★★★★ | Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – “Gritty and current, Evita is a must-see musical this summer.”
Where: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Review date: Thursday 8th August 2019
About the Show:
From a life of poverty to spiritual leader of the nation, Eva Peron was loved, hated, derided and venerated. Dividing the Argentinian people with her patriotic speeches, her ambition, glamour and magnetism established ‘Evita’ as the world’s first major political celebrity.
Encore Rating Factor:
I think it’s important to mention that before last night, I had never seen Evita live nor had I seen the film adaption starring Madonna. Being a keen musical theatre fan, I was aware of the iconic white dress, the Patti LuPone/Elaine Page arms and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s classic musical theatre songs.
This production flipped all of my perceptions of this famous musical on its head.
Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is one of the most intelligent and creative musicals I have seen. This production is raw and exposed in both its direction, choreography and design.
Evita is set on concrete bleachers that mirror the seating banks of the theatre. Adorned at the top of the steps is weathered Evita lettering and behind, dressed in back tie a large orchestra.
Not only does the set intensify the space, but it is also used as a visual metaphor for Eva’s rise in social status. For example, at the beginning of the production, Eva is introduced to the audience at the bottom of the concrete bleachers, struggling to climb onto the bottom step. This is a complete contrast to the top of Act Two, ‘On The Balcony Of The Casa Rosada’ where Eva Perón makes her entrance at the top of the stairs – the height of social status and power.
Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is peppered with symbolism and metaphors from balloons to colour smoke canons. No expense has been spared on this production as the audience is often engulfed in special effects. These effects cleverly enhance this musical and help to immerse the audience.
Each moment in this production was beautifully thought out. From Fabian Aloise choreography and Jamie Lloyd’s direction to Soutra Gilmour’s costume and set design, every aspect married perfectly. For me, it was Fabian Aloise’s choreography that stole the show; a variety of dance styles filled this production. I particularly enjoyed the passionate tango that shadowed the duet between Eva and Juan during ‘I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You‘.
Another one of the many moments I particularly enjoyed was the nod to fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s 1999 Spring runway show. During ‘Rainbow High‘ and at the height of Eva’s power, the male ensemble, who formed the council of Perón, spray-painted Eva’s white slip dress. This nod to the celebrated contemporary fashion designer fit the show perfectly and was a direct contrast to the usual costume design.
Samantha Pauly’s Eva Perón was determined and strong. Her performance was epic and it is worth noting there was not a moment where she did not leave the stage. Pauly’s Eva is a must-see performance this summer and truly opened your eyes to Eva Peròn’s struggle.
Trent Saunder as Che is fantastic and his rock vocals continue to add to this gritty production. Ektor Rivera as Juan Perón was charming; he showed how weak Perón was without Eva by his side. In this production, all performers including the extremely hardworking ensemble were perfection.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is an enchanting place to see a musical; exposed to the elements it truly immerses its audience members in each show. One thing that could not have been planned at last night’s press performance of Evita was while Eva’s illness was taking hold, rain started to fall – magical.