A star studded Melbourne Gala opening night performance of Evitasets the tone for what's to come. Excitement and expectation filled the air, and without a doubt, everyone was there to watch Tina Arena take on the role of Eva Perón, wife of Argentine dictator Juan Perón. It charts her time from humble beginnings through to the extraordinary wealth, power and status she achieved, beloved by the Argentine people and heralded as the spiritual leader of the nation.
Hosted by Opera Australia, Evita is playing at the Arts Centre Melbourne's State Theatre on 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne CBD until March 2019. Following a sold-out season at the Sydney Opera House earlier this year, performance times are Tues 6.30pm, Wed-Sat 7.30pm, Matinees Wed 1pm & Sat 2pm, Sun 3pm, and you can get your tickets HERE.
Melbourne's summer musical in 2018-19, it's one of the most celebrated musicals of all time. The original Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End and Broadway production directed by Hal Prince has a stellar cast led by our own Australian icon, singer, songwriter and musical theatre star Tina Arena. Jemma Rix will be the Eva Perón alternate at certain performances.
It has opera superstar and Tony Award winner Paulo Szot as Juan Perón and Kurt Kansley, a London based Australian, as the young revolutionary Che Guevara. Eva Perón alternate Jemma Rix is one of Australian musical theatre's prominent leading ladies, having starred in the stage hits Wicked and Ghost.
Michael Falzon as tango singer Magaldi came to prominence when he was cast by Queen and Ben Elton to star as Galileo in We Will Rock You. Newcomer Alexis Van Maanen as Juan Perón's mistress makes her professional principal debut with this production. Completing the cast is an ensemble numbering 26 plus 18 very talented children all hailing from Melbourne with an amazing creative team pulling the strings of a great production.
With more than 20 major awards to its credit including the Olivier and Tony Awards for Best Musical, a Golden Globe and an Oscar for the film version starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas, Evita features some of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's best-loved songs. These include the unforgettable Don't Cry For Me Argentina, On This Night of a Thousand Stars, You Must Love Me and Another Suitcase in Another Hall; this last song is the only song sung by newcomer Alexis who plays the mistress. This smash hit production promises to be the theatrical event of the year!
The show begins and ends with Eva's funeral and narration is provided throughout in song, as seen through the eyes of Che. In fact, one needs to pay attention and hear every word, as Che's mesmerising performance links the storyline in this sung through a documentary. The giant TV screen in the background plays scenes of the real Eva Perón who died at the age of just 33, from cancer.
Costumes, choreography, sound and lighting, the set, though sparse, complements the production perfectly. The live 29 piece orchestra with director Guy Simpson at the helm provides a richness to the production throughout. while the ensembles sing and dance throughout the show. Tina Arena belts out her songs in her rich and even tone, filled with clarity and warmth. However her star really shines during the second act, when she sings the all too familiar Don't Cry for me Argentina, pauses, leans on her husband Juan, then comes back to the balcony to complete the song, and this is where she steps up, to drive her vocals with such a powerful force, it's hard to ignore.
If it never occurred to you that Eva used her sexuality to get where she wanted and to gain a position of power, this production will bring it to your attention. Peppered with humour, Arena is a subtle powerhouse, as she's led by Juan to rid him of his mistress. She's firm yet delicate and kind, as she understandingly passes on her fur coat to the mistress in a non-verbal negotiation. This is when newcomer, Alexis the mistress, makes her mark as she nails her only song in the production.
This is all about Eva and Szot's role as Juan is not the focus of the show, though he maintains prominence with his amazing baritone. Michael Falzon the tango singer who gets dumped by Eva on her upward climb brings charisma to the stage, however, it's Che who is the powerhouse in a huge role that'll capture your attention. Evita is a must-see musical for lovers of theatre as it weaves a musical tale of triumph and yearning well supported by Opera Australia Orchestra.
While you're there, why not enjoy delicious Argentinian food, wine and locally brewed beers at the Stomping Ground La Boca pop-up beer garden in the Arts Centre Melbourne forecourt from now till 24 February 2018. Even if you're not there to watch the show, the colourful, fun and engaging space will beckon you to come in and try out some of its delights. The menu features empanadas, Argentinian grilled meats, salads and fries, along with indulgent dulce de leche caramel desserts from Southbank's Asado.
It's a fully immersive experience through food, culture, music and live entertainment with Argentinian inspired performances, tango lessons and much more.