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Passion, power and politics
History is full of stories of women who have risen from nowhere to be the power behind the throne.
Famous in their time, many of them are forgotten now, and who’s to say that, had Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber not chosen to immortalise her, Argentinian actress Eva Duarte might have fallen by the wayside with the rest.
If you think that celebrity culture is a 21st century phenomenon, think again – Eva Peron epitomises the modern celebrity, someone who becomes internationally famous for no immediately discernible reason.
Abigail Jaye gives a magnificent performance as Evita, heroine of the people’s revolution – and champion of women’s rights – whose sharp eyes and wits spot the right man and propel him firmly up the leadership ladder to the country’s top job.
She is completely convincing as the ambition-driven heroine, and has a fantastic voice, strong enough to belt out the musical’s now-classic numbers but also possessing the subtle tones and shading needed to give emotional depth.
Earl Carpenter as Peron is a brooding foil to her flame, while Mark Powell’s Che, the watching presence whose sardonic comments point up the absurdities of the situation, is another class act, also possessing a voice of tremendous power and suppleness.
Standout songs for me were Eva and Che’s duet in High Flying Adored, which I’ve always felt captures the message of this show perfectly, and newcomer Abigail Matthews’ haunting performance of Another Suitcase in Another Hall, as Peron’s discarded mistress: the first time we see the truly unpleasant side of Eva’s personality.
Far more than just a collection of marvellous songs, Evita has a great deal to say about politics, power and passion, and this production, with its very strong, young, company, says it very well.
The show runs until May 14, plenty of time to see for yourself a story which, on stage, has far more raw power than the film version.