Evita review: hit musical on life of Argentina’s Eva Peron as relevant as ever, and original staging adds to its drama
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sell-out musical comes to life in a restaging of the original 1978 show. The themes of duality, politics and female empowerment still resonate 40 years later
It’s been more than 60 years since Argentinian first lady Eva Peron’s death, but the tale of a young woman’s rise from poverty to captivate a nation lives on today in the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber megahit musical Evita.
Thought of as a saint by her supporters and power hungry by others, Peron (played by lead actress Emma Kingston) dances the duality of her public and private life wonderfully.
Always biting at the heels of Peron’s ambition, the wickedly cynical Che (Jonathan Roxmouth) critically guides audiences through Argentina’s political unrest and the matriarch’s rise and fall, playing the role of the Greek chorus to Peron’s grand plans.
By the end of the second act Kingston’s versatility shines as she completely embodies the burning and brutal ambition of Peron, as she fights for women’s suffrage, her status and eventually her health – a battle she is fated to lose.
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“She did a hell of a lot for women before her death,” says Kingston. “She actually gained the right for women to vote in Argentina.”
It is in these final scenes, on the brink of succumbing to cancer at the age of 33, where we see Kingston give her most desperate and heart-wrenching performance.
From Rice’s biting lyrics to the use of powerful archival footage projected on a huge moving screen, it’s amazing to think that this Tony award winning rock opera was actually written in the 1970s, as nothing about this production feels tired.
However, in an era of high-flying visual productions such as Wicked, watching this musical will be a sharp turn for theatre-goers, as Evita’s staging is visually sparse and simplistic. Perhaps this is what lends it impact, though; each piece of furniture, the costume changes that happen in plain sight, all hold significance.
This is a thought-provoking restaging of Hal Prince’s original 1978 production, and while it is set between the 1930s and the 1950s, the themes of the story – female empowerment and Peron’s political rise and fall – seem eerily relevant in 2018. For that reason alone, there is no better time for the original Evita to take to the world’s stage once again.