Theatre Review: Evita – Arts Centre Melbourne (Performances to 23rd February)

The opening night of Evita was met with praise and applause as Tina Arena took to the stage in her starring role as Eva Perón. Adapting her wonderful pop vocals to such an iconic role would of been a challenge for the most seasoned performer, however Arena carried herself with poise and grace and pulled off the performance of a lifetime.

With a stellar cast to match, accompanied with music by Andrew Loyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, expectations were high. As the curtain rose we were met by an intricate set and large ensemble. The attention to detail was immediately noted, and a large projector streaming old footage of the real Eva Perón dominated the stage. I was interested to see how this icon that was a saint to so many would be presented on stage, and I was both impressed albeit disappointed as to how she was portrayed.

Whilst her personal life was none too private being constantly in the public eye, It was a little disappointing to see that her sexual dalliances were so heavily played upon in the narrative, and largely defined her character on stage. I personally think that it trivialised who she was and downplayed the incredible role she played in shaping the history of Argentina. Whilst I appreciate the theatrics of the piece, in today’s climate it would have been uplifting to see this strong independent woman portrayed as the powerhouse that she was, and not just some floozie that slept her way to the top as it came across on stage. 

The songs themselves were largely lacklustre and even grating at times. Purely from the fact that they were mostly off key in that way that some operas purposely don as a kind of emotive crescendo. Definitely don’t expect the joyous sing alongs you would find in some other stage productions. A pity really as the performers themselves had phenomenal vocal range completely overshadowed by the poor choice in songs and off beat tempo. Saying that, Kurt Kansley who played Che was an absolute standout. His performance throughout was ovation worthy and a real pleasure to watch.

All in all, Arena and Kansley were the standouts in an otherwise mediocre production. Arena’s talents vocally were even more so cemented whilst on stage, and the pure energy that Kansley brought with him to every scene was commendable. An updated version matching a more modern mentality would be appreciated and I think appeal to a wider audience. The foundation for a truly marvellous production is there, and I can see why it’s won so many awards. I really wanted to love it, but unfortunately there’ll be no crying for Argentina from me.

THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Evita is playing at the Arts Centre Melbourne until 23rd February. For tickets and more details about the production, head HERE.

The reviewer attended the production on opening night, 9th December 2018.

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