After its superb production of Cats in January, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions has brought to Hong Kong another Andrew Lloyd Webber classic, Evita, which runs until June 10. Four decades since its premiere in London’s West End, the musical remains as potent as ever. A rags to riches tale about class, politics and love, it tells the true story of Eva Peron, who took on the plight of Argentina’s working class and challenged the established political elite. The play was so popular it was adapted into a Hollywood movie starring Madonna in 1996.
Evita, in two acts, is more coherent than Lloyd Webber’s later and more famous hit musical Cats. The story about the Argentinian First Lady Eva Peron’s brand of populism is as relevant today as it was then, especially during Trump’s presidency. Its most famous song, Don’t Cry for me Argentina, like the other songs in this musical, is memorable and tuneful, which no doubt explains this musical’s consistent appeal. Earlier in the production, A New Argentina, showing the peasants’ mass support for Peron, is a rousing climax to Act One. Tim Rice’s lyrics remain apt, too. I’d be Surprisingly Good for You touchingly conveys the romantic first chance meeting between Evita and President Peron while And the Money Kept Rolling in ironically criticises the corruption of the Eva Peron Foundation.
Understandably, the sets for this touring production are not lavish, though the action and drama is often enhanced by old newsreel material and newspaper photos. Eva’s whirlwind tour of European capitals is thus effectively depicted – original director Harold Prince clearly hasn’t lost his touch and has maintained his astute eye for theatrical effects.
In the title role, Emma Kingston is magnificent, charting the anti-heroine’s life journey from her humble beginnings as an actress to her elevation as Argentina’s First Lady. Her physical decline at the end is very moving. Robert Finlayson had authority as well as humanity as President Peron. As the narrator, Che, Jonathan Roxmouth brings a much needed sense of humour and irony to the drama.
All in all, this robust touring production of Evita is a triumph and does full justice to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic show. Be sure to catch this glorious musical before its season ends next month. Kevin Ng