As with all icons and even family members and friends, the truth is sometimes glossed over to paint a flattering picture and retain a halo over a cherished memory. This is so true of one of Argentina’s greatest ‘spiritual leaders of the nation’, Eva Peron. There is no denying she was a strong, formidable character and her rise to popularity amongst the descamisados (‘shirtless one’s’ or ordinary people) of Argentina was during a time when the will for ‘revolucion’ was at an all time high after the second World War.
Last night’s show opens with Eva’s death and Che Guevara as the orator singing one of the most famous songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’ s long-running (forty years!) show, Evita.
“Oh what a circus, oh what a show, Argentina has gone to town, over the death of an actress called Eva Peron….”
The show paints Eva, not only as a leader but as a floosy who was determined to rise to power at all costs but history painted her in several hues – one as a progressive feminist who pushed for women’s rights and established the Maria Eva Duarte de Peron Foundacion charity assisting the elderly, women and children. In other less favourable lights, her mother ran a brothel and Eva harboured Nazi fugitives and exploited her charitable foundation for her and her husband’s own ill-gotten gains.
Whatever the truth, some facts remain constant. She was born into poverty in a village outside Buenos Aires and her ambition to become an actress led her to radio and theatre for a decade before the country’s military regime seized power. Colonel Juan Peron, one of the influential army leaders at the time, rallied leading and popular figures at an independence day gala on July 9th 1944 to raise proceeds following an earthquake. It is the fateful day that Eva and Juan meet and Peron’s political career follows a rocky path from Minister of War to deposed leader to President where he leads the country for two terms (1946-55 and again in 1973-74).
All the while Eva, who now has the iconic peroxide ‘locks in a bun’ look, is there by his side, possibly as the best pr agent he could ever have imagined, gaining and regaining his popularity among the people during his arrest and following his release.
Returning to the role of Eva Perón is Madalena Alberto, a role she previously received critical acclaim for. Madalena is renowned for her roles in Les Miserábles, Cats and Piaf and more recent roles include A Christmas Carol, Pollyanna and Holby City! Out of the Holby spotlight, Madalena’s singing of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina and You Must Love Me are outstanding, show-stopping and very memorable.
Fresh from the recent West End production of Evita, leading Italian performer Gian Marco Schiaretti continues in the role of Che, a character who reflects the voice of the Argentine people and brings balance to the story of Eva’s rise to fame. Gian Marco most recently played the title role of Disney’s Tarzan and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. His role in Evita is strong – his singing has a commanding persona and his solid flow throughout the show is a tight thread.
Songs worth noting are Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, You Must Love Me, and Another Suitcase in Another Hall.
review by Susie Daniels
Evita will run at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre until Saturday May 19th