Evita

Date 23rd March 2022
Society Fareham Musical Society
Venue New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth
Type of Production Musical
Director Sam Sampson
Musical Director Nigel Finch
Choreographer Kim Majczak

Report

Author: Mark Donalds

Evita was one of Lloyd Webber and Rice’s early collaborations, opening in London’s West End in 1978. It features the life of the hitherto virtually unknown Eva Peron, second wife of Argentinian President Juan Peron. The show begins with her death then charts her early life, rise to power and adoration, her charity work and eventually comes full cycle to her death.

Talented Director Sam Sampson has sensibly chosen a minimal set: just a high-level walkway at the back of the stage with steps at each end and entrances below. Essential items of furniture and props were brought on as required by the efficient stage crew, ensuring that the transitions flowed with ease – there are few breaks in the music for big scene changes. Stunning lighting by Sean Ridley along with some magnificent costumes, especially for Eva (thanks to Christine Duffin), and imaginative choreography (Kim Majczak) meant we were constantly presented with beautiful and often spine-tingling tableaux, especially at the ends of the big numbers.

Grace Campbell stunned us as Eva Peron. Her melodic voice with sparklingly clear diction simply soared through one difficult song after another with apparent ease. She was well matched by Stuart Frank as Che, a powerful and brooding presence throughout, as he wandered through each scene observing, commenting and sometimes interrupting the action. His silky-smooth voice was perfect for the role, and he commanded the stage whenever he appeared.

Jonathan Redwood was an imposing Juan Peron, and Graeme Clements made the most of his moments as the entertainer Magaldi, even wooing the lady in the front row of the audience! It’s a shame that Peron’s Mistress (the character is not named) only gets one song, because Lindsey Leask showed us the utter beauty of her singing voice and really made that one number count.

The large chorus provided strong support throughout, both with their harmonies and their well-executed movements. There must have been a lot of frantic quick changes going on behind the scenes, but they never appeared ruffled, and no entrances were missed.

The small orchestra, under the baton of Nigel Finch, provided a nicely authentic sound and, thanks to an excellent sound system (Rob Sarahs), the volume was nicely controlled.

There were many memorable moments during the show, but for my money, the one that sent a real shiver down my spine was at the very end, as the spotlight slowly faded on an ethereal Evita. Wow – fantastic!

It is good for groups to take on pieces that really challenge them. Evita is undoubtedly a challenging piece, sung through, with difficult melodies, sections of a cappella vocals, many scene changes and the responsibility for the show resting on just five principals. Last night, Fareham Musical Society emerged triumphant from this challenge, presenting a well thought out, spectacular and colourful piece of theatre to rival the best.