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Evita review at Phoenix Theatre, London – ‘cold, uninspired revival’

Emma Hatton in Evita at London's Phoenix Theatre. Photo: Pamela Raith Emma Hatton in Evita at London's Phoenix Theatre. Photo: Pamela Raith
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Is this really what the West End needs? Another uninspired production of another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical? Another all-white cast, another all-male creative team?

Bill Kenwright’s revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice classic charting the rise of Argentinian first lady Eva Peron has been doing the rounds since 2008, touring the country, the world, and now settling into its second West End run. It doesn’t wear that decade well.

Even if Matthew Wright’s set didn’t look so bland – its wrought iron railings and beige pillars taking a shot at grandeur, and missing – the performances could have made up for it. This is, after all, one of Lloyd Webber’s more complex scores, writhing and restless, and the themes are ambiguously expressed in Rice’s surprisingly complex book, the characters neither outright good nor bad.

But there’s nothing to care about in these performances. No detail, no depth of character. The performers are all mere voices for Lloyd Webber’s big-hitting tunes, rather than living, breathing, towering figures from history.

The usually impressive Emma Hatton is straining to hit high notes and, although her wry smile paints Eva with a bit of colour, it’s a mostly soulless and searching performance.

Gian Marco Schiaretti makes for a hammy Che. His singing is sometimes impressive but sounds tight and nasal. He has his hands in his pockets, but looks bored rather than relaxed and his eyebrows do more acting than the rest of him. Vocally, no one is on top form.

A mirror ballet during Rainbow High is the one interesting bit of Bob Tomson’s direction but, in this production, it’s easy to forget the sweeping, conflicted power of songs such as Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. It’s easy to forget the politics that are deeply etched into the musical. In fact, this production is just easy to forget.

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Cold, uninspired revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical