One of the most impressive productions ever hits Milton Keynes Theatre this week. Evita is the story of Eva Peron and tells the story from her humble beginnings to becoming the star of Argentina. You don’t need to know the story to have heard the song, ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’.
The show is impactive from the opening scene. An audience is watching a film when the film is suddenly stopped to announce the death of Eva Peron at the age of 33. The whole country goes into national mourning and we are faced with a coffin and many grieving mourners. Che sings ‘Oh What A Circus!’ expressing his frustration that actually, she did nothing for years.
Then we are taken back to a fifteen-year-old Eva Duarte who dreams of a better life in Buenos Aires. When she meets tango singer, Agustin Magaldi, she persuades him to take her to Buenos Aires with him. Once in Buenos Aires she has ambitions of becoming an actress using any man along the way who can help her achieve her dream. She could be considered an original WAG.
After a devastating earthquake, Perón organises a charity concert. Eva attends and bumps into Agustín, commenting that his act hasn’t changed. He says neither has hers. Eva meets Perón and tells him that she would be ‘surprisingly good for you’. She sacks Perón’s mistress who is reluctant to leave and wonders where is she going to. The social life that Perón delivers does not like or accept this girl from a poor social class, but Eva motivates the people to vote for Perón as she is one of the people herself.
The opening scene in the second half is hugely moving with Eva on the balcony singing ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’. She is so popular in Argentina that she takes on a ‘rainbow tour’ to share her stardom with the world. First Italy and then France, but she never makes it to England and instead she returns to Argentina to set up her charity work but there are murmurs about money laundering. The show takes up right up to her death and her struggle for being loved by her husband and the people.
It is truly a fascinating and moving story. The songs by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber make it a powerful show in both the lyrics and music. The story is told in a rock opera format with no spoken dialogue. It is reminiscent of Jesus Christ Superstar in places but stands its own ground. The film with Madonna and Antonio Banderas in 1996 brought this show back to life to a whole new generation from the original stage show in 1976. This show is a fantastic story of one woman who came from the people to climb the social ladder to the highest possible position.
Eva is played by Emma Hatton and she is exceptional in the role. She has a likeability factor and you do feel as one of her people when she is delivering her speech. Her vocal range is extraordinary and she epitomises control and power as she delivers ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’. Emma is passionate and strong and gives a memorable performance of Eva.
Che is played by Gian Marco Schiaretti and he is truly inspiring in his role. He has the most beautiful smooth voice that could melt any heart. He has mountains of charisma and commands the stage every time he speaks. His stance, manner and voice are a great opposite to Hatton’s Eva. He is also rather hot so something for the ladies. I rarely write that in a review!
‘Another suitcase’ sung by Perón's mistress was delivered by Sarah O'Connor with such vulnerability and sadness of her situation and Kevin Stephen-Jones as Perón played the role to perfection, making it his own with his charm and a realism unexpected in a musical.
This show delivers in abundance. It is sleek and stylish with amazing sets and good use of lighting. It has everything you would expect, and excellent cast with powerful songs and a great story.
This is probably one of the most powerful shows you will ever see. So, practice your Evita stance and go and see it.
Evita is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 27 May and then continues its tour of the UK until 24 June.