Thursday, 19 July 2018

REVIEW: EVITA at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The New Victoria Theatre hosted opening night of the new UK Tour of Lloyd Webber’s classic “Evita” this week with Lucy O’Byrne (The Voice) as Eva Peron. This sensational musical takes us back to 1940's Argentina for us to witness the dramatic ascension of Juan Domingo Peron and how his wife, Eva Duarte becomes an international icon for not only his reign but for their country. Featuring classics such as "Oh, What A Circus", "Buenos Aires" and "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" this production is a spectacle from start to finish. 

The Phoenix Theatre in London recently held this new production before jetting off on an International Tour. I was thrilled to see the stunning set is virtually unchanged from its residential stint - a stunning combination of moving staircases and balconies, not least the iconic ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ one which received a mid-song applause. The lighting is also matched in exemplary fashion adding a new level of intensity to the show which I didn't feel before. 

O'Byrne is new to her role as Eva and her wariness was initially apparent but this Sound of Music and Les Miserables allum is a revelation in this show. Her Eva grows so dramatically throughout the show, taking us on this journey of a street-smart actress who becomes one of the most demanding and manipulative political figureheads in history. “You Must Love Me” was so poignant, the auditorium was absolutely still admiring the performance. This soprano dances on her higher register, but in numbers like "Buenos Aires" and "Goodnight and Thank You", her lower harmonies were almost inaudible however I'm happy to accept this may have just been a mic balancing issue. On opening night of a UK Tour, there were bound to be one or two teething problems.

Glenn Carter takes on the role of Che and as our narrator, is a wonderful asset to this show. His vocals were powerful and his character was suitably mysterious. As he lurks around pivotal points of action throughout the show, there is a sense of Scrooge with his Ghost of Christmas Past - a man re-watching his history and realising there's nothing he can change about what has been. Carter tapped into this wounded side of Che brilliantly and he was a joy to watch. 

The ensemble is very large - including 12 children, only 1 of whom was really utilised, and even then we didn’t see much of her until the latter half of Act 2...! Nevertheless, the adult ensemble were all absolutely superb. The sound was immense - full and dynamic with a huge array of stunning harmonies all showcased to perfection. 

The choreography from Bill Deamer in this show is stand-out. It’s 'West Side
Story' meets 'Chicago' - it’s big and fast with jumps and lifts aplenty in celebratory scenes amongst the masses, but in equal measure there are scenes of judgement and distaste which feature much sharper military-esque movements. It was such a treat for the eyes. 

Evita is an indisputable triumph. It may have been written over forty years ago, but it remains a hugely powerful and refreshingly original piece of work. It's Lloyd Webber's best and this production does it absolute justice. 

Review by Harriet Langdown

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: J6, Stalls | Price of Ticket: £42.40

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