Thursday, March 12, 2015


Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Jim McMullen
Canberra Philharmonic Society
Erindale Theatre 5 -21 March 2015

Review by Len Power 11 March 2015

Canberra Philharmonic’s new production of the Lloyd Webber – Tim Rice musical, ‘Evita’ showcases some fine singing by a large cast and strong playing by the orchestra but there are some deficiencies, too.

‘Evita’ focusses on charismatic Argentine political leader Eva Perón, the wife of Argentine president Juan Perón.  The story follows Evita's early life, rise to power, charity work, and early death in 1952.  The musical began as a rock opera concept album released in 1976.  Its success led to productions in London's West End in 1978 and on Broadway a year later, where it was the first British musical to receive the Tony Award for Best Musical.

As Evita, Kelly Roberts sings the notoriously difficult role very well.  Her characterization, though, showed little of the ambition and steely nerve of this latin woman.  Here she seemed to be just a nice girl who had lucky things happen to her.

Grant Pegg in the commentator role of Che handled the vocal fireworks of his role well, especially when singing ‘High Flying Adored’.  This production, like the 1996 film of the show, opted to have Che played not specifically as revolutionary, Che Guevera, but rather as a non-descript ‘everyman’.  This lessened the effectiveness of the role as we couldn’t tell where this man was coming from with his anger at Argentine society and politics.  It was even more confusing when Che also appeared in this production as a waiter and a reporter at times.

Top acting honours for the show go to Tony Falla in the role of Evita’s husband, Juan Peron, President of Argentina.  He sang the role extremely well and displayed a believable strength for this military leader as well as the tenderness of his love for Evita.

Kelly Roberts (Evita) and Tony Falla (Juan Peron) - photo by Chelsea de Rooy

 Beth Deer’s beautifully controlled performance as Peron’s deposed mistress singing ‘Another Suitcase In Another Hall’ was a highlight of the show.  Mathew Chardon O’Dea, however, seemed to be in a different musical altogether with his performance of the Argentine singer, Magaldi, singing and playing with no sense of period or with any latin characterization.  There was strong singing from the large chorus and an especially fine rendition of ‘Santa Evita’ by the children’s chorus.

More attention needed to be given to the costumes.  High level military personnel would not wear cheap-looking gumboots and the soldiers were all wearing different styles of shoes which could have done with a polish as well.  In addition, their white trousers were all at different lengths with some hems coming adrift and one soldier had his cuffs tucked into the top of his sox.  Even Che seemed to have one trouser leg with a hem that had come undone.  This sloppiness, so easily attended to, seriously detracted from all the good work that had gone into this show.

Musical direction by Casey White was excellent and the score was played very well by the large orchestra.  There are some changes to the music from the show as originally written, most notably ‘You Must Love Me’, sung by Evita, has been added from the 1996 movie.  Sound levels in the first half of the show the night I saw it were far too high and harsh making it difficult to hear the words of the songs clearly.  This problem seemed to be rectified for the second half.

Choreography by Shasha Chen and Eliza Shepherd was often uncertain in its intent.  There were too many instances of dance steps which had no meaning in the context of the number or were stylistically at odds with the music.

Overall, the director, Jim McMullen, has produced an entertaining production of this much-loved musical.  While the show doesn’t reach the heights of his previous production of ‘Cabaret’, it’s a good opportunity to see this powerful early Andrew Lloyd Webber show.