Even in death Eva Peron casts a dark shadow over Argentinian politics and society. She was loved by the working classes who believed that she spoke for them. On her death a petition signed by 140,000 of her followers was sent to the Pope asking for her to be made a saint.
However, the ruling elite ensured that her body was secretly spirited out of the country and buried anonymously in Italy because they feared that her tomb might become a shrine which would ensure a Peronist revival. It was 17 years before they relented and allowed her to be buried in Buenos Aires. I understand that the new Pope Francis, who is from Argentina, is being asked to consider the matter of her canonisation once more.
Hers is a tale of naked ambition, and she was as devious and manipulative as she was charming and charismatic. This is pretty much the view presented by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice and they did not paint a pretty picture of dictator Juan Peron’s partner in crime - well certainly not in the original 1978 West End production I was fortunate enough to see. There is, of course, Alan Parker’s 1996 film version, which was altogether a much more soft-focused and romantic interpretation, starring Madonna, which didn’t really succeed as Madonna’s acting abilities were stretched to the limit.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is remarkable for its larger-than-life sound images and he certainly has a penchant for creating impressive melodic and dramatic statements. Allied to Tim Rice’s lyrics their musicals can cover a lot of material very quickly as Webber’s rather formula-driven composing style allows for sudden changes of mood and tempo. So Eva’s rise from young actress to dictator’s wife is covered in one song, as is Peron’s rise to power.
Telford and District Light Operatic Players have produced a fine set of soloists to take on the lead roles at The Place, Oakengates. Sabina Smith excels in the title role. She shows confidence and determination in her character, and yet allows just a hint of the frailty which will ultimately destroy her. Those qualities are admirably displayed in her account of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.
Neil Bultitude plays the narrator Che with a proper degree of aggression and gives forceful versions of Oh What a Circus and Good Night and Thank You. Ron York is convincingly authoritative as dictator Peron while Becky Farmer gives an endearing performance of Another Suitcase in Another Hall.
Robin Cooper’s production is fast-paced and gripping, but The Art of the Possible and The Money Kept Rolling In routines needed a little more imaginative staging. Musical Director Ryan Sayce generally kept his orchestra well under control, although there was some untidiness in the second act.
My only real quibble was with the sound level which seemed much too loud at times and didn’t let some of the quieter songs make their proper impact.
- Evita runs until Saturday
By Jerald Smith