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EVITA: Don’t cry for me, Argentina!

Anna Riddel

It has been a busy few weeks! With Enlighten, Lights Canberra Action! and the Balloon festival, I looked in my diary to see the musical Evita was scheduled in, which is currently being staged by the Canberra Philharmonic Society.

Evita is the story of Argentina’s first lady at the time when Colonel Juan Peron became president in 1946. As told through the eyes of the cynical narrator Che, the musical tells the story of Eva Duarte’s calculated rise from a bastard child in poverty to that of deification by the masses. Evita was written by Andrew Llloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice and debuted as a stage musical in 1978.

It is a big production. So how did a local theatre company deliver the epic tale?

The first thing that will strike you is the huge set and the enormous cast, both of which are very traditional in their presentation of the show. I counted 43 performers and understood there to be an 18-piece band under the stage.

Eva Peron is played by Kelly Roberts who delivers a solid performance in this incredibly demanding role. Her voice navigates all the required terrain and she is convincing as a manipulative and calculating character that will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

However, the show is completely stolen by performer Grant Pegg who plays the narrator Che. Pegg single handedly kept the entire show alive and full of energy. He is a truly talented professional and the show is worth seeing for his performance alone.

For those familiar with popular musical theatre tunes from the eighties era, you will recognise Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, as well as The Money Kept Rolling In, and Another Suitcase in Another Hall. The ensemble delivers a solid vocal rendition by all accounts and there are some lovely (and humorous) moments, including that with the dancing Argentinian soldiers.

Overall, the show was captivating, however there are some areas where the direction fell a little short in delivering aspects of the story. (Non-spoiler alert: though this may sound like a spoiler, it is not, the first scene is Eva’s funeral – plus this is a historical story). The story is really left without clarity at the point where Eva starts to get sick. I only knew that she was dying because I knew the story and the musical, I leaned across to my friend and whispered “FYI, she’s dying in this scene”.

My friend looked at me with that “are you joking?” look. The action on stage simply did not reflect the words being sung and what should have been a very powerful and emotional scene very much missed the point. Also, there are many times where it was difficult to understand what was being sung, and not just because of the mix of English and Spanish in the lyrics. The choreography also paled in comparison to the clearly capable cast.

For those who love the musical or are simply mad Andrew Lloyd Webber fans, this is a solid show and I recommend seeing it. As for everyone else, it is a story that is well told and above all, a chance to see the impeccable Grant Pegg perform.

The essentials

What: Evita
Where: Erindale Theatre
When: 8pm most evenings with matinee performances on weekends. On now until Saturday 21 March
How much: $25 child, $43 concession, $49 adult and $34 family.
Tickets: Book online via philo.org.au

 

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Anna Riddel

Anna Riddel is a singer, director, keynote speaker and a passionate teacher. In 2012, her song Breathe, received a runner up position in the USA International Song Of The Year Songwriting Contest. Anna is currently a Voice tutor at NIDA, as well as a tutor in Music Pedagogy at UNSW. Her company Speak Don’t Talk consults on voice and communication across a range of industries. Anna is an avid Brumbies fan and a self professed coffee snob. Follow her on twitter @annariddel More about the Author

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