Madalena Alberto is musical tour-de-force as Evita @ Palace Theatre
I love Evita, which I still credit with a lot of my childhood due to numerous rainy day screenings. However, I have never seen it live until now. This is a musical that deserves to be seen in all its immersive flesh; the exact grandeur which the Palace Theatre can offer.
Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice’s loose adaptation of Eva – lovingly known as ‘Evita’ – Perón’s life is a epic musical fairytale. A tale of a poor girl made good against all odds rising up to become a bastion for the people of Argentina. Abandoning her poverty-stricken and illegitimate existence, she ventures out to Buenos Aires utilising her feminine wiles. She eventually meets Juan Perón, an Argentinian politician who later becomes President. This is a courageous story of strong female power pocketed with a broad range of emotionally charged numbers that critically acclaimed Madalena Alberto delivers with force yet vulnerability, creating a multi-faceted depiction of Evita. There is an excellent range to her performance, in which she manages to capture both Evita’s cunning pragmatism in ‘I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You’ – a steamy move-maker between Perón and Evita – as well as her stalwart perseverance in ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’, conveying a sense of underlying frailty to the character. It is now easy to understand why Alberto drew praise for her 2014 West End portrayal of Evita.
In juxtaposition is Che, the smouldering revolutionary, vaguely a Che Guevara figure, who acts as narrator of Evita’s tale with a manner as caring as it is brusk. Gian Marco Schiaretti is fresh from the recent West End run of the show, attacking the role of Che with a perfect blend of humour and hatred, an often sarcastic sideline to the rise of Evita amongst the bourgeoise. However, I felt at times his sulking sardonicism was lost, playing second fiddle perhaps to the tour-de-force of Alberto’s Evita, and the character became a confusing liminality in the plot – clearly a firm supporter of revolutionary action, yet stubbornly at war with Evita’s philanthropy, herself a working-class figure. As someone who has seen the film a multitude of times, read the play and generally knows the story pretty well (my name sake is Eva Perón, I’m quite dedicated) I was able to understand a little more who the mysterious uniformed figure represented. However, not many are perhaps such an eager beaver, and therefore a clearer presentation of Che’s role wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Matthew Wright’s multi-arched set brilliantly conveyed the splendour of the Casa Rosada, Perón’s luxury presidential mansion, with elements of Grecian architecture brought in with a scale that transported me away from humdrum Manchester and into the grandeur of Perón’s lifestyle. Through being lost in the set I was lost in the story, a mark of brilliant stage design.
Overall I was visually impressed, from both the set to the outstanding choreography delivered by Bill Deamer, and definitely entertained – which is more than most can ask for on a windy Wednesday night. I’m still trying to get my house to call me Evita, it’s not sticking.