Empire Theatre, Liverpool
June 24 – June 29
Authors: Sir Tim Rice & Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directors: Bob Tomson & Bill Kenwright
Cast: Marti Pellow, Madalena Alberto, Mark Heenan, Sarah McNicholas, Nic Gibney
Running Time: 2 hrs 30 mins
Tim rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber have a penchant for Narrators. In Joseph it is an actual Narrator – usually in the guise of a Primary School Teacher – in Jesus Christ, Superstar it is Judas giving his views of what The Messiah should be doing, but basically isn’t, and in Evita it is Che who picks fault and criticises the motives of Eva Peron.
All are powerful characters in their own right and all should set the pace and tone from the off of what is to follow, so when the actor playing the part fails to get it absolutely right then the whole show tends to waver.
Sadly, in Marti Pellow, this production of Evita suffers from having what has to be said a somewhat lacklustre Che. His is venomous almost jealous role that demands attention as he struts around in his boots and beret. What Pellow delivers – particularly in the first half, though he does marginally improve in the second – is guy who watches from the sidelines like some bar room lawyer who keeps saying I told you so, whilst all the time barely giving a toss. Imagine somebody playing Judas whispering Heaven On Their Minds as an opening salvo and you sort of get the picture.
This is a shame because when he does let fly he really gets it right, particularly during The Money Keeps Rolling In (And Out), and his anger at proceedings really shines. If only such passion had been shown from the beginning, as the rest of the cast really excel in this department.
Mark Heenan as Juan Peron is delightfully understated and has a cultured range that fits the auditorium and his character – that of unsure politician driven forward by the love of his life – perfectly. Nic Gibney as the jilted Magaldi is all cheek and bravado and truly excels in his acting and singing, whereas Sarah McNicholas as The Mistress singing Another Suitcase In Another Hall is a delicious revelation in her delivery.
The full orchestra are faultless, driving the big numbers – particularly during A New Argentina – to almost unparalleled heights and the set and costumes are divine. Yet without a strong Eva, Evita is but nothing and in Madalena Alberto this show certainly has a strong Eva. From lowly actress, through to tarty wannabe and on to arguably one of the twentieth century’s most controversial figures, Alberto relishes each role through some superb vocals, outstanding acting and a deeply ingrained passion for the part. Of course hers is a part that will always be judged on her performance of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and, here, she really comes into her own, but this could be said of just about every song and intonation she delivers as she is quite remarkable in all that she does onstage.
Is this a production of an iconic show that’s worth seeing? Yes, on the whole, but a word in Che’s ear to represent the rebellious, outspoken character he is supposed to be would improve things by a country mile.