I was adamant that I didn’t want to see this production of Evita for so long and I am not really sure why. But having announced its closure and with some good ticket deals floating around, I finally took the plunge and boy, was I wrong. Central to this revival of the 1978 Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice collaboration was the casting of the Argentinean Elena Roger to take on the title role of this rags to riches story of the second wife of Argentinean president Juan Perón, Eva Duarte, whose controversial rise to power captured the hearts of some, thoroughly alienated others but ensured her a lasting legacy as one of the most colourful political leaders.
From the opening number, I could feel something exciting happening, a certain energy on the stage, which then exploded in a joyous version of ‘Buenos Aires’ filled with ecstatic singing, tight Latin-inspired choreography and I just loved it, I was ready for giving a standing ovation from then on! The incorporation of a real Latin American feel into both the music and choreography gives the show a real injection of authenticity which lifts it into the stratosphere.
Roger is more than equal to the task of portraying the complex figure that was Eva Perón as she reveals herself to be an excellent actress as well as a flawless singer. ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ is one of those songs which has been much abused in the songbook by a vast range of singers of varying quality, so it was an absolute pleasure to see and hear Roger deliver a nuanced yet highly emotional rendition of the song which totally rehabilitated it for me. ‘You Must Love Me’ (being performed for the first time in an English stage production of this) was just heartbreaking but she was equally at home in the more upbeat numbers.
Supported well by Philip Quast’s genial Perón and Matt Rawle’s swaggering Ché Guevara and a sparkling turn from Lorna Want in delivering ‘Another Suitcase for Another Hall’, this production of Evita was a sheer delight for me, probably all the more so given my initial expectations. So much of it is good, but it is the star making performance from Elena Roger that makes this really superb.