Evita review at Churchill Theatre, Bromley – ‘sensationally good’
“What’s new Buenos Aires?”, sings Eva Peron in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1970s musical masterpiece Evita, and she answers it: “I’m new, I want to say I’m just a little stuck on you/ You’ll be on me too.”
I felt the same way about the new company for Bill Kenwright’s touring production, which was first launched in 2008 and in 2014 paid a return visit to the West End but is now out on the road again. Lloyd Webber’s back catalogue is kept impressively alive by Kenwright more than any other producer apart from the good Lord himself, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat now the longest running tour in UK musical history; he’s also done sterling work with Jesus Christ Superstar and Whistle Down the Wind.
But while his production of Joseph perfectly captures its naive charm and fresh, youthful energy, this monumental, powerful Evita is in a different class, bringing an operatic sweep and gravitas to a biographical pop opera about the rise of a demagogue ruler and the cult of celebrity.
Evita, set in late 1940s Buenos Aires, sees a sometime actress ascend to become First Lady of Argentina. Wicked alumna Emma Hatton is a diminutive powerhouse in the title role, with a clear-as-a-bell soprano and a subtle sense of her character’s grasping ambition and matching, seductive star quality. Equally notable is the smouldering Latin authenticity brought to Che by Gian Marco, an Italian newcomer to the UK stage, while Kevin Stephen-Jones also brings an impressive authority as Peron, with further resonant work from Sarah O’Connor and Oscar Balmaseda as the respectively spurned former lovers of Peron and Eva. A large ensemble deliver Bill Deamer’s alternately passionate and formal blocks of movement with serious discipline