Evita at the Open Air Theatre

Has Evita ever looked or sounded better? 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

I doubt whether Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Evita has ever looked or sounded better.

Production photo of Samantha Pauly and others in Evita by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park London
Samantha Pauly as Evita at the Open Air Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner

As you enter the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, you’re presented with a set that looks like bleachers or maybe a staircase which rises from the front to the back of the stage. At the bottom of the staircase, appropriately, is Eva about to embark on her journey of sleeping her way out of poverty and climbing to the highest office of the land.

She is a showgirl. Like her colleagues, she wears a short skirt and sits with her legs apart, making it clear that she sees her body as a tool in her ruthless ambition. It’s not long before attaches herself to up-and-coming General Juan Peron and helps him to become President of Argentina. Then tragedy strikes as she contracts cancer and dies, the announcement of her death providing the opening of the musical.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best score is movingly played

I’m not a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music but I have to say the stirring swelling arrangements, the Latin American pastiches and the memorable tunes make this, for me, his best score. Coupled with Tim Rice’s clever, caustic lyrics, Evita is a pleasure to listen to and this production is musically excellent under Alan Williams.

Under the supervision of Alan Williams, the blockbusters Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (which I can’t get out of my head) and Another Suitcase in Another Hall are movingly performed, the former by Samantha Pauly, the latter by Frances Mayli McCann.

production photo of Evita at the Open Air Theatre in London
Evita at the Open Air Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner

Just as the musical is intended to be sung-through, director Jamie Lloyd has made a decision to have it danced-through. Fabian Aloise‘s choreography, picking up on the Latin American rhythms, works exceptionally well. The lack of a flat stage could have made life difficult for dancers but Mr Aloise turns it to advantage by having the performers move up and down and along the steps. At times, he uses Soutra Gilmour‘s tiered design to create a spectacular wall of dancers.

The leads are excellent. Eva is played by Samantha Pauly. In her slip dress and trainers, she seems very young , much younger than other Evitas you may have seen. This is appropriate because the musical takes her from age 15 to 33. She is a pleasure to watch and hear. You have no doubt of why she would be attractive to Peron and the Argentine people. My only reservation is that she didn’t show enough ruthlessness on her face.

I came out humming the tunes but wasn’t engaged in the story

production photo of Frances Mayli McCann in Evita at Open Air Theatre
Frances Mayli McCann in Evita. Photo: Marc Brenner

The strength of this production which is the youthful energetic dancing is also its flaw because Peron should be older. Historically and in terms of this classic musical, it should be much clearer that Eva gave an unattractive older military man sex appeal, much in the way Lady Diana did for Prince Charles or Ginger Rogers for Fred Astaire. Excellent as Ektor Rivera is as a performer, he is too young and fit. 

Trent Saunders is powerful in the role of Che the narrator. He has a strong expressive voice. The narrator not only tells us what’s going on but comments cynically until even he falls under Eva’s spell. He is also her conscience, experiencing physically her rejection and her contrition.

The Brechtian device of a narrator is meant to be alienating but I don’t find it works in Evita. Yes, we step back from emotional engagement to think about Evita’s populist progress but the downside is, we don’t care about the protagonists. While the biting libretto goes one way, the music goes another, slapping on emotion with a trowel. It tries hard but Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s musical passion fails to attach itself to Tim Rice‘s characters.

I came out humming the tunes but I wasn’t engaged in Evita’s story.

Evita was performed at the Open Air Theatre until 21 September 2019

Watch the YouTube version of this review here

 

 

Gielgud Theatre – Insider Guide

The Gielgud is one of the nicest theatres in the West End


The Gielgud Theatre was known as The Globe for most of its 113 year history. In 1994, after a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe was built on the South Bank, iit was renamed in honour of Sir John Gielgud. You will see many fascinating photographs, programmes and drawings featuring the great actor around the theatre. It was built in the Louis XVI style so there’s lots of gold and many beautiful features including an oval gallery above the foyer.

Interior shot of the Gielgud Theatre in London showing the oval gallery
Inside the Gielgud Theatre

Where is the Gielgud Theatre?

You will find the Gielgud on Shaftesbury Avenue in the heart of London’s West End. The postcode is W1D 6AR. The nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus.

What are the best seats at the Gielgud Theatre?

The Gielgud has 889 seats spread across three levels- Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle. You go downstairs to the Stalls. There isn’t much of a rake or slope but the stage is high so the view from most sets is good. I recommend the seats in the centre, about six rows from the front and 8 seats from the side.

The front of the Dress Circle is more or less level with the street, so that’s the place to go if you’re using a wheelchair. The accessible toilet is in the foyer at the same level. The first few rows in the centre offer a good view if you like looking down on the stage.

Insider tip

You’ll need to wear cool clothes if you visit the Gielgud. By which I don’t mean trendy clothes but ones that keep you cool because the theatre’s cooling system is pretty poor.

What about the bars?

There are bars in the Foyer, at the back of the Stalls and in the Dress Circle.

What are the toilets like at the Gielgud theatre?

Here’s some good news. The Gielgud is among the best of London theatres for toilets, according to The Stage newspaper’s survey. There’s a ratio of 32.3 women per toilet.

This is the official website for the Gielgud Theatre delfontmackintosh.co.uk/theatres/gielgud-theatre

Watch the YouTube review of the Gielgud Theatre on the One Minute Theatre Reviews channel