REVIEW: Evita, Mayflower Theatre

By Hilary Porter

I LOVED Evita the rock opera concept album when it was released in 1976 and listened to it over and over again.

Two years later the record became a full-blown award-winning West End musical but, to my regret, I never got the opportunity to see it.

So it was with a great sense of anticipation and excitement that 40 years later I sat down to watch the show at the Mayflower Theatre.

Did it live up to my expectations?... It was incredible!

The story of Eva Perón, wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Perón, and her journey from humble beginnings through to extraordinary wealth, power and iconic status remains a fascinating one - probably even more so in these days where the boundaries between politics and celebrity culture have become ridiculously fuzzy.

Combine this with probably the finest ever pairing of the talents of Tim Rice ( lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber ( music) with an unforgettable score that encompasses Latin American rhythms, military marches, and gorgeous ballads and you have a rock solid recipe for success.

Surely this is the finest work ever of producer/ director Bill Kenwright who has assembled the most amazing cast too.

Accompanied by a live orchestra they treat us to some of musical theatre's most loved songs: Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, On This Night of a Thousand Stars, You Must Love Me, Another Suitcase in Another Hall, Oh What A Circus, Rainbow High name but a few.

Although Evita is often referred to as a pop opera it's mood it definitely more opera than pop, starting dramatically with the funeral of one-time actress/'whore' Eva who has taken on saint-like status, heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’ by the Argentine people.

From here we are soon delighting in the satire and tongue-in-cheek lyrics of songs like 'Goodnight and Thankyou' ( basically about sleeping your way to the top) in a show that blends tragedy and comedy and really does have it all with its bitter-sweet exploration of those potent human desires, power and sex.

The entire cast is top class and the leads are exceptional. Emma Hatton, who recently finished playing the lead role of Elphaba in the West End production of Wicked, brings star quality to the role of Eva and while she may be small she has an epic voice that completely over powers you. An outstanding actress, she captures both the power and the fragility of a young woman who rose to become a demagogue ruler but whose mortality ultimately defeats her as she dies of cancer. It is incredibly moving.

Delivering a completely convincing Perón is Eastleigh-born Kevin Stephen-Jones whose operatic voice is sensational.Kevin, who grew up in Sway and co-founded The Big Little Theatre Company in Bournemouth, has performed extensively across the UK and Europe in over 20 different operas and was most recently seen at the Mayflower in Cats and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Handsome Italian actor Gian Marco who is a newcomer on the UK stage is also superb as Che who serves as Narrator/Greek Chorus. His character reflects the voice of the Argentine people and linked to Eva by destiny he brings conflict to the story of Eva’s rise to fame.

Evita is unmissable! It runs at Mayflower Theatre until Saturday January 21.

Tickets from Mayflower Theatre Box Office tel: 02380 711811 or online at