evita bel

Lucy O'Byrne as Evita and Mike Sterling as Juan Peron 


Belgrade Theatre Coventry


The classic but true rags-to-riches story of Eva Peron has produced a well-loved favourite of the musical theatre.

The songs are timeless, and with Lucy O’Byrne in the title role completely spellbinding. Everyone knows Don’t Cry for me, Argentina and a song can be too well-known and loses its power. Her method is a gentle whisper that makes you listen anew and the better for it.

The story of Eva Duarte Peron’s life is in reality quite tragic. She was a child in the second family of a man to whom her mother was never married and whose death when Eva was seven plunged them into grinding poverty.

From her village, she took off to Buenos Aires at 15 with Magaldi, a tango singer (Oscar Balmaseda). In the capital, she becomes an acclaimed actress and radio presenter. Through ambition, high intelligence and hard work as well as a highly attuned political sense, at a fundraiser in 1944 after earthquake, she meets Juan Peron (Mike Sterling) arguably the most powerful man in the country.

She makes a strong bid for him in the song I could be surprisingly good for you and they marry. Eva campaigns for him among the ‘shirtless’ peasantry after Peron’s arrest in 1945. On his release ten days later, the run-up to the 1946 landslide election owes much to Eva’s campaign.

She turns her attention to women’s votes and her new dubious fund for supporting the less fortunate. However, she was dead by 33 and sorely missed by Peron whose political instincts were less well developed.

So, the story itself has many attractions. The songs are wonderful and most are really well-known. I particularly liked the Rainbow High dance with mirrors. Spellbinding, too, the beautiful little girl singing Santa Evita who is not named in the programme. I really liked Waltz for Eva and Che’ and don’t remember it at all.

Enjoyable? Absolutely. The narrator Che (Glenn Carter) leads throughout the story, staging is immaculate and slick, singing gorgeous, dancing top class and overall entertainment value enjoyed by full capacity audience from the start to the standing ovation at the end.

It was a clever touch in political rallies to use surround sound which brought the cheers and applause from all sides, immersing the audience in the adulation.

It’s great to see a big orchestra in the pit, but I wondered why the accordion player was relegated to the balcony. Bill Kenwright’s production directed by Bob Tomson runs to 29-09-18.

Jane Howard


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