Ginger Hibiscus | Review of Evita at the Dominion Theatre in London by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Evita at the Dominion Theatre in London by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Evita at the Dominion Theatre in London by Ginger Hibiscus
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23 Sep REVIEW: Evita at the Dominion Theatre

“With more than 20 major awards to its credit, and an Oscar winning film, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita is iconic. Featuring some of the best loved songs in musical theatre, including Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, On This Night of a Thousand Stars, You Must Love Me, and Another Suitcase in Another Hall, Evita charts the story of Eva Perón, wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Perón, from her humble beginnings through to the extraordinary wealth, power and status which ultimately led her to be heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’.”

It’s worth paying attention to the somewhat unilluminating marketing synopsis of Evita, as it probably tells you about as much of the plot as you’ll have picked up by curtain down. As a musical that on paper has such a wealth of angst, political depth, history and social commentary, the production really is remarkable in how little of it ever actually reaches the audience.

One of the key contributors to this, is the woeful miscasting of Marti Pellow as Che. Narrator Che is critical to the show, the voice of the Argentinian public who quite literally tells us the story of Evita’s life, through the medium of song. The key problem is the clarity, or lack thereof in his voice. It’s nigh on impossible to understand a single word being sung, and with his accent swinging violently between Scottish, American, Cockney, Brummie and something from somewhere near Spain or maybe Portugal, it’s a performance that can only be described as, “dire.” And that’s not to mention acting that would make a cardboard cut-out look vibrant. There’s only so many songs that can be sung in a power stance without it just getting dull and ineffectual, although there is one wonderful comical moment when Che gets beaten up, and the obscene overacting serves exclusively to amuse. I can understand that casting someone famous has the ability to draw in the crowds, but couldn’t help but feel that it could have been done with a character that is less crucial to the understanding of the plot.

The result is that come the interval, I was fighting with the god of 4G to Google a synopsis so that I could vaguely follow what had happened already, and understand what was coming in Act II. Which of course has a knock-on effect on the power of the show to induce emotion, empathy and just generally caring at all about what happens to Eva. In Googling the synopsis, I was shocked to discover that Eva Perón died a young woman, at the age of 35. I was shocked both at the youth of this, but also at the fact that the Eva on stage seemed to already have reached 80 years old, and she wasn’t yet showing any signs of impending illness. Which hits on another problem with this production: the wig-work.

Madalena Alberto, who plays Eva, is a beautiful young woman. And yet somehow the wig she’s put in manages to age her by at least 60 years; the choice of white-blonde hair looks grey, and coupled with the era-appropriate modest clothing, it just fails to convey the tragic circumstances of such an early death. It’s an incredible shame, as Alberto herself puts in a stunning vocal performance, and her renditions of Don’t Cry for me Argentina are absolutely flawless in their execution.

It’s not all bad though. The ensemble are absolutely fantastic, and do a wonderful job of injecting a bit of life into uninspiring choreography, and find their ways brilliantly around a cardboard cut-out set. Also notable is Ben Forster who is sublime as Agustin Magaldi, and is the perfect example of why key parts in musicals should be cast based on merit. Yes, he’s a name, having shot to fame through the medium of reality TV, but he’s also perfect for the part and outrageously talented.

In a show with so much promise, that could have been so exciting, I have to say I was desperately disappointed. I suspect that those with a nostalgic attachment to Evita having seen it over the years and hence already know the plotline, and those who go to see it because of the draw of Marti Pellow will probably enjoy it. But for those of us who have never seen it before, and who don’t have fond memories of the Wet Wet Wet heyday, it’s a firm thumbs down.

For tickets and information:

Thanks to Official Theatre for arranging tickets. You can get more information on Evita at their website by clicking here.

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here