Move over My Fair Lady: the next vintage production coming to Melbourne is the original Evita, with Australian pop princess Tina Arena starring as Eva Perón. Opera Australia and John Frost are collaborating to revive the 1978 West End production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster musical, directed by Tony Award-gobbling musical theatre veteran Harold Prince. After a short season at the Sydney Opera House, Evita is coming to the Arts Centre's State Theatre as Melbourne's new summer musical.
Appearing alongside Arena is a starry international cast: as Juan Peron is Brazilian operatic baritone Paulo Szot, who won a Tony Award for his performance in the 2008 Broadway revival of South Pacific. London-based Australian performer Kurt Kansley will play Che, the narrator, while Wicked star Jemma Rix will play Eva at some performances. (It's traditional that there's an 'alternate Eva' scheduled for certain performances each week given the almighty vocal challenges of the role.)
Conceived as a concept album in 1976, Evita tells the story of Argentine political figure Eva Perón, who when she died at 33 from cancer had become one of the most powerful women in Latin America – and thereafter was afforded an almost saintly status.
Following its 1978 premiere on the West End (with Elaine Paige in the title role), the musical went on to win the Olivier Award for best musical and transferred to Broadway (where Patti LuPone took on the role), where it was the first British musical to win the Tony Award for best musical. In 1996, Madonna starred in the film adaptation of the musical.
The Australian revival will reunite the original creative team: 89-year-old director Harold Prince, choreographer Larry Fuller and designer Timothy O’Brien.