Thursday, 3 August 2017

Review: Evita, Phoenix

"What's new, Buenos Aires?"

As the 'new' is ushered out of the Phoenix, set to tour the UK from next summer, there's a return to the tried and tested, the old if you will, as Evita returns to the West End. Bill Kenwright and Bob Thompson's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's slice of Argentinian politics has been touring on and off for nearly 10 years now and it was actually in London at the Dominion just a couple of years ago.

So in some ways it can be a little hard to get too excited by the reappearance of such a stalwart, especially when there isn't the presence of someone like Elena Roger to truly electrify the show as she did in the 2006 revival. That's not to detract from Emma Hatton's stirring performance here - subtle and characterful, always searching for the meaning rather than the big belt in this notoriously tricky of roles to sing.

It's more that Evita can't really hold (m)any surprises. As a pseudo-biographical work, it doesn't lend itself to any kind of interpretation, nor is there much innovation at hand (that said, Matthew Wright's set is cleverly conceived). And it is such a presence in the collective consciousness that you can't imagine this being the show that converts anyone to the myriad charms of musical theatre - most everyone already knows how they feel about it.

So it is a safe bet for the cut-throat economics of the West End's summer season but an unadventurous one. The smouldering Italian performer Gian Marco Schiaretti appears as Che (in his West End debut) but has little of the sardonic drive that should characterise his quasi-narration, but the company around him do some great work, Oscar Balmaseda and Sarah O'Connor making the most of their smaller roles to deliver their own brand of star quality. And if it isn't the most essential of revivals, it is an enjoyable one nonetheless for anyone who is a fan of this Argentine rose.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 14th October


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