THEY say the show must go on. And it certainly did.
There was definitely no shortage of drama at Southampton's Mayflower Theatre last night when the entire building had to be evacuated after an alarm sounded halfway through the production.
But then it was the opening night of Evita, the musical that promises practically everything in the mix: a remarkable rise from rags to riches, a love story, showbiz, politics, a tragic ending – and of course Marti Pellow.
And judging from the Wet Wet Wet eyes of the audience at the end, it was clear that even an impromptu false alarm and mid-act evacuation didn’t matter.
For three hours Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright’s revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s historical musical transported each person straight from a chilly Southampton to Buenos Aires for a goose-bump-inducing emotional rollercoaster of a show.
For those who don’t know the story of Evita it is based on the life of the darling of Argentina – Eva Peron. She is an ambitious 15-year-old who runs away to Buenos Aires and eventually claws her way into the affections of the President Juan Peron.
She not only becomes the First Lady of her country but is heralded as the spiritual leader of her nation before dying from cancer aged just 33 in 1952. And while it’s a story that boasts an Oscar-winning film version starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas, it is clear it’s made for the stage.
As the opening bars of the iconic Don’t Cry For Me Argentina filled the packed auditorium from the live musicians in the orchestra pit, the stage was transformed into the famous balcony scene complete with a lavish set of marble staircases, pillars and moving platforms ahead of a spine-tingling rendition, it was impossible not to be mesmerised.
Many of the seats were filled by fans of the Wet Wet Wet lead singer Marti Pellow, who heads up the stunning cast as revolutionary Che Guevara. He prowls the stage in military gear linking the story and at times spitting out sarcasm with his breathy delivery.
Mark Heenehan is a strong Peron and Sarah McNicholas had her moment in the spotlight with an angelic version of Another Suitcase in Another Hall as The Mistress.
But for me it was Eva played by Lisbon born Madalena Alberto who stole the show. She brought meaning to making an audience so silent a pin drop could be heard as her final moments were depicted in the ballad You Must Love Me and Eva’s Final Broadcast.
Admittedly we got a bit chilly in the sudden evacuation soon after a scene depicting an earthquake in Argentina, but by the end our hearts were thoroughly warmed through.
There is, after all, a reason why more than 30 years since it opened in the West End, the show is still drawing big audiences. This production is one not to be missed.
Evita runs at the Mayflower Theatre until Saturday.