Evita – £55 is a lot of money for a dodgy old repeat

Thursday 10 August 2006

The show opens with evocative newsreel footage of Eva Peron’s funeral procession – thousands of Argentinians line the streets of Buenos Aires, weeping and wailing. The drama continues onstage when about a dozen of the chorus endeavour to reproduce the splendour on the stage. Andrew hasn’t laughed so much in years. Not since the French & Saunders “my dead baby” extras sketch to which it evidently paid homage.

Then they all clutch at a crucifix held aloft by a priest (-cum-chorus boy) while dramatically lit from below by a spot that casts dramatic shadows on the backdrop. Oooh. Well, Phil thought it was quite dramatic but Andrew was too preoccupied wondering where the light was supposed to be coming from to be drawn in.

All this and we’re not five minutes in. Quite an amusing beginning to the £55 and 200 minutes of wine time invested (£110 and 400 minutes if you look at it holistically).

But it’s pretty much downhill from then on.

As Phil pointed out, more time has elapsed since the original Evita than it had between Eva Peron shuffling off her mortal coil and ALW bringing her carcass to the London stage. And it shows. Rather horrible seventies sung-through rock opera although to be fair this has more tunes than your average ALW show. And he’s obviously pleased with them because they get used over and over again (I think if one were being kind one would use the terms “leitmotif” and “reprise” but there’s not much inclination towards kindness coming from our seats).

Was Elena Roger worthy of the hype? Well, she’s got a decent voice and she’s very small which had some potential comedic value when she descended the steps onto the balcony for her Big Number – for a moment it looked as if she wasn’t going to be able see over the balcony and we were in for a Morecambe and Wise moment.

But the problem is her rather rich accent. Terribly authentic of course, but we could only make out about 50% of the words – and we knew the words to Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina anyway. So we could probably only make out about 25% of the words we didn’t know.

Anyway, the show was rather stolen from under her by a character called “Mistress” in the programme (played by one Lorna Want) who appears for five minutes in Act 1 to sing the showstopping number (Another Suitcase in Another Hall) before disappearing never to be seen again. Peculiar construction for a musical indeed.

The last half of Act 2 drags rather thanks to some uninspiring songs (including the one written for the film version) and Andrew was rather relieved when Eva finally pegged it.

Anyway, if Lorna Want (“Mistress”) ever takes over from Elena Roger, then that’s the time to go. That’s our advice. In the meantime, judging by the distinctly unpacked house we predict there will be offers in the offing so you won’t have to pay £55 for the privilege of seeing this rather creaky revival. It’s still 200 minutes of your wine time though. Think on’t.

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