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Evita

Lyrics by Tim Rice, Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Bill Kenwright
Dominion Theatre

Marti Pellow as Che and Madalena Alberto as Eva Credit: Darren Bell
Madalena Alberto as Eva Credit: Darren Bell
Matthew Cammelle as Peron, Marti Pellow as Che, Madalena Alberto as Eva and Ben Forster as Agustin Magaldi Credit: Darren Bell

Many visitors to the West End will not be able to recall the Dominion Tottenham Court Road without an iconic golden statue of Freddie Mercury adorning its façade.

That is because the critically maligned but ever-popular We Will Rock You has played at the venue throughout the last dozen or so years.

That was always going to be a hard act to follow and the management has decided to invite the touring production of Evita, directed by Bob Thomson and Bill Kenwright, to reintroduce the Dominion to the public.

A seven-week run of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s unforgettable hit cannot fail. Even those that remember Michael Grandage’s magnificent West End revival from 2006 will not begrudge Wet Wet Wet’s Marti Pellow and Madalena Alberto their brief moment in the limelight.

Audiences will know what to expect from the theatrical biography of Argentina’s most glamorous first lady and should enjoy this production thanks to a series of catchy tunes and the story of a colourful and wilful dame who knows what she wants and gets it.

Miss Alberto has a powerful voice, which makes one wonder why it was amplified quite so much. Inevitably, she peaks with the unforgettable "Don’t Cry for Me Argentina". However, the Portuguese-born actress has other moments to savour, perhaps the best when Evita takes a "Rainbow Tour" of Europe.

Marty Pellow plays the narrator and occasional character Che who acts as our eyes and ears through a 2¼-hour-long biographical portrait that starts with the heroine’s elopement from the country to Buenos Aires at 15 and continues beyond the grave. He sings intelligently but is another victim of the cranked-up microphone.

Along the way, the future stateswoman becomes an actress offstage before meeting the love of her life, Matthew Cammelle as General Juan Peron, and scaling the heights of Argentine politics to reach the very top.

Inevitably, from there the only way is down, but the couple enjoy their fair share of glory days before the totalitarian dictatorship becomes overly brutal. By that stage, the tiny Evita has been accused of prostitution, corruption and absolutely justifiably an innate greed for power.

The best of the singing actually comes from a pair of supporting actors. In the role of an anonymous mistress, Sarah NcNicholas delivers a heart-breaking rendition of "Another Suitcase in Another Hall", while Superstar winner Ben Forster playing young Eva’s first lover, the lounge lizard Magaldi, also reveals a beautiful voice.

What is missing is much razzmattazz. In planning only a seven-week run, the producers clearly felt somewhat constrained. The set features false proscenia, some flying pillars and that iconic balcony, but the only fireworks come when the bass is cranked up, literally shaking the newly refurbished theatre.

Even so, the short run should sell well and remind viewers of what Sir Tim and Lord L-W were capable of achieving in their pomp.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher