Review: Centrestage Cymru’s Evita, Dolman Theatre, Newport

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Evita is celebrating its 40th anniversary. So, there’s no better time for Newport’s premier, musical theatre group Centrestage Cymru to bring the musical to the stage of the City’s Dolman Theatre.

Performing Evita is a task in itself. A classic in the pop opera field with no allocation for non-music speech, it can be a challenge to perform it without a principal or ensemble cast member dropping the occasional note. I am happy to report however that having witnessed more than a few performances of one of my favourite musical’s, Centrestage Cymru’s presentation is magnificent on every level.

Under the direction of Claudia Barnes and choreography from Sharon Higgins, principal and ensemble cast gel to perfection with a magnificent representation of the show.

Chris Davis takes on the omnipotent personification of narrator, Che. Bringing a lot of energy, Davis is a perfect embodiment in the role leading the ensemble with the uplifting Oh What A Circus, while adding some compassion to Sharon Higgins Eva in High Flying Adored. I really enjoyed how he allowed Che to step in and out of the shadows while maintaining strength, confidence and much in the way of stage presence.

Leading lady, Sharon Higgins has no issues bringing a magnificent portrayal of Eva Peron to life. From the sassy dance routine in Buenos Aires via the empowering strength of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina to the emotionally charged You Must Love Me, Sharon maintains a magical presence drawing the audience into her portrayal of Eva as well as the ensemble cast. I felt some affection towards this portrayal, which isn’t always the case for Eva, a credit to the strength of the actress!

Colonel Peron is portrayed to great effect by Jordan Archer and sparks a meaningful chemistry on stage with Sharon Higgins Eva. The chemistry is cemented in their initial duet I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You.  Archer injects some emotion into the role of Peron in the second half and gives a stand-out performance of She Is A Diamond, displaying much in the way of believable personality.

Maddison Sutton makes her Centrestage Cymru principal role debut as Peron’s mistress with a magical and memorable performance of Another Suitcase, Another Hall. Under Miss Sutton’s wing, the mistress’ story could almost split off into a separate musical following a touching and mesmerising performance that almost brought a tear to my eye.

Luke Palfrey also gives an enjoyable performance as classic crooner, Augustin Magaldi, the first unwitting victim of Eva’s attentions, but not before delivering a fabulous rendition of On a Night Of a Thousand Stars as he playfully teases his adoring fans!

One of Evita’s strengths as a musical is how it utilises strong ensemble song and dance numbers. Both the ensemble cast and the children (all members of Sharon Higgins Academy) cross over to add substance to many of the scenes. The bustle of Buenos Aires through a magical dance routine is matched with a contrast of marching soldiers and fancy-free aristocrats in Peron’s Latest Flame, while the Argentine campaigns come to life with choreographic precision and wondrous effect in A New Argentina.

Centrestage Cymru’s Evita is a feelgood perfection in sound, performance and presentation, certainly rivalling any professional production currently on tour and a magnificent celebration of the show on its 40th anniversary.

Evita continues at Newport’s Dolman Theatre until October 27.