Saturday 16 December 2017

Theatre: A stylish Evita with grace and liveliness

Evita, Bord Gais Energy Theatre

Marti Pellow as Che and Madalena Alberto as Eva. Photo: Keith Pattison
Marti Pellow as Che and Madalena Alberto as Eva. Photo: Keith Pattison

John McKeown

What are we to make of Eva Perón, the backstreets girl who became wife of Argentinian dictator Juan Perón and 'Spiritual Chief of the Nation'? In Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical, Eva is both a lucky gold-digger and a genuine and natural lover of the people. Still, we're never sure about her, but then there's that song 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' and if it's sung right it hardly matters.

Madalena Alberto does it superbly. Eva, radiant in silk and diamonds, on the balcony with the newly triumphant Juan, reduces questions of mean motivation to vanishing point in the purity of her crystalline tones.

Her voice becomes a languidly woven silver thread stitching herself and Juan together during 'I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You' and plaintively magnetic when the dying Eva tells him 'You Must Love Me.' Crucially, there's nothing maudlin in Alberto's performance, and whatever we think of Eva ethically or politically her self-belief and strength of character is beyond doubt.

It's Che's job to attack that character, and while Marti Pellow isn't as authoritative as he could be, he does his hatchet job well enough. Pellow's singing tends to be rather breathy and some of the articulation in the early numbers doesn't come across, but he hits his stride in the second act with 'The Money Keeps Rolling In' and in duet with a spunky Eva defending herself against his jibes in 'Waltz For Eva and Che.'

Mark Heenehan is on excellent oral form as Juan, his physical performance combining militaristic pragmatism with ardent love of Eva, whose power he knows is too potent to be kept behind the throne. Sarah McNicholas has only one real moment to shine as the mistress ousted by Eva, and does so with gentle effulgence when she leaves Juan's residence

It's not the most spectacular musical, nothing very much happens apart from Eva's smooth glide to the top followed by her premature demise from cancer.

But Bob Tomson's stylish production offers compensatory grace and liveliness. Bill Deamer's versatile choreography commandeer all classes of Argentinian society, from the common people to aristos and army officers, in numbers that accentuate and illuminate the ironic or downright scathing thrust of Rice's lyrics.

Matthew Wright's set design flows almost unnoticeably between years and scenes, from the clubs where Eva starts out with her singing partner to the sepulchral candle-flickered interior of the church were 'Santa Evita' lies in state.

Irish Independent

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