Given the current state of the world, watching a mob of banner-wielding demonstrators intent on electing a populist demagogue at the close of the first act in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's greatest collaboration is a slightly odd experience. Given too that the mob are singing about how the voice of the people cannot be divided, the effect borders on chilling. It's unlikely this was Rice and Lloyd Webber's intention when they premiered their finest couple of hours on the West End back in 1978. The staying power of the duo's real-life latin-tinged rags to riches melodrama suggests it taps into something that goes beyond the appeal of the show's best songs in Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright's grandiloquent production.
It begins and ends with a funeral, as Argentinian people's princess Eva Peron lies in state beneath a portrait of her still young self. As things rewind, we watch a small-town girl with big ideas, blonde ambition and stars in her eyes elbow her way to playing the ultimate leading lady. In the title role, Emma Hatton lends a subtlety to the choreographed courtship with Kevin Stephen Jones' Peron and Evita's subsequent deification. But it is Gian Marco Schiaretti's narrator Che who dominates, watching over events as his nation's revolutionary conscience, he and Eva flip-sides of a political pin-up.
Despite the try-too-hard naffness of some of Rice's lyrics, I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You, Another Suitcase in Another Hall and Don't Cry For Me Argentina remain stand-outs in this most grown-up of musicals. Here, glamour and power may bring fame, but it is the death of those who possess that power that creates a legend.
The Herald, February 9th 2017