformation of Eva’s outfits from struggling actress garb to chic designer gear and bejewelled princess’s gowns. And there’s some beautiful music including catchy favorites such as ‘Buenos Aires’ and iconic classics ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’ and of course ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’.
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Bill Kenwright by special arrangement with the Really Useful Group presents EVITA
Lyrics by TIM RICE
Music by ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary tickets for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.
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