Evita

Date 29th March 2019
Society PGS Theatre Productions
Venue The Devonport Playhouse, Plymouth
Type of Production Musical
Director Mark Sidey
Musical Director Paul Foster
Choreographer Carole Wilson

Report

Author: Mike Canning

Evita

Date

Friday 29th March 2019

Society

PGS Theatre Productions (Plymouth G&S Fellowship)

Venue

The Devonport Playhouse, Plymouth

Type of Production

Musical

Director

Mark Sidey

Music Director

Paul Foster

Choreographer

Carole Wilson

Report

I’d like to start by congratulating all involved with the PGS production of ‘Evita’ for an extremely good performance of what is not an easy show to perform. With singing from start to finish it can often be difficult to keep the audience’s attention but due to the excellent cast, the very slick choreography, the seamless changes of scenery, the superbly presented costumes and chorus singing of a quality that I have not heard for a very long time the show flowed from beginning to end. I’m going to get the areas to consider for future productions out of the way in the first paragraph. These are that at times I felt the sound levels of the microphones were set too low for some characters and this especially proved to be a great issue with Peron as I found it very difficult to hear much of the words in his singing. Also, with a cast of 50 there were times when the sheer number of people on stage meant that the vision was blocked for those seated on the level.  

My thanks go to Gareth Davies for the invitation to review his society’s production and for the welcome offered to me and Buffy May and to Richard Clark for being our host for the evening. It was a pleasure to review a production out of my area and to see the facilities on offer to societies in Plymouth and to find out information about the day to day running of PGS.

From the very beginning scene set in the cinema where the people of Argentina are made aware of the passing of Eva Peron the audience was in no doubt that they were going to be witnessing a special piece of amateur theatre. Every member of the cast had been well drilled whether it was with song, movement or dance. Back stage crew mingled with members of the cast to ensure the smooth movement from one scene to another as flats were moved in from one side or the other and the balcony was moved forwards or backwards. All props and costumes looked authentic to the time and it was interesting to note that one of the dignitaries was even wearing a NODA chain of office!! There were many changes of costume for some of the cast and these were all done successfully so congratulations to Karen Rockey and her team. The seven children in the cast shone in the crowd scenes and then performed together extremely well led very capably by Alexander Long.

The directorial team can be very proud of the cast they assembled and the performances they managed to achieve from them. Helen Haviland, as Eva, and Lucy Oliver, as Young Eva, were very strong in their portrayal of the leading lady. The switch between the two characters was well handled in ‘Goodnight and Thank You’ and the quality of the singing from both was of a very high standard. Helen especially never wavered through the many numbers she has to perform and showed the mastery of her voice in the iconic ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’. I mentioned earlier the sound issues regarding Peter Clement, but he still managed to portray Peron with the right degree of authority. Greg Pannell, as Magaldi, nailed his numbers giving the audience the chance to enjoy the tone of his voice and Anna Dunford, Mistress, gave a charming rendition of ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall.’ Mike Noble, as Che, was on top of his role throughout. Not only did he look relaxed and casual on stage, but his diction and tone were exemplary throughout the performance. The times he had to react with Eva were so well handled and showed the strength of both characters.

But again, as mentioned earlier I feel that the real strength of the production was in the chorus work. This is in no way said to the detriment of the soloists but more a compliment. Too many times a production can have wonderful soloists only to be let down by the chorus work. Here Mark, Paul and Carole had got every ounce of energy and very good harmonic singing out of every member of the cast. Maybe one or two were a little over the top in their movement but I will not allow this to detract from the pleasure of seeing such an accomplished company. The energy, the enjoyment seen on the faces of everyone (when appropriate), and the solemnity shown at other times was just so natural. Thirteen men in a male chorus and performing choreographed numbers on their own all added to the overall presentation. Nearly fifty members of the cast joining in some of the mass numbers meant that audience eyes were continually moving around the stage to watch individuals and all were completely showing that they knew their role.

PGS can be very proud of their production. Mark’s direction kept the pace of the show moving seamlessly, the assembled musicians helped Paul get the most out of the music and Carole’s choreography was so pleasing on the eye. Performing to near full houses for the entire run of the show will add the financial bonus to the efforts of those on stage. It was a pleasure to make my first trip to a Plymouth production.

Mike Canning

NODA Representative South West District 7