Pieter Toerien and David Ian present the original West End and Broadway production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Weber’s Evita at the Artscape Theatre Centre.
Thoughtful stagecraft sets the scene for a multi-media production which excels in various areas. Jonathan Roxmouth shines as a sauntering, cigar-puffing Guevara with gorgeous depth to his vocal execution. The orchestra, lead by Louis Zurnamer, is the other star of the show, attacking the score with grace and fervour. Other highlights include the audiovisual elements – the dramatic lighting is a key player in the production’s emotional arc and the historical footage shown on screen gives context to the play’s events.
A combination of staged and archival photography is featured on the large screen which hangs over the stage. Dramatic blackouts and golden spotlights breathe life into the production alongside a set design which does Hal Prince’s original Brechtian staging proud. Evita’s crown is a visual theme, offering delightful detail to the critical eye, and Larry Fuller’s choreography is eye-catching and seamlessly enacted by a highly talented cast.
Evita’s score is unique in its inclusion of acoustic and electric guitar which Robert Jeffrey and Ryan Solomons pull off with professionalism and panache. The orchestra and musical ensembles perform the widely beloved music with seemingly effortless precision.
The show’s only weakness is Emma Kingston’s lack of emotional range and vocal consistency, which falls behind her excellent physicality in the leading role. The fast developing nature of Tim Rice’s narrative calls for strong emotional guidance from the cast. This is something Roxmouth brings in bucket-loads, which perhaps lends itself to an unfair point of comparison for Kingston. However, this only slightly detracts from the show’s overall impact.
The musical immortalizes a contentious figure in Buenos Aires’ political history. On watching the iconic character of Evita Peron brought to life on stage in 2017, I find myself considering the role of the first lady in today’s global climate. Few musicals are as thought-provoking and informative as Rice and Lloyd Weber’s Evita, and Toerien strikes just the right balance in his production.
Mischa Ruby Fisher
Evita the Musical is on at the Artscape Theatre until 7 January 2018.