Review: Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
- Credit: Archant
Following Jesus Christ Superstar’s resurrection, another Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical gets the Park treatment.
Jamie Lloyd's stripped-down, super-sleek production ditches period trappings, and finds - via electrifying American actress Samantha Pauly - a diva dictator for 2019.
Dressed in a white slip and trainers, rather than wig and ballgown, Pauly's Eva convinces as a fiery, streetwise teenager longing for big-city adventure, while railing against snobs like those who shunned her lower-class family. Pauly blasts through opposition with powerful, wonderfully unforced vocals.
She has great chemistry with Trent Saunders' intensely physical Che, the challenger to Argentina's adored First Lady, while Ektor Rivera's Perón is an image-conscious chancer just like her.
Frances Mayli McCann brings stirring poignancy to "Another Suitcase in Another Hall", Adam Pearce's tango singer is amusingly cheesy (though his predatory behaviour is addressed by a female quartet), and Ellicia Simondwood is scene-stealing as the child used to whip up Saint Eva fever.
You may also want to watch:
The sensational ensemble is an expressive force throughout, whether heightening emotional beats or creating explosive set-pieces. Crucially, Fabian Aloise's modern, innovative choreography always serves the drama.
The starkness of Soutra Gilmour's concrete bleachers reflects the Peróns' hollow rule; it's just good "stage management". Creatively, burst balloons signal death, and blue paint blood. However, repeated use of smoke and confetti feels like overkill.
- 1 Famous Hampstead Heath love swan Mrs Newbie dies
- 2 'Feels like a runway': Hampstead residents call for LED lamp post change
- 3 Guilty: Kentish Town man convicted of murdering Jack Ampadu
- 4 'Victim-blaming': Disabled woman fears leaving flat after neighbour's abuse
- 5 'Heart of the community': Muswell Hill Library celebrates 90 years
- 6 Italian sandwich bar set to open in Hampstead phone box
- 7 Man, 26, stabbed in Camden 'fight'
- 8 'Let's save The Victoria pub in Highgate'
- 9 Wine, cheese and caviar: New bar to open in South End Green
- 10 Prince William brings environmental Earthshot Prize ceremony to Ally Pally
Otherwise, Lloyd makes effective, surprising choices throughout, serving Rice's incisive lyrics and Lloyd Webber's indelible score. Even "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" feels fresh, restlessly ambivalent about whether Eva buys into her own celebrity and fake populism, and if either satisfies her need for validation.
That brings to mind Evita fan Donald Trump, and Lloyd's production confronts the grim consequences of government by ego and deceit. But it's cautiously empathetic towards the scrappy, ambitious woman at the dark heart of this still provocative show.
Rating: 4/5 Stars.
Evita continues at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre until September 21. For more details and tickets, click here.