Evita at the Phoenix Theatre review: This revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical is well-executed but has little new to say

 
Melissa York
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Emma Hatton as Eva Peron
Evita
3.0

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera about the life of Eva Peron should feel bang up to date given the current state of global affairs.

Peron rose to virtual sainthood on the back of a popularist uprising, one that delivered her husband to the Argentinian presidency three times. She claimed to represent the ordinary working classes, declaring herself one of the descamisados – the poor or “shirtless ones”.

Yet, Bill Kenwright’s hugely successful production, which toured nationally before arriving at the Phoenix Theatre, plays it safe. Lines that should have sagged with sarcasm, such as “I came from the people, they need to adore me/So Christian Dior me, from my head to my toes”, are delivered with ferocity, but no discernible irony. It’s one of numerous missed opportunities to draw parallels with present day politics and update material that’s almost 40 years old.

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The cast would have been up to it, too. Emma Hatton is formidable in the title role, exuding a statesman-like presence that far exceeds her diminutive stature. With her girlish energy and crafty looks, she embodies the duality at the core of Eva/Evita’s character. Gian Marco Schiaretti, meanwhile, is an effortlessly tuneful Che, and Mr Peron’s mistress, played by Sarah O’Connor, turns heads with her version of “Another Suitcase, Another Hall.”

It’s one of numerous missed opportunities to draw parallels with present day politics and update material that’s almost 40 years old.

Unfortunately, though, they’re emoting their lungs out against an uninspiring set. While acknowledging the transitory nature of touring productions, the backdrop largely consists of a swivel staircase and cardboard “stone” columns that could be depicting anything from an Argentinian cathedral to The Royal Exchange.

While this is a well-executed revival, it isn’t anywhere near imaginative enough to be High Flying Adored.

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