Evita, Edinburgh Playhouse, June 2008, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
The Really Useful Group
Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) Tim Rice (lyrics) Bill Kenright and Bob Thomson(directors), David Steadman (musical director), Mark Howett, (Lighting), Mark Howett (design).
Louise Dearman (Eva), Seamus Cullen (Che), Mark Heenehan (Peron), Nikki Mae (Mistress) James Waud (Magaldi).
Running time

"Don't cry for me Argentina
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence
I kept my promise
Don't keep your distance

At the beginning of Act II, the glamorous, bejewelled Eva Peron stands on the balcony of the Casa Rosada beside her husband President Peron. She addresses her people, her country. She is their princess, their queen, their spiritual Madonna and the scent of power has never smelt so sweet.

Louise Dearman as Evita, with perfectly coiffeured blonde hair in a silver ballgown, sings passionately from the heart as the audience applaud and cheer along with the assembled Buenos Aires crowd on stage. It's a stunning, pivotal scene in the show.

Based on Mary Main's biography, "The Woman with the Whip", Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's classic hit musical takes us on a colourful journey through Eva Duarte's life from impoverished childhood, teenage relationship with a tango musician, sleeping her way up the ladder as a model, actress, radio star and political activist.

Her first meeting with Colonel Juan Peron, played by the charismatic, debonair Mark Heenehan, is an amusing display of her instant sexual attraction for powerful men. Eva's story is narrated by Che Guevara in the role of Everyman, the voice of the opposition. Seamus Cullen (aspiring Joseph in BBC series, "Any Dream will Do"), captures the enigmatic, youthful spirit of Che the revolutionary. It's a clever concept as we observe both sides of Argentinian society, the workers and the Peron regime of state reform. For them politics is seen as "the art of the possible," but are they true saviours or corrupt power-hungry dictators. ?

This is a through-sung modern opera with no spoken dialogue, following a flowing sequence of musical numbers. All the famous songs are here - "Oh, what a Circus", "I'd be surprisingly good for you" and the deliciously romantic, "Another Suitcase in Another Hall." And the show certainly flows along at a rate of knots. The innumerable scene changes from cinema to cocktail bar, apartments, political rallies, church, aircraft, hospital to funeral cortege are impressive - pillars fly up and down, steps and balconies slide in and out.

Eva matures like Eliza in My Fair Lady from innocent street girl to (unofficial) vice President, with split second costume changes. Reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy or Hillary Clinton, Eva, as First Lady, tours the world on state visits, dressed immaculately in black and white suit, hat and gloves, as she sings,

" I came from the people,
they need to adore me,
so Christian Dior me,
from my head to my toes,
I need to be dazzling .."

And in the central role, the petite Louise Dearman is simply dazzling as she transforms from a naïve 15 year old to adored Madonna figure, balancing her inspiring charm and beauty with a dangerous Lady Macbeth streak, cajoling her husband to achieve the highest office as President.

There's not a weak link in the entire cast (clarity of diction is impeccable), superb ensemble of dancers and singers, including children from two Edinburgh schools, and a fine orchestra. This smartly dressed, slick and energetic new production (which is heading for London's west end) just shows that Lloyd Webber's 1978 musical is as dramatically and musically fresh and exciting as it was 30 years ago at its premiere.

Show times: runs at The Playhouse, 9-21 June