Evita – Review – Sheffield Lyceum
Evita – Review
Sheffield Lyceum, July 2013
by Mathew Gillings
Take a pinch of romance, with a sprinkle of nostalgia and a huge dollop of politics. Then, mix it in with dazzling costumes,. Leave it to rise with some of theatre’s most well-known melodies. Add an extravagant set, and throw in the lead singer of Wet Wet Wet for good luck. You’re left with Evita, a truly magical musical.
Evita follows the story of Eva Perón, the second wife of Argentine president Juan Perón. It follows her through her early life to eventual death in 1952. The audience is taken on a tour of the history books. The plot is made all the more enticing due to the fact it’s based on real events that actually happened throughout Latin-America in the early 1900s.
Not only does the show highlight corruption in government, it also manages to show the sparkling diamond in the rough. The joy of Evita, as a musical, comes from the mystery of what each character is actually thinking throughout the story. Is Eva is a power-mad hungry dictator, hunting for attention through false rhetoric? Or is she a caring, kind-hearted and faithful wife who leads Argentina through some truly dark days. Regardless of the general consensus, it remains undisputed that she was, for the most part, a spiritual leader for whom the poor could turn to. Their support is unwavering.
“Passion, clarity and love”
Marti Pellow, leader singer of Wet Wet Wet, takes the role of Che. He is the omniscient narrator lurking in the background of each scene. He listens intently to the secret conversations between officials. It’s accepted that this character is based on the figure of Che Guevara, due to his role as a political extremist who speaks on behalf of the people.
Che, in this case, is symbolic of the Argentine population. The poor who are often sidelined by fierce officials. However, unlike the population, Che is able to see corruption unfolding before him. Witnessing the officials beat him for speaking out against the regime is all too familiar. It just goes to show that there is still much progress to be made in the modern day. The waltz between Che and Eva towards the end of the musical is beautiful. It cements my belief that Eva was a woman of love, not hate.
Naturally, the biggest musical number of the evening is ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’. The music is from Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics from Tim Rice. I think it’s fair to say that this duo are the true kings of musicals. They’re simply unstoppable when it comes to producing the most extravagant hits. It was the job of Hannah Grover to bring the heart and soul of Eva to the audience. This song provides the ultimate opportunity. She sings with passion, clarity, and love. The number manages to reduce the audience to tears. People are still drying their eyes as we leave the theatre.
“The audience is transfixed”
Credit must also go to Sarah McNicholas, Juan Perón’s mistress. Her success singing ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’ is magnificent. The audience clearly notice her talent as she takes her final bow at the end of the night. It’s a shame we aren’t able to hear more of her solo performances throughout the musical.
Admittedly, it is with some surprise how much I enjoy the show. I am not entirely sure of the history behind the story, but seeing the musical has now encouraged me to carry out some further research. It’s just fascinating, both from a historical and theatrical perspective. The set couldn’t have been much better, and the costumes are beautiful. The genius of Lloyd Webber brought the venue alive. The whole audience is transfixed by one of Argentina’s most famous women. But there is one problem. I can’t stop singing those fantastic songs at the top of my voice. Don’t cry for me.
Images: Keith Pattison