Evita – Bord Gais Theatre – Review by Pia Maltri
Until 17 Jun 2017
Eva Perón’s story lends itself quite naturally to a musical of operatic quality such as those by Andrew Lloyd Webber. “Evita”, composed in 1976 by Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice, tells of the singular ascent of Maria Eva Duarte from her poor background to wife of Argentina’s president, and of how she wore, in one short life, most of the hats that popular icons can wear: from actress, to political leader, to a saint-like status after her premature death.
The production on at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until the 17th of June started life in the West End and was produced by Bill Kenwright. On the opening night (7th of June) the lead role was taken by Natalie Langston, substituting Emma Hatton reportedly having tonsillitis.
The show as a whole progressed as a well oiled entertaining machine, with good settings, realistic costumes, effective lighting and smooth dancing.
Now, it’s true that, in musicals, the focus is not exclusively on the singing. As American composer Stephen Sondheim put it: “It’s about the expectation of the audience. When it’s on Broadway people expect mediocre singing and good acting; when it’s in an opera house people expect mediocre acting and good singing.”
Still the singing should, at a minimum, flow smoothly and seamlessly sustain the plot and the visual elements of the show. That wasn’t the case with Langston’s Eva. Natalie Langston has a distinctively warm and powerful voice, but she struggled with this demanding role that requires a very broad vocal range. The struggle was particularly evident in the falsetto singing, as well as in the lower notes and in the recitatives, while when singing in her comfort range she was indeed quite enjoyable and punchy.
The role of the soldier Che (not to be confused with Che Guevara), something in between a meta-theatrical, critical narrator and Eva’s conscience’s personification, was played engagingly by Gian Marco Schiaretti, while Kevin Stephen Jones was a perfect Perón, with his well trained baritone voice.
But there were two minor roles who stole the scene in the evening. The first was that of Magaldi, played by Oscar Balmaseda who, early in the first act showed off his nice tenor voice in the song “On this night of a thousand stars”. The second was that of the Mistress, played by Sarah O’Connor. In her only song (“Another suitcase in another hall”) and only appearance on stage, she managed to effectively convey all the emotion and sadness of the abandoned lover.
Overall, well worth seeing for fans of musical.