DIANE DE BEER
Pictures: Christiaan Kotze
ORIGINAL DIRECTOR: Hal Prince
RESIDENT DIRECTOR: Anton Luitingh
CAST: Jonathan Roxmouth (Che), Emma Kingston (Eva Peron), Robert Finlayson (Peron), Anton Luitingh (Magaldi), Isabella Jane (Mistress) and ensemble
CHOREOGRAPHER: Larry Fuller (international team)
RESIDENT CHOREOGRAPHER: Duane Alexander
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Louis Zurnamer
DESIGNER: Timothy Brian O’Brien (international team)
VENUE: Teatro at Montecasino
UNTIL November 26; Cape Town’s Artscape December 1 to January 7
We do know how to do musicals – and do them well – with some of the best talent around.
More than anything this one is steered by the exceptional Jonathan Roxmouth, who inhabits the spirit of Che with a scheming eye and the knowledge that he has picked his cast of opportunists well, to skewer at heart’s content.
And then there’s Eva, the Madonna of Argentina, who is played by Kingston (picked by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice and Hal Prince) with a harshness that places this musical squarely in the world we find ourselves in today.
It isn’t a pretty story with pretty songs. It is about a people who put their hope in a woman (and her man) who knew their lives intimately because she had lived it before her own clamber to power succeeded.
Everything is tainted with a clinical yet cynical brush which makes this a truly remarkable revival of a production seen here before many times. Perhaps it’s simply the state the world finds itself in at this particular time that has upped the relevance here and now, but there’s no way to witness this one without being aware of the cyclical nature of power and its abusive nature – always at the cost of the people.
It is also again the casting that turns it into the sensation it is, with especially the leads all making their mark magnificently.
Roxmouth is in a class of his own and this role allows him free rein to explore many of his extraordinary powers from the singing to his acting as he slips most comfortably into this particular narrator’s skin. It’s a glorious turn as he grows in confidence and ticks every box perfectly – to the benefit of the production, and those of us witnessing his skills in a blaze of brilliant colour.
Initially I was puzzled by Kingston’s almost screechy approach in the songs but as the musical progressed, her character grew almost bloated in its horror because of the way she approached her. She plays her like someone who understands from the start that she will access everything she needs to maintain this extraordinary life.
Welcome back to Finlayson whose voice is as powerful as it was in his early days and who perfectly fits the Peron persona, while both Luitingh (doing double duty as performer and director with aplomb) and Jane shone in their solo moments as they nail their iconic songs.
None of this would matter if the ensemble didn’t step up to support the excellence of the soloists – and they do at every turn. There’s enthusiasm and energy as the show is pulled together with an authenticity as real footage of the era and the people is used to great artistic effect.
Because of the times, it is an appropriately dark version of Evita but because almost all the songs have become anthems, the songs will carry it for those who want music rather than message and for those of us wishing for more, it is all there in gruesome splendour and sadly, it is all so horribly familiar.
It’s a grand spectacle, with lighting and designs cleverly creative, the orchestra, both in full sound and solo moments, beautifully held, and the whole comes together because of the attention to even the tiniest detail.
And while this is an internationally conceived production and the timing adds superbly to the substance, it is Roxmouth, Luitingh and the local gang that pull this one off with such style.