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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs


The Empire, Liverpool

May 22 – June 7 (then touring)

Lyrics: Time Rice
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Director: Bob Tomson & Bill Kenwright
Producer: Bill Kenwright
Cast includes: Louise Dearman, Seamus Cullen, Mark Heenehan, Nikki Mae,
James Waud

Running time: 2 hrs 20 mins

  Evita promotional image

Without question one of the greatest shows ever to have hit the stage, Evita made a triumphant return in this its thirtieth year. With some of best songs and music ever written for the theatre, I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You, Oh What A Circus and High Flying Adored to name but three, the cast – headed by an absolutely phenomenal Louise Dearman – turned what can be an at times dour experience into something that was light, colourful and, above all, slick.


Set during the mid-1940’s to early-1950’s, the show charts the rise in popularity of a humble, working class actress – Maria Eva Duarate – from the age of 15 to her death aged just 33 and with the country at her feet, having married the military dictator, Juan Peron.

Everything about this show is nigh on perfect. The set, with its minimalist styling allowing the cast to move with great freedom, added brilliantly to the pace of the show, whilst the lights and clarity of sound only enhanced the many levels of mood the opera moves through. The costumes ranging from rags to silks – changed often within the blink of an eye – were imperious and the music itself can rank amongst the very highest of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest creations.

Seamus Cullen as CheBut it is the cast who really make this show what it is. Seamus Cullen, one of last year’s final 10 in BBC’s Any Dream Will Do, excelled in the role of the cynical, sarcastic Che, bringing to the character a warmth and humanity that is so often lost. In fact, so good was Cullen it was easy to imagine him in other roles such as these, the most obvious being Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, such was the range and power of his voice and the manner of his stage presence.

Excellent too was Mark Heenan as the weak, but nonetheless powerful Peron, who gave just the right amount of understatement to the part so as to truly bring home just how much he relied on his wife in order to stay in power. Nikki Mae, playing Peron’s mistress, may have only had a small part in comparison, but her rendition of Another Suit Case In Another Hall rivalled that of Barbara Dickson’s and can rank as a true highlight of the evening, whereas debutant actor – and Liverpool Echo competition winner – James Waud showed composure beyond his experience, playing Magaldi with effortless confidence and style.

Louise Dearman as Eva PeronYet it is Louise Dearman who not only steals the show but takes it away with her and buries it in her vast talent. During the seminal Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, it is impossible to prevent the hairs rising on the back your neck, such is the way she manages to hit the money notes without fail and it’s not only this that makes her possibly the best Eva ever. Her ability to command the stage and bring reaction and counter-reaction from the audience – and so send them out of their seats and into Buenos Aries – is quite simply astonishing, especially when she insists towards the end You Must Love Me.

This production of Evita, out of all of the very many others over thirty years, must surely rank amongst the elite and if it coming to a stage near you during its tour of the UK, I urge you with ever fibre of my body to go and see it for yourselves.

Samantha Pops In To Wish Evita All The Best

One of the perks of being a critic is that you get to meet people you have admired from afar for years and, on a night when a show like Evita is being displayed before the media, there are plenty of recognisable faces around at the after show party.
Michael Barrymore, Jenny Seagrove and Bill Kenwright are but three worthy of mention but perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Samantha Janus – Eastenders own Ronnie Mitchell – was also there.

Samantha Janus in Liverpool 2008

‘I finished filming scenes for Eastenders late this afternoon and flew up by helicopter to Liverpool John Lennon Airport especially for the show,’ Samantha explained. ‘I couldn’t miss this. Louise Dearman has been a very good friend of mine for years and years and I just wanted to wish her well. Personally, and I know I’m biased, but I thought she was incredible as Eva, which is such a difficult role to play because of the different levels and ranges the character demands. Louise certainly pulled it off, though, and I really hope that this is the start of something big for her now because she certainly deserves it.’

But it wasn’t only the performance of her friend that impressed Samantha. ‘It’s not only Louise but the whole show. Seamus (Cullen) is a fantastic Che, and Mark Heenan is the perfect Peron. As the production itself – the way it is so minimalist and yet so huge – it’s simply incredible. The whole thing was just fantastic and I’m so pleased I could make it.’
Chris High.

Click here to view details and book for the Liverpool Empire Theatre



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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