As a rule, I don’t really like Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. I don’t go out of my way to avoid them, but I don’t go out of my way to watch them either. I’d heard that Evita was going on tour and was coming to Manchester, but I wasn’t fussed about going to see it. I would have missed it completely if it wasn’t for Sophie, my lovely friend from St. Annes who I met on Twitter. We decided that we were going to see a show together and had actually attempted it twice before, but on one occasion I dislocated my hip the night before and couldn’t go, and the other time there were no trams running, so I couldn’t actually get to the theatre. This show would be third time lucky for us – neither of us knew what it was about but it was a musical, it was in Manchester, and we were going!
On the day of the show the weather was absolutely insane – torrential rain, hailstones and even snow. I found Sophie huddled next to the stage door of the theatre (which, thankfully, is under cover) with two other girls, Melissa and another girl whose name escapes me (sorry!) We had a great chat about all things Wicked and, when the rain finally stopped, they headed home to put some warmer clothes on (it really was freezing) and me and Sophie headed to McDonalds for some much-needed food.
After a quick drink in the bar (there was no Bacardi or Coke so I had a Pepsi and some kind of white spirit that very nearly knocked me out) we settled down into our seats – Row K of the Circle. The seats were “restricted legroom” but seeing as neither Sophie nor I are more than a couple of inches over 5 feet, this wasn’t a problem for us. We were slap bang in the middle and had a great view of the stage, and I started to feel the familiar pre-show excitement as the lights went down.
The show didn’t get off to a good start, but that was down to my own personal reasons. I could have done without the whole funeral scene, complete with full sized coffin covered in flowers, when I attended my Grandma’s funeral not two weeks ago. After this initial wobble, the show was absolutely flawless. There are no words to describe how absolutely perfect Madalena Alberto was. She played Maria Duarte, the young girl from Los Toldos, who would eventually become Eva Perón, beloved “Spiritual Chief” and first lady of Argentina. At the beginning of the show, Maria is a flirty temptress who uses the men in her life to get to the big city, Buenos Aires. Madalena Alberto performed the song “Buenos Aires” with a mischievous twinkle in her eye and you couldn’t help but fall in love with young Eva.
The song “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You,” performed by Madalena and Mark Heenehan who plays Perón, is the song that sees Eva blossom into a young woman. She meets Perón at a charity concert and, after circling each other all night, they finally meet. This song shows two ambitious people with a common goal, and you really believe that Eva and Perón belong together. Unfortunately, Perón has a mistress residing in his house, who Eva soon shows the door. The Mistress, played beautifully by Sarah McNicholas, then performs the song “Another Suitcase in the Hall” and the emotion she put into the song was actually palpable – the whole theatre was silent as she sang her heart out and made her exit from Perón’s life.
The second act opens “On the Balcony of the Casa Rosada” (performed by Perón and ensemble) and then Eva, now Eva Perón, the President’s wife and the First Lady of Argentina, steps up to the microphone. As Madalena began to perform the famous “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” it was like hearing the song for the first time. She performed it with such refinement – she was no longer a young girl, she had blossomed into a dignified young woman. To see Madalena perform this transformation on stage was a truly humbling experience. She is an absolutely magnificent actress and you truly believed that she WAS Eva Perón.
As Eva’s health declined ever so subtly you began to worry about her – you could see her determination to carry on despite her ailing health, and again Madalena transformed before our eyes, until Eva was just a shell of her former self, lying in a hospital bed. She was determined to still address her people and a radio broadcast was set up (“Eva’s Final Broadcast.”) As she delivered her speech, although she was hunched over in pain, she held her head high and you willed her to carry on. As Eva cried out in pain you forgot that this was just a show – Madalena was so convincing that I felt her pain and anguish, and when Eva took her last breath you felt like you had lost a friend. When Perón held his wife you felt like you were intruding on a private moment – his pain and suffering was so real. Mark Heenehan and Madalena Alberto were so perfectly in tune with each other’s emotions and so involved in their performances that you couldn’t take your eyes off them – they were absolutely flawless.
Some of you may be thinking – “hang on, wasn’t Marti Pellow in the show too?” Unfortunately, yes. He was the only flaw in an otherwise perfect performance. I am too young to know who Wet Wet Wet are, I have never heard him sing before and I hope I never hear it again. He sounded like Pierce Brosnan singing “S.O.S” in Mamma Mia. The difference being, Pierce’s charm and good humour and the fact that he knew he was awful meant that you couldn’t help but love his performance anyway. I genuinely believe that when Marti Pellow was walking across the stage with his big strides, clenched fists and tense shoulders, he thought he was being very masterful and dramatic. No Marti, you weren’t. You looked like a seven-year old that had been told to “look angry.”
I did feel bad because I am always honest in my blogs, and I knew that I would have to write how I perceived Marti’s performance, even if I had to be horrible to do it. I therefore decided to go to the Stage Door and see what Marti was like as a person. He didn’t come out. Says it all really.
I did however meet the lovely Michelle Pentecost who is not only ridiculously beautiful and painfully kind; she is also one hell of a performer. I hate her. While at the stage door I matched the faces that had impressed me on stage with the people coming out of the door – Olive Robinson, Ceili O’Connor and Errol Clayton all deserve a mention because they were incredible throughout, and I have to mention Sarah McNicholas again because she was just so damn good!
I really hope that Evita does tour again – sans Marti Pellow – because it is a truly brilliant show and, if it does, I will definitely be there!