Considering that this is the first time Evita will ever be staged in Singapore, it’s pretty impressive that it’s the version considered the definitive one by original composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Based on the rise to power of real life Argentinian political leader Eva Peron (the eponymous ‘Evita’), Evita is widely considered to be one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best works, alongside Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Originally opening in 1978 on London’s West End and running for a record 8 years, the show went on to win two Olivier Awards before opening on Broadway in 1979, winning seven Tony Awards and then adapted into a 1996 film starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas.
For this version of Evita, the original original dream team of director Hal Prince, choreographer Larry Fuller and designer Timothy O’Brien have been reunited to bring it back on this tour. Opening to rave reviews in South Africa, Evita began the Asian leg of its tour when it opened in Singapore last Friday (23 February), and features rising West End starlet Emma Kingston as Evita (who was handpicked by Hal Prince, Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice), as well as South African musical star Jonathan Roxmouth as Che and West End actor Robert Finlayson as Peron.
At the media call held on Tuesday (27 February), members of the media were treated to a sneak peek at some of the numbers that the show features. The cast began with the high energy ‘Buenos Aires’, featuring plenty of high tempo choreography and dance moves that immediately got us hyped up, before moving into the soulful duet ‘High Flying Adored’ by Eva and Che. Finally, we were wowed by Emma Kingston’s rendition of Evita signature song ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’, moving us with her performance and handle on the emotional depth of the material.
With the original team working on the production, one can expect the original choreography to come out in full swing during the show. Said resident choreographer Duane Alexander: “The key thing about the choreography is that it represents Argentina and tells a story in the best way possible. You’ll see lots of Latin American influences, from a slow dance in a nightclub scene, to a tango during the charity concert, and even a great festive number which will really lift up the entire company and theatre’s spirits.”
For Duane, Evita is also the culmination of a childhood dream: “I first heard some of the songs when I was 13 on this compilation of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs and I thought it was a crazy good score. To think it was almost a childhood dream to one day work on Evita, and here I am today, it’s really such a privilege.”
For this version of Evita, audience members can even expect a surprise additional song in the second act – ‘You Must Love Me’ from the 1996 film, which even went on to win an Academy Award. Said musical supervisor Guy Simpson: “Even at 70, Webber certainly isn’t in museum mode and decided to include it in this production because it just seemed like such a natural fit. The orchestrations have been changed to become more vibrant and modernised. Evita is a production that’s almost like a living thing, and keeps changing along with the times, thanks to people like Hal Prince and Larry Fuller allowing it that space.”
Cast member Jonathan Roxmouth, who plays Che, finds it one of the most challenging but exciting roles he’s had yet. Said Jonathan: “Unlike Evita and Peron, my character is based more on the essence and idea of Che Guevara rather than the person itself. It’s a tightrope of a role to play, not just vocally, but also because I act as a narrator, and I’m simultaneously within the show and directly addressing the audience. It’s so much more thrilling when I’m breaking the fourth wall!”
Jonathan continues: “Evita is one of those shows that’s a good balance of escapism and being thought-provoking. It’s a show that reminds people that they have power, and when you reach the end of Act 1, you’ll feel a bit winded because it makes them realise that there’s no reason dictators are allowed to be in power unless the people let them. It packs more of a punch today than it ever has, and I’m just so proud to be a part of it.”
Said associate director Daniel Kutner: “My takeaway from the show is to always challenge everything around you, and not to just take what you read on the internet or media outlets as the gospel truth. We should hear all sides of the story and be able to think freely. It’s not just a razzmatazz of show tunes; it’s a serious piece that will challenge you and provoke thought about the world we live in, while also being entertaining.”
With that promise, we’re sure that Evita will resonate within our hearts too, as we watch it tonight and marvel at the beauty of the original choreography, the enduring songs and the timeless message and story that remains more relevant than ever even 40 years on from its first staging.
Evita runs from 23rd February – 4th March 2018 at Mastercard Theatres. Tickets available from SISTIC. Look out for our upcoming review of the show after we catch it tonight!