"Evita" by Christchurch Theatre Club
Loughborough Town Hall.
I knew before I even got to Loughborough that this show,vocally would be a hit because of the standard of leads in Evita. I was not mistaken. CTC have a brilliant core set of lead vocalists who never fail to deliver stunning performances, which if throughout the show was not evident was sealed by the ending. I'll get to that later... just to keep you reading.
The story is of Eva Peron of course and her rise to fame, if that's the correct word. The play starts with the announcement of the death of Peron during a cinema screening of a film. There's great outpouring of love for Eva, from most Argentinians, apart of course from Che, who is also the narrator of the play. It follows her early life, rise to power, charity work and eventual death.
The cast for this production, as with all Christchurch productions I've had the pleasure of discovering, is nothing short of professional, and if you didn't know better, you'd think that you were watching a professional touring production, it's that good.
James Nelson (Che) deceivers another excellent performance, Cynically giving his view of the grief of Peron's death, comparing the grief as a circus in "Oh What A Circus". Great sarcasm shown in many of the scenes, and there aren't that many scenes that James isn't in. Easily switching his vocal style from upper class mocking to calypso, a voice that falls easy on the ear.
Lucy Maden (Eva), again perfectly cast as the political leader. A powerful performance in her rise, and then the change in the way she treated some of the staff who worked for her shown subtly. Lucy's vocals at times mirrored Elaine Paige's original version of the West End performances and then again in songs like "You Must Love Me", which was written for the Madonna film version, but included in the stage production as from 2006, the vocals were all Lucy. The costumes for Eva were glamorous, especially the black number for "Waltz For Eva and Che", spectacular, as were the wigs.
James Highton (Agustin Magaldi), played Eva's first affair as the Latin Tango singer. The song "On A Night Of A Thousand Stars" is Magaldi's song and James gave it his all with his usual smoothness and ease.
The cast is full of stars, maybe not quite a thousand but at times it seemed close to that number with the brilliant crowd scenes which gave the impression that there were more than what you saw. Brilliant ensemble numbers.
Eva, after several suitors, finally meets up with Juan Peron played by David Burton and insists that "I'd be Surprisingly Good For You". She is then taken in by Juan and Eva quickly dismisses Juan's mistress, played by Laura Barker.
Two more excellent and seasoned voices with David and Laura; the latter sings one of my favourite songs from the show "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" with great feeling and sadness, backed by four of the male cast which just added that special something to the melancholy feel. My first "hairs on the back of the neck" piece.
The choreography was as good as any West End show, and I loved the attention paid to the positioning of the hands which finished off the whole look of the ballroom dances. The choreography adds a lot to the class of the show and everyone had obviously worked so hard with it and listened to Michelle Gadsby, the very talented choreographer.
Directed by John R Lewin, he also designed the simplified set. There must be the temptation to take the set palatial with the wealth of Peron, but the set was uncluttered which gave you the opportunity to concentrate on the actors, their roles and their voices.
There were a couple of extravagant touches with the chandeliers for the ballroom scenes and the incredible costumes for Eva, John also gave us a little extra for the final scene with a male quartet version of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" sung in the style of Il Divo, which sent shivers down the spine and the hairs on my neck a second levitation. It also paved the way for the ultimate standing ovation for the cast.
Good use of cinematography to show the original newsreel of Eva Peron and the wonderful lighting design by Rob Bridges, created just the right atmosphere for the show.
Loughborough Town Hall has wonderful acoustics and showcased the gorgeous full sound of the large orchestra under the musical direction of Vicki Hing. With such a lavish musical, the sound has to be lush and that's what was delivered. A good sound mix between orchestra and vocalists ensured that every word of Tim Rice's lyrics as well as Lloyd-Webber's complex music was heard comfortably..
There are some brilliant songs in this musical. Apart from the well known ones like "Argentina", "Oh What A Circus", "High Flying Adored", the very sensual "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You" and "Another Suitcase In Another Hall", there are some wonderful musical moments like "You Must Love Me", "Rainbow High", "On A Night Of A Thousand Stars" and "Buenos Aires".
I started off by saying that this production is worthy of any professional touring version, and this is because of the hard work put in by every one involved. From the ensemble to the back stage crew, from the director to the many names on the long production list, this show just oozes class and professionalism.
"Evita" is on at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 7 May 2016, but, as with all of Christchurch's productions, the tickets have sold incredibly fast, and I know why, as will anybody who's been to a Christchurch show in the past.You'll need to move fast to get one!