Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Review: evita has been enthralling audiences for over 4 decades. As the latest Bill Kenwright touring production reached Cardiff on Tuesday evening, it shows no signs of slowing down, greeted by a packed and appreciative audience.
Telling the story of Eva Peron, wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron, Evita follows her journey from humble beginnings as a backstreet girl in 1934, via her rise to wealth, power and iconic status which ultimately leads to her been heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’ by the Argentine people.
As it’s a storyline set in the past (1934-52), Evita never dates, its mixture of classic and modern music retains its freshness today. Subtle lighting combined with a smooth flowing set gives out a technicolor ambience to the production which creates a cinematic effect in places. The characters brought to life by an exciting cast are very much Three-Dimensional however.
Lucy O Byrne gives an enthralling performance as Eva, from her energetic scenes as a youngster persuading Magaldi to take her to Buenos Aires via radio star status and subsequent rise to power alongside Peron. Eva doesn’t start out as a likable character, so it really falls on the actress to make the role both interesting and appealing to the audience. O’Byrne’s on-stage charisma particularly helps drive this along through song and ensemble dance numbers. Her outstanding scene is undoubtedly her delivery of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina portrayed as a musical address from the balcony. The performance literally reaches out to the audience so much that the on-stage applause blurs the fourth wall of the presentation spilling out into the auditorium. Eva’s Lament at the musicals climax is also incredibly moving, to a point that the audience gain a greater understanding of the character.
Glenn Carter gives a charismatic portrayal of the narrator, Che, explaining the Eva’s rise to power through witty and sometimes humorous delivery. Appearing as almost a mocking observer at Evita’s requiem with an upbeat rendition of Oh What A Circus, he goes on to bid a hasty farewell, (Goodnight and Thank You) to characters as the story unfolds. His eventual “meeting” with Eva via a hallucinatory waltz in the second half is a brief but magical scene.
Mike Sterling brings depth and believability to the role of Colonel Peron, a character that usually falls to the side-lines in some presentations of Evita, because of the two powerful leads. One senses that the role of Eva strengthens Peron and similarly you get from Sterling’s performance a subsequent sense of growth in confidence and revealing of inner strength when he supports his ailing wife.
Besides the lead stars, there are notable performances from Oscar Balmaseda as Magaldi and Cristina Hoey as The Mistress, who steal the show with their musical excursions On This Night of a Thousand Stars and Another Suitcase in Another Hall. Both actors certainly hit the right note with their solo performances.
Last but certainly not least are the outstanding ensemble singers and dancers, who under numerous guises from marching soldiers to beautiful gala guests intermingle in tightly choreographed scenes. Their performance of Peron’s Latest Flame, particularly outstanding.
Evita remains the very finest of rock opera’s and this latest vibrant production is the definitive must-see as it continues its run at Wales Millennium Centre until September 8, 2018.