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Review: Evita, at Regent’s Park Theatre

15 August, 2019 — By Paul Cowling

Samantha Pauly in Evita. Photo: Marc Brenner

THIS is an Evita for the Trump-baiting, electric scooter age. It’s had a “right on”, radical overhaul with blind casting and a simple set and costuming that is miles away from 1950s Buenos Aires, and the Lloyd-Webber/Rice original.

Director Jamie Lloyd has turned his Evita into a mix of the pom-pom pageantry of a high school musical, and met it with the flag-waving pomp of a political rally. The energetic ensemble all wear white trainers throughout; there are costume changes on stage and the sight of ticker-tape and the smell of cordite pervade.

The end result may have flaws and raise a few eyebrows with traditionalists, but this portrayal is still highly impressive and well worth seeing.

In the beginning, a dying Eva Peron (Samantha Pauly) hauls herself up high-rise bleachers.

Is this one last climb up the social ladder, she has slipped from? It’s only at right at the end, when Evita “dies again”, that Pauly actually begins to look like the person she is playing.

Gone is the natural raven hair (and skimpy tennis dress), as her Evita is adorned with the crown of blonde wig, and silk gown. Is this intentional, or just bad casting?

These bleacher blocks become the stage for a flurry of furious dancing and helium balloon popping as the story is told of the rise and demise of the Argentine “People’s Princess.” The use of balloon pop is clever, as rivals and critics are silenced as Juan Peron (Ektor Rivera) comes to power.

Neither Rivera nor Pauly play their roles with any real conviction. Rivera is merely OK, though Pauly is simply un-enigmatic as the enigmatic Evita. Her acting here lacks the intensity that the role of Evita demands. She sings well enough, but her high notes have a tendency to make her sound like a squawking parakeet high above her in the trees.

A far better singer is Frances Mayli McCann (The Mistress). As the lover spurned, she sings Another Suitcase in Another Hall beautifully. She looks every bit a better fit for Evita too, while Trent Saunders is cool and commanding as narrator, Ché.

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