by Martina Hysi
I went into His Majesty’s Theatre with every good intention of loving this show, because I adore musicals. I find their rhythmic narratives, the endlessly shifting scenery, the characters caught in spellbound moments to be what makes them so compelling. They have (almost) never failed to make me want to stand up and start dancing my way to the stage. Bill Kenwright’s Evita, simply put, did not do that for me.
This musical charts a story we all recognize, albeit with a twist. A young, poor girl, dreams of becoming a movie star. She packs up her bags and follows her lover to Buenos Aires, where, after sleeping her way to stardom, she happens to marry the next president of Argentina. In a flurry of events, she becomes so revered and utterly loved by the dispossessed, that she becomes the icon to whom they pray in church – perhaps not such a common story after all.
I have not seen the original Broadway show nor the West End production, so I can safely say that I am not judging this production by its predecessors. I expected that the musical content itself, written by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, would be fantastic. I was looking forward to seeing Bill Kenwright’s version of a well-established, musically competent and remarkable show. As I searched for his individual take in any element of this monumental enterprise, I realized it was missing. Perhaps the choreography was novel, but I could not appreciate it, as the chorus girls were clearly not trained dancers – and if they were, they certainly lacked coordination.
On the theme of music, I could not feel more disappointed. While I found the lead singers to be undeniably talented – and I’m willing to blame any auditory faux-pas on the congested, blanketed acoustics of His Majesty’s – the orchestral accompaniment rang hollow. Later, I returned home to listen to some of the original recordings, and realized that the heart of the show was missing. Almost throughout the entire performance, the choral accompaniment suffered too, sounding shrill and on the verge of irritating. The lead singers were often struggling to be heard from underneath, instead of completing the harmony from above.
Lastly, I do think the set production and scenery was well-thought out and well-executed, especially bearing in mind the limited space on stage. The shift of the surroundings lent the show much of some very needed pace and tempo. While there were a few sustained belts that deserve commendation, expectations and reality did not meet. I could hear people conversing afterward in confusion, many unsure what to make of what they had just seen. I admit to this confusion myself as well, and cannot say I recommend watching a show where the storytelling does not naturally lift from the stage onto the audience.