Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musical about Eva Peron bursts to life with thrumming rock chords and intense Tango. A simple stage set of concrete steps is framed by oversized letters spelling out EVITA and filled with a cast who shift between the impoverished Descamisados and the snooty bourgeoisie.
It’s a grungy, pared-back production, reflecting the Olivier-winning stage show’s roots as a rock opera concept album and avoiding the manicured elegance of the 1996 film. The atmosphere relies heavily on smoke bombs, confetti cannons and helium balloons. It’s visually striking, if a little choking for those in the front few rows.
After a sombre start, a circus of mourning engulfs the outdoor audiotorium with black smoke and confetti and we become part of a country devastated by the death of the Spiritual Leader.
Following in the footsteps of Elaine Page, Patti LuPone and Madonna to play Evita, Samantha Pauly brings more than just a little touch of star quality as Evita.
Samantha Pauly as Eva Perón and Company. Photo Marc Brenner
In a slip dress and trainers, she’s a scrappy figure with wild dark curls instead of Eva’s sleek bleached up-dos. Pauly’s youthful vim invigorates the early story of a 15-year-old escaping poverty for the bright lights of Beunos Aires. As she wins the heart of the nation and of Colonel Peron, this Evita stays scrappy. She may sing about a glamorous makeover and a love of Christian Dior, but all she gets is spray paint on a white mini dress. The only glimpse of the poised icon comes after her death, pre-empting the pomp and monuments.
The public adoration of Eva and her role as Spiritual leader has been compared to that of The People’s Princess, Diana. Watching Evita in 2019, there’s a parallel with a different royal as we watch the backlash and snobbery about an actress getting above her station and daring to make changes. Pauly has fun with the contemporary feminist resonance, sticking out a tongue and cutting the mic chord to stop men speaking over her. And Trent Saunders provides strong support as withering Che, constantly cutting in to remind Eva of her limitations.
The ensemble cast switch between the shirtless poor and the sniffy middle classes, with Fabian Aloise’s marvellously expressive choreography shifting the mood between revolution, adoration and tutting disapproval. From the rigid passion of an Argentine Tango, to the head-bashing chaos of a political rally, the production makes you feel a part of the crowd.
|What||Evita, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre review|
|Where||Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, Inner Cir, Westminster, London, NW1 4NU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Baker Street (underground)|
02 Aug 19 – 21 Sep 19, Monday - Saturday 7:45 PM | Thursday & Saturday 2:15 PM (gates open 90 mins before start)
|Website||Click here for more information and booking details|