The slick, professional shine to this production, directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright with stunning set designed by Matthew Wright, brings Evita to life with a sparkle.
Projecting personal opinion for a moment: I’m not a huge fan of the musical (as discovered whilst watching this production). Evita is intrinsically unlikeable: manipulative, power-hungry and altogether just not very nice. This is all portrayed through the narrative of Che, who struts across the stage debunking the myth that Evita is the “saint” the Argentinians adore. It may be based on a true story, but I don’t really want to sit through two hours of watching a snippy woman storm across the stage putting the world to rights in her own very special way.
There’s no doubt about it – Emma Hatton is a stunning performer and her voice is uniquely wonderful – she sings incredibly difficult songs with ease and avoids the stagey drone so many fall into. Same goes for Gian Marco Schiaretti as Che, who carries the show with his charisma and gorgeous singing voice. The other characters flow in and out of the spotlight – George Arvidson understudies Peron and I can’t help but feel he doesn’t have the charm to pull it off. I feel the same about Sarah O’Connor as Mistress – her rendition of Another Suitcase in Another Hall reminds me of Grizabella in Cats… and not in a good way.
The way the show moves through the ages with glamour and simple set changes, including pillars descending from the skies to the stage, makes it flow and keeps the pace of the musical high and energetic. I’ll give it that – the show is full of power and, for many, I imagine this comes across as rousing.
If you’re a fan of the musical, then no doubt this show fulfils its promise to deliver a quite spectacular portrayal of it. If you haven’t seen it, you might be at risk of an “I don’t get it” moment when you leave the theatre realising you don’t really care about any of the characters. It’s hard to be moved by a tragic ending if you feel you never really got to know Evita in the first place.
Catch it at Leeds Grand Theatre until 20th May 2017.