Who would have thought that a musical based on the life of a woman who rose from poverty to become the first lady of post-war Argentina would become one of the most successful shows in the history of musical theatre?
It ran for eight years in the West End back in the eighties and won many awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical. On Broadway, it was the first British musical to receive the Tony Award for Best Musical.
You’ll have heard of it even if you’ve never seen it or the 1996 film. And you’ll know at least one of the songs – Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.
And it’s still going strong. It’s been revived on many occasions and now it’s at The Palace Theatre in Manchester on the first stop of a 12 month UK tour with a production which has been performed in the West End.
Evita is a rags-to-riches story based on the short life of Eva Peron and her rise from humble beginnings to become the most powerful woman in Latin America.
The story unfolds in 20-odd scenes, covering 17 years of her short life from the age of 16, when she leaves home for the big city, to her rise to power and premature death.
It’s a curious subject for a musical by a British composer. Not one you might expect to be so popular, especially as the main character isn’t entirely sympathetic, as another character, Che, constantly reminds us.
So what makes it such a successful show?
As you might expect from a musical which started life as a concept album before it hit the stage, it’s the songs. And not just Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.
I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You, Rainbow High, Rainbow Tour, the rollicking And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out) and the poignant Another Suitcase in Another Hall sung by Perón’s mistress (Cristina Hoey) are all highlights of the show.
And in this production, it’s not just about the songs. It’s expertly directed by Bob Tomson and choreographed by Bill Deamer, with each scene beautifully realised.
It’s full of great performances. All three leading actors – Gian Marco Schiaretti as Che, Jeremy Secomb as Juan Peron, and Madalene Alberto as Evita – received standing ovations, and were ably supported by the entire cast, with Oscar Balmaseda deserving a special mention as Magaldi.
The role of Eva Peron is a demanding one. An actor who plays her is onstage for around 90% of the production, giving her little opportunity to rest. Madalene Alberto is magnificent in the role. Elaine Paige, the original Evita, is a household name. Why isn’t Ms Alberto?
So let’s hear it for this Evita tour. It’ll be an incredible success. Will Evita win through? The answer is yes.
It’s only on till Saturday. Catch it while you can.
The Palace Theatre until Saturday 9th December 2017
Performances: 7.30pm plus Thur & Sat matinee at 2.30pm