Review: Evita

2 star rating
Trent Saunders as Che is fantastic and the dancing is also very good, but those redeeming features are not enough - this stripped-back, ultra-modern production has backfired.
Evita at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Image courtesy Regent's Park Open Air Theatre



Closes here: Saturday 21 September 2019

Composer:
Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyricist:
Tim Rice

Director:
Jamie Lloyd

Cast:

Eva Perón - Samantha Pauly

Che - Trent Saunders

Juan Perón - Ektor Rivera

Augustín Magaldi - Adam Pearce

The Mistress - Frances Mayli McCann

Ensemble - Alexander Barria

Ensemble - Felipe Bejarano

Ensemble - Alex Cardall

Ensemble - Russell Dickson

Ensemble - Lauren Drew

Ensemble - Hannah Fairclough

Ensemble - Chris Fung

Ensemble - Chlöe Hart

Ensemble - Travis Kerry

Ensemble - Jessica Lee

Ensemble - Mireia Mambo

Ensemble - Dale Mathurin

Ensemble - Peter Nash

Ensemble - Sarah Naudi

Ensemble - Bree Smith

Ensemble - Marsha Songcome

Ensemble - Monica Swayne

Ensemble - Oliver Tester

Ensemble - Amy Thornton

Ensemble - Jon Tsouras

Ensemble - Rodney Vubya

Children - Saffia Layla, Ava Masters, Chanai Owusu-Ansah, Ellicia Simondwood


Synopsis


From a life of poverty to the First Lady of Argentina, Eva Peron was hailed as the spiritual leader of the nation.


Seen as the champion of the poor, her ambition, glamour and power made her the world's first major political celebrity, winning the adoration of the people.


With a chart-topping score including Don't Cry For Me Argentina, Oh What A Circus, You Must Love Me, and Another Suitcase in Another Hall - and having "redefined Jesus Christ Superstar for a whole new generation of theatregoers" (WhatsOnStage.com) - Regent's Park Open Air Theatre presents Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic musical, Evita.


ActDrop reviews


Claire Heaven

Performance date: Thursday 15 August 2019
Review star rating image

I've been to my share of London plays and musicals over the years, and I can count on one hand the truly terrible performances I've had to endure.


Sadly, this production of Evita, playing at the Open Air Theatre, now joins the list.


Evita is one of the more recognisable Andrew Lloyd Webber productions, a musical version of Eva Peron's real life in Argentina.


There are some crackerjack songs in the musical, with the two most famous songs being Don't Cry for me Argentina and Another Suitcase in Another Hall.


And the London Open Air Theatre is no stranger to putting on musicals.


I saw a fantastic production of Jesus Christ Superstar there three years ago.


They know what a good production looks like.


So I don't know why they got this one so wrong.


For starters, the set design needs work.


The stage is tiered, with spotlights in between each level.


And when the lights are turned on, they shine right into the audience, effectively blinding you.


You are meant to be able to see what's on stage, not shut your eyes as the lights pierce your skull.


The set design also includes numerous streamers, smoke machines and ticker tape.


I understand that they are trying to recreate the parade-like atmosphere of Eva's time.


However, with today's focus on the amount of waste we produce, it just doesn't make sense to do something night after night that creates needless waste, which is clearly not picked up.


There were old streamers and pieces of paper behind the seats and ground into the floor.


But the main issue is the production itself.


They decided to make the story very modern - however, it is a specific time in history.


The story is too well known and doesn't suit a modern take.


There are also elements of Eva's story that they don't cover, at least not until the very last minute of the show.


Eva was known for her blond hair and her couture clothes.


Why then cast a young girl with dark hair who runs around the stage in nothing but a slip for most of the performance?


I could just about understand it if the majority of the audience was young and they were trying to make the story relevant for them.


But when I went, I would say about two thirds of the audience had grey hair!


The other major problem is that the two main leads are not the right performers for the roles.


There are glimpses that Samantha Pauly, as Evita, can sing.


But these are quickly replaced with an off-key, half-spoken, half-shouted rendition of just about every single song.


She even butchers the end of Don't Cry for me Argentina.


While she may be able to sing (at least I think she can!), she certainly doesn't have the gravitas or experience to convey the emotion that is needed to play Eva.


Ms Pauly only focuses on the ambition of this complicated historical figure.


Her counterpart, Juan Peron, played by Ektor Rivera, is equally lacklustre and off-key.


Ultimately, the blame sits with the director, Jamie Lloyd.


He should really know better.


His focus on the stripped-back, ultra-modern production has backfired in this case.


There are only two redeeming elements to this production.


Trent Saunders as Che is fantastic.


He can sing and act - and he really stands out.


He commands the stage whenever he is on, and thankfully he is on for a fair amount of the musical.


The dancing, while modern, is also very good.


I think it would have been more effective on a single level stage, where you would have been able to get the full effect of the dancers.


But there are a couple of numbers where the dancing comes together very well, in particular The Art of the Possible.


But sadly, these (small) successes are not enough to save this production.


I was more than glad when it finally came to an end.


Give this Evita production a miss and save your money for a future Open Air Theatre production.


There is bound to be a better one next year!


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