It’s difficult not to be familiar with the music from Evita and having seen versions previously as well as the film we had expectations that this production decided to throw out into the park and stomp on. This is not the Evita you know. There are no big sets, no balconys and gone are Eva’s 100 costumes. Instead it is a breathtaking reimagining of a classic show that is visually stunning and thematically powerful.
Being an open air production there is a certain uniqueness brought to each performance from different weather and lighting but it starts off peacefully and it was nice seeing the trees rustling around us. This didn’t last long. Taking full use of the outdoor space, the show very quickly explodes with sparks, fire, confetti cannons and smoke flares bringing some dazzling colour in the early evening light. Combining with the strong and loud vocals it’s a mesmerizing attack on the senses which is simultaneously alarming and enticing.
This sets the tone for the show. It’s bold, loud and brash and at times it’s busy to the point of chaotic. Behind it all is Eva, a woman who is in charge of everything going on.
It’s the story of a small town girl who fights her way to the top of argentine society, marries the leader of the army (Colonel Perón) and becomes the first lady of Argentina, regarded by as many as their spiritual leader. The show focuses on Eva’s drive for power and what she was prepared to do and accept in both getting that power an maintaining it. The director has chosen to look at the darker side of this world that traditionally the show has shied away from. This brings it front and centre and it’s a better show for it. It’s very provocative with several disturbing and uncomfortable moments that are important in telling the story. One such moment is ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” where both Eva and the audience are flanked by security guards.
Knowing earlier productions we expect Eva to come in softly but the vocals are so strong and harsh it’s jarring. But this is the point of a stronger, more manipulative and importantly more driven Eva. Samantha Pauly performs this incredibly with vocals which are authoritative and aggressive.
In this production Ché has moved from being the narrator to being Eva’s tormentor throughout, representing those she wants to silence. With Trent Saunders taking on this role it’s an impressive performance. The role of Perón is taken by Ektor Rivera, bringing a manipulation to match Eva’s but he feels more menacing with it. The three leads are so expressive we struggled when all three were on stage as we wanted to be able to see all of their expressions – especially in Rainbow Tour with all the ways this could be read. All three of them are entrancing.
There were so many elements that came together to make this show so powerful. A few years ago they concentrated on bringing more Latin into the orchestrations, this time they make them harsher and grungier as they focus on how the protagonists play on peoples anger. The choreography by Fabian Aloise is stunning bringing energy and power to the stage. The costumes are simple yet full of meaning as they elegantly show people’s social status changes.
If you don’t already know Evita this a great way to be introduced to it, if you do this is the perfect update. It’s a sexy full throated production that doesn’t pull its punches and is a completely new and different theatre experience. This gets 5 Laura Michelle-Kelly stars. This is on until September 21st and tickets can be bought here: https://openairtheatre.com/production/evita