Don’t cry for me Argentina, the truth is I never left you…. how I remember the powerful voice of Julie Covington belting out the powerful lyrics to Evita’s best known song. After almost four decades later, I finally got a chance to see the famous West End stage show whose lyrics were penned by Tim Rice with music by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
But disappointingly, this show under achieved because, try as they might, both leads – Marti Pellow as Che and Madalena Alberto as Eva Peron – fought a losing battle with an orchestral score that was too loud. Rice is one of the greatest lyricists of our generation, yet his words constantly failed to carry with clarity to where I sat in the stalls.
Evita does not offer a massively complex story line, so for those new to the tale, it can be followed relatively easily. Maria Eva Duarte is born the youngest of five children into relative poverty in 1919 in a small Argentinian village. I’ve always interpreted the story that she sleeps her way to the top, finally working as an actress in Buenos Aries before ambitiously drawing high-flying politician and military head Juan Peron under her spell.
On one hand she is seen as the voice of a downtrodden people, on the other she is the arch manipulator, gorging on power as she becomes the country’s leading lady and carrying Argentina’s interests across the world, notably with her ‘rainbow tour’ of Europe. What makes her story particularly tragic is her death from cancer at the young age of 33.
But it is not until Alberto delivers the powerful and moving ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,’ from a balcony setting early in Act 2 with a toned down musical score, that we really get a sense of the vulnerability of Eva Peron.
Special mentions should go to Nick Gibney as Magaldi for his excellent delivery of On This Night of a Thousand Stars, while Sarah McNicholas, as Juan Peron’s dumped mistress, was mesmeric with her passionate rendition of Another Suitcase in Another Hall.
The stage setting, choreography and lighting were faultless; and all that is needed to make this a great production is to rein back on the orchestral volume. Evita has great lyrics… let’s hear them.