Bristol Hippodrome

Evita October 2013

In the very opening minutes of Evita all is seemingly given away when the audience hears an announcement in Spanish of the death of the heroine.

But this isn't a spoiler alert as the rags to riches story of a poor South American girl unfolds in music and movement beautifully against a backdrop of revolutionary politics.

The rise and fall of Evita Peron is told with little (or no) dialogue as the plot revolves around the hit song Don't Cry For Me Argentina and is played out on stage with pathos and patriotism.

The first night at the Bristol Hippodrome on Monday starred understudies Hannah Grover as Eva and Joe Maxwell as her husband Juan Perón with pop singer Marti Pellow as the narrator and political commentator Che Guevara.

Mr Pellow is great as the unsentimental and sometimes crass observer of a political power game who guides the audience in song through the more vulnerable moments of Eva's demise.

His solo at the beginning of the second half being reminiscent of his Wet, Wet, Wet hits.

Hannah and Joe stepped up from the ensemble for the night as the main characters are programmed to be played by seasoned performers Madalena Alberto and Mark Heenehan.

Hannah portrayal of a pushy teenager to a disease-wracked first lady is brilliant although she did have to sing heartily in the hospital scene and Joe plays a military man with presidential aspirations driven by his ambitious wife with aplomb.

With the sounds of rock, pop, classic and choral music and simple country folk and soldiers as bit players this is great theatre from the masters – Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

It follows Eva’s journey from humble beginnings through to extraordinary wealth, power and iconic status which ultimately lead her to be heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’ by the Argentine people.

From the balustrades and flags to the foot-tapping tango dancing and designer finery draped in fur this is dramatic theatre at its best and received a well-deserved standing ovation from enthusiastic theatre-goers.

History hasn't quite made up its mind whether to record Eva and Juan Perón as good or bad rulers but this musical gives some insight into where ambition can get you.

For one talented little girl from the Bristol School of Performing Arts the show gave the opportunity to 

stand centre stage for a wonderful rendition of Santa Evita.

Nailsea Town Council chairman Clare Hunt was among the first night audience.

She said: "This show is well-worth seeing.

"It is strange that knowing all the songs so well I have never seen it before.

"The music was very cleverly done and accompanied the vocals perfectly."

Evita has more than 20 major awards to its credit including the Oscar winning film version starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas.

Its iconic songs also include On This Night Of A Thousand Stars, You Must Love Me, and Another Suitcase In Another Hall.

Carol Deacon