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Evita – Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

Directors: Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright

Composer: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics: Tim Rice

Reviewer: Nicole Evans

[rating:5]

Evita Grand theatre Wolverhampton  Keith PattisonThe story of Evita begins at the end.

As the curtain rises we immediately get the impression we are being watched. Visible through a transparent screen is a makeshift cinema and theatre goers stare back at us. The film abruptly ends and the news that the “Spiritual Chief of the Nation” has died is announced over a tannoy. A devastated audience leave the auditorium distraught and we are transported to the funeral of Eva Perón and a nation in mourning. It is here we are introduced to Che, played by Marti Pellow, who takes us back to the beginning of Eva’s story and offers an accompanying narration to her rise to fame.

Born into a life of poverty and abandoned by her father, Eva Duarte’s ambitions of finding fame and fortune seem laughable to most. The town of Junin holds little opportunity for the stardom that Eva craves but determination prevails and by bagging herself a brief romance with a tango singer she finds herself en route to Buenos Aires, Argentina’s “Big Apple”. Once there, her lover soon finds himself surplus to Eva’s requirements and a subsequent string of suitors are subjected to the same fate while Eva climbs the social ladder to fame. Eva’s attentions soon turn to wooing rising military figure, Colonel Perón. Their apparently blossoming romance meets with disapproval from the military and high society surrounding them and with the motives behind the relationship in doubt; the pair struggle to gain the much needed support to gain power. Yet again Eva’s determination shines through, and despite not being in the best health she wins the hearts of the nation for both herself and her soon to be husband. Becoming Argentina’s first lady is still not enough for Eva and she goes on to be branded a saint, winning women the vote and setting up a foundation in her name. At the age of 33, Eva Perón dies a hero, but is she worthy of the title?

Che is on hand throughout to provide his alternate and rather blunt opinions of Eva’s true motives during her life. While we ourselves are being drawn in by Eva’s charms, Che’s witty sarcasm and apparent truth of her actions keep us continually conflicted as to whose side of the story we should believe. By the end of the show, not only do we not know who we should believe, we don’t know who we want to believe.

With only three main characters you’d expect the show might rely heavily on its staging and effects, however this production needs neither to impress. Minimal scenery and little more than the orchestra for sound effects is all we are provided with by way of a set, yet most of the way through the show, and certainly by the end, we are so enthralled and connected with Eva’s character that we might as well be living every moment with her. Madalena Alberto captures every single emotion her character experiences and projects it into the hearts of every member of the audience, making you feel as though you are the only one witnessing it and during her final scenes there was not a dry eye in the house. Despite not actually meeting in the story, the on-stage relationship between Eva and Che is outstanding. Pellow, although slightly unconvincing at first, proves himself as a leading male and the fantasy portrayal of the two destinies colliding in the final scenes is utterly outstanding.

With heart wrenching emotional scenes, authentic on-stage relationships and a superb ensemble, this production of Evita is more than capable of seducing a nation.

Not to be missed.

Runs until 31st August

Picture: Keith Pattison

 

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