Every now and again I fall in love with a blonde person and get this mad urge to dye my hair. It disappears as soon as I realise that a) maintaining root-free blonde hair will cost me approximately £1,800/year and b) a bottle of bleach will not, sadly, make me look like Heidi Klum, Joanna Lumley or Cate Blanchett. Unless I bleach my whole face. And then have really boss reconstructive surgery.
I can feel the urge stirring again though, because last week I went to go and see Evita at the Dominion Theatre. And it was fantastic. I mean, not just Eva’s hair, which was always famously immaculate, but the show too.
I realised in the afternoon that I literally only knew one thing about the show, and that was that it had the song Don’t Cry For Me Argentina in it, so I had a quick skim over Eva Perón’s Wikipedia page to ensure that I wasn’t the only person in the audience with no bloody clue what was going on. Evita was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice nearly 40 years ago, when many of the adult population would probably have heard of Perón, who had died only 18 years previously in 1952. Nowadays the yoof (me included) can barely remember who first won The X Factor, let alone important South American political developments from the forties, so a bit of prior research is a good idea. In short, it tells the story of Eva Perón, an ambitious working-class girl who became an actress and married the future president of Argentina, Juan Perón. Together they established Peronism, an ideology focusing on social justice and political sovereignty still used in Argentine government today.
I appreciate this all sounds a bit heavy, but it’s okay because the whole story is told entirely through highly choreographed dance routines and, like Les Miserables, entirely through song. As in, even the speaking parts are sung; there’s no chat/song/chat/song format like in many other musicals. And like Les Mis, of course, it tells the non-fiction(ish) story of significant political events.
The performance itself was wonderful, even for those who weren’t familiar with Eva’s story. (My date for the evening hadn’t had the foresight to Wiki it, but loved it nonetheless.) Madalena Alberto (Eva) belted out the big number, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, with such passion and obvious lung capacity you could see a collective shiver run down the spines of the 2000-strong audience, and Marti Pellow (Che, not Guervara, apparently, but a sort of one-man Greek chorus/narrator) was very good if a bit gruff initially (don’t worry, you soon get the hang of his Spanishish accent).
Perón is portrayed as a zealous social climber and a bit of a whore in the play, but frankly I’d like to see a politician who hasn’t greased their way up to the top with one bodily fluid or another. She was famously beloved by the Argentines, many of whom considered her a saint – ‘Santa Evita’ – and were utterly devo’d by her untimely death from cervical cancer in 1952. (She was only 33, but the musical portrays her as much older by the time of her demise. The hair stays magnificent throughout though.)
Rice’s lyrics in Evita are, at times, fairly scathing – it’s far from the adoring biopic I was expecting – but it’s refreshing to see a powerful woman depicted without either cloying Disneyfication or the overplayed villainy of some of history’s other leading ladies (Queen Elizabeth I, Marie Antoinette, Wallis Simpson, Marilyn Monroe, Mrs Thatcher, etc.) I can’t attest to its actual accuracy (although I have bought a biography off Amazon, so watch this space), but it’s a very interesting – and very entertaining – addition to the West End.
Evita is playing at the Dominion Theatre until November 1st on a very limited run. More information and tickets are available online, although I recommend checking out Theatremonkey for the best deals, including tips for choosing seats.
Obviously I wasn’t allowed to take photographs during the performance, but all the images used in this post are used with permission from the production company.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.