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November 3 2019, Reviews The David Beach Competition

Evita

WODS Musical Theatre Company

The Blakehay Theatre

Weston Super Mare

Saturday 2nd November 2019

WODS have done it again. As a group they have a way of delivering an original slant to a production. Evita is not an easy show: The narrative of Eva Duarte’s journey from obscurity to world fame as the wife of Dictator Juan Peron amid the swirling chaos of a country in upheaval, infused with great music, takes some telling. Director Blair Ruddick’s take on the show appeared to give at least a ‘nod’ to the recent Jamie Lloyd production at Regents Park, paring back the grandeur of the original West End stage productions to deliver a show beautifully scaled to fit the relatively small space of the Blakehay whilst maintaining the drama and undoubted power of the Lloyd-Webber/Rice concept.

Blair’s clever adaptation of the stage to maximise its depth and to incorporate the orchestra worked very well indeed. And what an orchestra! Under the guidance of the exceptionally talented Musical Director Richard Lennox, the nine-piece were as tight as an otter’s pocket and as sharp as a winter’s morning, supporting the singing beautifully and driving the show onwards with balanced power and subtlety.

Singing was a most impressive feature of this production. One would expect quality from the principals in this level of production and, yes, they delivered but the Ensemble were outstanding. From the stunning Requiem through the excitement of Buenos Aires and A New Argentina to the sadness of the final numbers this Chorus gave power and rich harmony seldom seen outside the professional theatre. On top of which they danced! Carrie Buck’s choreography made clever use of a small stage to express the many moods of the crowd from the desperate Descamisados fighting with the army to the Latin clapping of Oh What a Circus to the sweeping majesty of A New Argentina: Some very hard work truly paying off.

The Principals then: The multi-talented Natasha T Green as the eponymous lead Evita herself has always impressed in the many, many roles I have enjoyed watching her perform- dance, act and knock-the-socks-off-any-song singing. Her valiant battle with a very nasty cold for this performance may have subdued a little of her customary on-stage energy but there remained many beautiful moments, particularly in her delightfully understated singing which will remain with me for a long while. Scott Riney gave us his Magaldi, revealing a very attractive baritone and a gentleness of delivery which suited the role to a ‘tee’. Nick Uttley playing Che, not as the oft-used Che Guevarra character but as the Everyman narrator, guiding us through Evita’s journey, was superb. His flawless singing carried every number and comment with clarity and conviction, his world-weariness and cynicism balanced expertly with his representation of the people’s love for Evita. Equally strong was the remarkable Dylan Cheasley as Peron. This was a masterful performance: strong, sinister and powerful. Dylan’s voice is a thing of beauty to hear and his High Flying Adored was astonishing. More of a cameo, The Mistress was played with a heart-rending frailty by Stephanie Reeves and her rendition of Another Suitcase is one of the best I have heard. A talented bunch!

Going out on a wet Saturday night in November (and missing Strictly!) might not be my immediate choice but I had a brilliant time watching this show and was delighted to be there. Was it perfect? Well, not quite: I am very, very familiar with the story and for me it flowed beautifully but I was aware of people sitting behind me who were a little baffled by the narrative and I wonder if it could have been a little clearer? Also although the quality of sound in productions at the Blakehay has steadily improved I struggled a little with the balance: the excellent band occasionally overpowered the vocals and Natasha’s clarity was a little muffled from time to time – I wonder if she could have been further forward in the ‘mix’? And the second act felt a tiny bit less powerful than the first (potentially due to this this being the fourth act of the day and the final act of the run). Having said this WODS’s production of Evita was a memorable one and I have belted out A New Argentina in the shower this morning – a horrible image for those who know me but testament to a great evening in the theatre.

 

Thanks for inviting me

 

Ian