Evita has made almost biennial appearances in Liverpool since 2008, and although the show is still a class act this new production seems smaller in scale and ambition than previous outings, despite boasting arguably its first household name in a while. With Marti Pellow stepping into the combat boots and army fatigues of Che Guevara (hello, nurse), Madalena Alberto was Eva and Mark Heenehan, Peron.
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical about the life and death of Argentinian first lady Eva Peron remains a masterclass in musical theatre if you ask me, a still exciting mix of Tango, jazz, operetta, requiem and more bound up in a larger than life tale of rags to riches.
This time, it’s a brassy, and sometimes rather camp affair on the whole. Alberto’s Evita – crystal clear and with an absolutely fearless range – has as much of the Goldfinger about her as an iron lady, and it’s not until the second act things really fall comfortably into place for the whole production. But when they do, things start to sparkle as much as Eva’s bling-tastic balcony gown, big numbers like Rainbow High and And the Money Keeps Rolling In fizzing with energy.
Soon after, when Eva breaks down in Peron’s arms to sing uber-ballad You Must Love Me, its clarity and tenderness silenced even the famously fidgity Empire audience. The balcony scene remained as iconic, glamorous and moving as ever. Pellow’s voice and image suited Che to a T.
But numbers like A New Argentina, usually a spectacle in themselves, were significantly pared back, at least compared to previous productions. Not necessarily a problem in itself, but that lack of wow factor will be noted by those who have seen incarnations of this show at the Empire before.
Evita is on until Saturday (June 29).