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A CurtainUp London London Review

I came from the people, they need to adore me
So Christian Dior me from my head to my toes
I need to be dazzling, I want to be Rainbow High
They must have excitement, and so must I . . . .
I'm their product, it's vital you sell me
So Machiavell me, make an Argentine Rose
I need to be thrilling, I want to be Rainbow High
They need their escape, and so do I

---- Eva
Lloyd Webber's 1978 musical Evita based on the celebrated, mythological life of Eva Peron is revived for the first time in the West End since its original production by Hal Prince and starring Elaine Paige. Evita predates all those highly staged musicals of the 1980s with falling chandeliers, revolutionary barricades and onstage helicopters, although it ran in the West End for ten years. It still has the wonderfully witty lyrics of Tim Rice in what was his and Lloyd Webber's last collaboration after Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, the abortive Jeeves and Wooster.

The Donmar Warehouse's Artistic Director Michael Grandage directs this new production at the Adelphi Theatre in the Strand from where it has displaced Chicago. Grandage's production employs many more South American dance rhythms as inspiration for the newly composed choreography from Rob Ashcroft. It is only a decade since the film of Evita played cinemas with Madonna in the title role and the simmering Antonio Banderas as Che.

After many auditons the producers found their new star Elena Roger in Buenos Aires. Roger was familiar with archive film footage of the original Eva Peron. She is tiny and has a huge voice which belies her diminutive frame, and of course her Argentinian accent is authentic. Next to Philip Quast who plays Peron, she is so petite but as a couple his power and her sexual energy somehow works. The handsome Matt Rawle is Che, a man who can sing and act and look ruggedly handsome, all apparently without effort.

Grandage's production has kept the opening of archive film footage but lost the cinema setting. Instead the set switches to the exterior of a large stone church for the mourning scenes where mourners dance as couples like a dance marathon, where they are exhausted and only have each other for support. I suddenly found myself thinking about national outpourings of grief and hysteria and I remembered that other young blonde woman who died too young for whom the nation grieved.

The story switches to Eva's home town where she meets the singer Magaldi (Gary Milner), a suave lothario who fuck starts her career. The Latin rhythms of the Tango and Bossa Nova and Samba are there in his "On This Night of a Thousand Stars". There is a good contrast when Eva despatches her career ladder of lovers in "Goodnight and Thank You" sung with Che, and with the farewell song from Peron's young mistress "Another Suitcase in Another Hall, one of the prettiest tunes in the show. "The Art of the Possible" sees Peron eliminate the military opposition, the dance form is like an elaborate fight ritual as a pair of colonels circle, arms on each other's shoulders, stamping, until one knees the other for victory. The peasants, military and aristocrats sing the anti Eva song, "Peron's Latest Flame" which I remember as "Dangerous Jade" and are choreographed in a naturalistic Latin American style, very different from Hal Prince's My Fair Lady fashionista type set piece.

The Second Act sees Eva's big scene from the balcony. The stone set forms the impressive backdrop. Cleverly directed, peasants stand to the fore of the stage blocking the view so that when Eva enters in diamonds and a white net crinoline, the audience moves their heads craning to see this vision of loveliness. The show stopper "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" is a triumph.

While there are not many tunes in Evita and the best ones are all recycled, they are very hummable. The show's real originality lies in Tim Rice's witty and unexpected lyrics. This production sees the inclusion of "you Must Love Me", the song composed for the film. The orchestrations have been rewritten to incorporate Latin American dance rhythms.

Michael Grandage gets a moving performance out of Elena Roger in her wheelchair scenes. Evita's new star not only can sing but can act as well. Matt Rawle is sultry and moody with his slow rock numbers and Philip Quast sees all of Peron's military bluster reduced to helplessness in the face of his wife's cancer. Elena Roger and Michael Grandage's Evita deserve to find a big audience.

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Michael Grandage

Starring: Elena Roger, Philip Quast, Matt Rawle
With: Abbie Osmon, Gary Milner, Lorna Want, Paul Basleigh, Leila Benn Harris, Greg Castiglioni, Kevin Curtin, Ashley Day, Emma Harris, Mark Heenehan, Jodie Jacobs, Halcro Johnston, Pip Jordan, Jackie Marks, Kirsty Mather, Tim Morgan, Aoife Nally, Stuart Neal, Robyn North, Adam Pearce, Mark Powell, Sarah Ryan, Lorna Want
Choreographer: Rob Ashford
Production Designer: Christopher Oram
Orchestrations: Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Cullen
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable
Sound: Mick Potter
Music Supervisor: Simon Lee
Dance Arranger: David Chase
Running time: Two hours twenty minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0870 895 5598
Booking to 21st October 2006
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 22nd June 2006 at the Adelphi, Strand London WC1 (Tube/Rail: Charing Cross)
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Junin July 152quot;/The Company
  • Requiem for Evita/The Company
  • Oh What a Circus/Che and the Company
  • On This Night of a Thousand Stars/Magaldi
  • Eva and Magaldi/Eva and Magaldi
  • Eva Beware of the City/Magaldi, Eva and Family
  • Buenos Aires/Eva and the Company
  • Goodnight and Thank You/Che, Eva and Lovers
  • The Art of the Possible/Peron, Eva and the Colonels
  • Charity Concert/The Company
  • I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You/Eva and Peron
  • Another Suitcase in Another Hall/Mistress
  • Peron's Latest Flame/Che and the Company
  • A New Argentina/Che, Eva, Peron and the Company
Act Two
  • On the Balcony of the Casa Rosada/Peron and the Company
  • Don't Cry for Me Argentina/Eva
  • High Flying, Adored/Che and Eva
  • Rainbow High/Eva and Dressers
  • Rainbow Tour/Che, Eva, Peron and the Peronists
  • The Actress Hasn't Learned (The Lines You'd Like to Hear)/Eva and the Company
  • And the Money Kept Rolling In/Che and the Company
  • Santa Evita/Child
  • Waltz for Eva and Che/Eva, Che
  • You Must Love Me/Eva
  • She is a Diamond/Peron and the Officers
  • Dice Are Rolling/Peron and Eva
  • Eva's Sonnet/Eva
  • Eva's Final Broadcast/Eva
  • Montage/The Company
  • Lament/Eva
London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
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