Theatre Review: EVITA – The Lowry, Salford


Bill Kenwright’s latest touring production of EVITA is as fresh, provocative and absorbing as ever

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s award-winning musical EVITA may be almost 40 years old but in a world where the news is dominated by politics and unlikely ascensions to power, the biographical pop opera feels eerily relevant than ever before.

EVITA tells the story of Eva Peron, the second wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron. It charts Eva’s journey from her humble beginnings in Junín to her extraordinary rise to power as Argentina’s First Lady and her eventual death at just 33. The musical, which marks Webber and Rice’s final full work together, made its debut in London’s West End in 1978, winning a multitude of awards including an Olivier and a Tony Award for Best Musical and was also made into a major film in 1996 starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas.

Originally released as a rock opera concept album in 1976, Bill Kenwright’s latest touring production of EVITA is certainly operatic in both ambition and feel. From Matthew Wright’s handsome sets to Mark Howett atmospheric lighting design, every inch of this production is a visual feast for eyes and ears, feeling as fresh, provocative and absorbing as ever.

Musical director David Steadman brings out every flavour in Lloyd Webber’s rich and tightly composed score while the sizeable chorus deliver a flawless vocal performance of the show’s most iconic songs including ON THIS NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS, YOU MUST LOVE, OH WHAT A CIRCUS and ANOTHER SUITCASE IN ANOTHER HALL.

Fresh from her role as Elphaba in WICKED in the West End, Emma Hatton delivers a powerhouse performance in the title role, capturing both the power and the fragility of a young woman who rose to become a demagogue ruler. Her vocals are flawless and she doesn’t overcook the big numbers, most notably DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA which is deliberately delicate and understated.

Gian Marco Schiaretti is equally excellent in the role of Che, the narrator and one-man Greek chorus who watches over events as the nation’s revolutionary conscience. Elsewhere, George Arvidson delivers a strong performance as the stately Peron and Sarah O’Connor impresses in her brief but affecting turn from as Peron’s brutally spurned mistress thanks to her poignant performance of ANOTHER SUITCASE IN ANOTHER HALL.

All in all, this is an excellent production with the opening night at The Lowry ending with a well-deserved standing ovation for the cast and creative team.

5 out of 5 stars

EVITA runs at The Lowry until 18 March 2017