Review: Evita − The best show in town
PUBLISHED: 15:44 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:44 31 October 2019
I have said this before but it's always a worry when a local am dram group takes on one of my favourite ever musicals, which happened with the latest Worle Operatic and Dramatic Society (WODS) production which opened at Weston's Blakehay Theatre last night (Wednesday).
The group had been waiting for more than three years to obtain a licence to perform Evita, written by the genius partnership of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, which I was taken to see in the West End by my parents as a child, starring Elaine Paige and David Essex, who my mum adored.
So it seemed fitting I should take my mum to see this latest version of the musical chronicling the life of Eva Peron from her humble beginnings to the glitzy heights of acting and finally leading Argentina through revolution and beyond. And I would say it was well worth the wait and I will not worry again, as having been impressed with the last few productions from WODS I can firmly declare this one to be the best ever, although I may be a little biased.
The show is a triumphant march from start to finish, all held together by a powerhouse performance from WODS regular Nick Uttley as infamous revolutionary Che Guevara who narrates the story and interacts with and challenges the characters as a bystander looking on. Uttley commanded the stage at all times, with a phenomenal vocal range belting out crowd-pleasers such as Oh What A Circus, Goodnight And Thank You, Peron's Latest Flame, And The Money Kept Rolling In (And Out) and High Flying Adored which he sings with the star of the show, Natasha Green, in the title role.
Green used every inch of the acting talent gleaned since starting out at the tender age of four to perform one of the most difficult roles for any actor to play, having to go from pauper teenager to a nation's sweetheart in a matter of moments. This she achieved with fine aplomb, flitting from a vulnerable child with dreams of stardom, through using sassiness to get what she wants, through to an adored style icon and woman of the people, all while singing and negotiating a fair bit of latin-American dancing, too.
She showed every inch of her 'star quality' in crowd-rousing renditions of Buenos Aires and A New Argentina, purred her way through I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You and brought the audience to a stunned silence with the moving and most famous song Don't Cry For Me Argentina and again in The Actress Hasn't Learned The Lines (You'd Like To Hear) and You Must Love Me by which point I was a blubbing mess.
Colonel Peron, who Eva seduces, marries and helps on his way to becoming president of Argentina, was played majestically by Dylan Cheasley and WODS stalwart Scott Riney was excellent as Magaldi, who seduces Eva and takes her to the bright lights of the city.
And WODS newcomer but no stranger to the stage, Stephanie Reeves, was also phenomenal in her brief role as Peron's mistress, giving a beautifully-moving rendition of Another Suitcase In Another Hall.
Huge credit must go to the ensemble who were all amazing and on top of their game, with perfect harmonies either chanted or sung in Spanish which must've taken hours and hours to perfect. And also to choreographer Carrie Buck for taking the action from sombre military marching to brilliantly-executed humorous routines and scenes with tangos and waltzes.
And mum would not forgive me for not giving a special shout out to Ben Payne, who not only is a fantastic dancer and performer but had to front up in a cold and very intimate theatre dressed only in white pants as one of Eva's discarded lovers, poor guy. You sir, are a consummate professional.
Mum and me thoroughly enjoyed the show and were singing the songs all the way home and I heartily recommend you either catch this or any future WODS productions.
Evita will be at the Blakehay Theatre, in Wadham Street, until Saturday (November 2) at 7.30pm, with a matinee performance on Saturday at 2.30pm.
Tickets, priced £17-18, are available on 01934 645493 or online at www.worleoperatic.co.uk/tickets