Theatre, Musicals
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Emma Hatton shines in one of Lloyd Webber's best musicals, but the production feels dated

Forget virginal sopranos or caterwauling moggies: this military dictator’s wife with a megalomaniac streak is easily the best role in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s eclectic back catalogue. Bill Kenwright’s slick 2014 revival of 'Evita' is back in London, and this time it’s Emma Hatton who’s morphing from rough peasant girl to actress to the regal saviour of the Argentinian poor.

Hatton starts out irresistibly scrappy and fierce, a teenager who’ll fight to get to Buenos Aires. Rice’s lyrics have an almost journalistic instinct for scurrilous details, making Evita claw her way to acting stardom on the backs of a series of grovelling, smitten men, shouts of ‘whore’ ringing in her ears.

‘Tarzan’ star Gian Marco Schiaretti narrates her journey with wonderful fluency as Che, inhabiting his potentially-awkward role with ease. He fills the gap at the heart of the musical that’s left by Evita’s husband, Peron - here, he’s a nonentity in a suit who still manages to win multiple presidential bids. By his side, Hatton’s fierceness subsides into a sweetness that’s temporarily outshone by Sarah O’Connor as Peron’s former mistress, unleashing a heartbreaking ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’.

Kenwright’s production shines for its artful choreography: the snobby military wives are a particular delight, crisply sweeping past lower class Evita with their noses aimed upwards like cannons. It’s less strong on visual heft - the dated stage design of arches and columns doesn’t allow for many different moods, and makes for endless clumsy-looking scene transitions. And somehow, the production doesn’t capture the sort of overwhelming sensuousness you’d expect from a story of a mass love affair between one woman and a whole nation.

'Evita' still fascinates, especially in the relatively intimate space of the Phoenix Theatre. But it feels like her story’s overdue an update.

By: Alice Saville



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