Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical returns to the West End with a new cast — including former Wet Wet Wet singer Marti Pellow — for a limited run of six weeks at the Dominion Theatre. But can it live up to the original smash-hit, let alone recent smash hits such as The Book Of Mormon or Matilda?
To say the opening was a disappointment would be an understatement. Pellow is a poor Che and his vocals in act one were often painful to listen to. As narrator, he was sometimes shockingly unclear, making it difficult to follow the story from the outset. His voice simply couldn't compare to the warm, booming, goose-pimple-inducing vocals of Ben Forster as Eva Peron’s first love, Agustin Magaldi.
Pellow has stronger moments in the group scenes later, and his voice had improved considerably by the time of High Flying Adored. Perhaps last night’s poor performance was due to first night nerves or technical issues — the speaker levels weren’t 100 per cent right throughout — but the damage was already done.
In contrast, Madalena Alberto’s Eva has incredible depth, sparkle and fabulous versatility. Her voice, sometimes reminiscent of a young Barbra Streisand, shifts remarkably around the vocal scale to suit the different sides of her role. The result is a wonderfully gripping portrayal of an incredibly complex heroine; sexy, calculating, ruthless, selfless and perhaps eventually, deluded. Eva’s journey from a small-town girl who sleeps her way to the top, to ‘spiritual leader’ and First Lady of Argentina is a powerful story that should enchant any audience.
Evita has some fantastic hit numbers — High Flying Adored, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, and Another Suitcase In Another Hall — the last performed perfectly by the Mistress, Sarah McNicholas. The tango-inspired dance scenes are smooth, sexy and full of passionate energy, while political scheming, plotting and intrigue keep the pace going, the twists coming and suspense high. It does feel a little dated compared to current West End offerings, but this is a classic, with a superb Eva. It's well worth a visit if you’re already a fan or you missed it the first few times around.
Evita at the Dominion Theatre until Until November 1st 2014. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary ticket.