Evita is back in the West End, and again it's a must see!
The Dominion Theatre in London's West End was home to We Will Rock You for what seems like an eternity. And the statue of Freddie Mercury was a permanent fixture on Tottenham Court Road. Well, Freddie and We Will Rock You have since left, now to be replaced by a much much better show - Evita.
Evita is a show that is the complete opposite of We Will Rock You. We Will Rock You was loud, Evita is elegant; We Will Rock You was stupid, Evita is smart; and We Will Rock You was awful, Evita is excellent. No two shows could be any more different. And it's a shock to think that We Will Rock You lasted 12 years while Evita will run for only 7 weeks - until November 1st (White Christmas takes up residence at The Dominion after Evita closes).
Evita has been shown in the West End twice before. It debuted in 1978 (with Elaine Paige) and then returned to the West End in 2006. I did not see the 1976 version but was lucky enough to see Elena Rogers perform as Evita in the 2006 version. But this version of Evita is so much better than the 2006 version. What makes this version of Evita so good? Well, where do I start; first and foremost the acting, then the singing, the costumes, the set design, the music, the score, basically from start to finish Evita is a show.
Portuguese Madalena Alberto is a revelation as Evita, She cannot only sing, she can act and perform as well. Sure, she may be tiny (at 5'6) but when she sings, she sings. And when she acts, she can act. Alberto, who made her stage debut in 2005 at the Old Vic in Aladdin with Sir Ian McKellen, proves that she's now a West End diva to proudly stand alongside the rest of them.
Evita is a classic production from the minds of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It's a story that most of us are familiar with - the short life of Argentina's most loved woman - Eva Peron. Evita the musical takes us through her life - from her time as a young model to when she met her future husband - Juan Peron - in 1944 when he was a Colonel. Two years later he becomes president of the country, and Eva becomes a much loved first lady. But this Evita the musical starts on a somber note - it starts with Evita's casket in the middle of the stage, people walking by paying their last respects, with a huge photo of her on top. It's a chilling way to start a musical but it's very effective and sets the tone for what to expect at the end. Alberto, as Evita, becomes, right before our very eyes, a queen, wearing breathtaking dresses and jewelry, beautiful. And Alberto is given many chances to display her voice, especially in the 'Don't Cry for me Argentina' solo, she owns it and brings the house down. Wow. And it's a sad day as she gets sicker and sicker, again, right before our very eyes, to the point of death. Alberto's image as Evita will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.
Marti Pellow is the narrator Che, who reflects the voice of the Argentine people. He does an excellent job throughout, always there but never in the scene. He's also been given many a solo, and in one he's especially good at he is holding a note for the longest time - it's actually amazing.
Ben Foster is just as good in his short role as tango singer Magaldi - the man who was Eva Peron's first love, and the man who supposedly brought her to Buenos Aires. He's got a great voice - too bad Evita throws him away like a bad penny before the end of the first half - and he's gone.
Everything about this production is lush. From the music to the aforementioned costumes, to the Argentinean-styled sets to the choreography, it's all very sumptuous. And all the other favorites are sung: 'On This Night of a Thousand Stars' to 'You Must Love Me.' While there are a few moments that left me scratching my head ( a scene with dancers holding mirrors made no sense, and one of Alberto's big numbers segues into another number, thus robbing her of the applause), it's a production that has to be seen. And I am very happy that Evita got We Will Rock You kicked out of the Dominion.