Tag Archives: Fabian Aloise

"Evita" at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

This production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice classic must surely be the musical revival of the year. Recruiting director Jamie Lloyd has resulted in the biggest ever box-office success for Timothy Sheader’s open-air venue.

Lloyd’s irreverent streak suits early Rice/Lloyd Webber surprisingly well. It’s useful to remember that Evita started out as a concept album – free from the constraints of staging. Lloyd presents a stripped back version, akin to a concert, where the paraphernalia of politics relies on Soutra Gilmour’s costume design along with balloons, cheerleaders and confetti cannons galore. There isn’t much sense of place or period – instead we get a naked examination of power that feels it could be set any time or place… including now.

While ostensibly a biography of Eva Perón, néeDuarte, the controversial First Lady of Argentina between 1946 and 1952, Evita is really the story of two people – or should that be two approaches to government? The titular lead’s relationship with the show’s narrator, Che Guevara, is symbiotic as much as adversarial and Lloyd brings this out fearlessly. There’s a creepy scene suggesting a ménage with President Perón and the characters are made to share physical discomfort. At other moments, their intimacy suggests a twinning and is heartfelt. The duo proves fascinating.

Samantha Pauly as Eva Perón and Trent Saunders as Che in 'Evita' at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Samantha Pauly as Eva Perón and Trent Saunders as Che

Lloyd’s appreciation of Evita and Che is brought out wonderfully by his leads Samantha Pauly and Trent Saunders. Saunders is a magnetic presence who commands the stage; never mind the character, you could have him on a poster quite easily. With Pauly, at first, freshness is the key; she presents a young girl who is quick to laugh, even giggle. It’s only when the middle-classes are mentioned that Eva gets mad, frightening, in fact. She’s a political animal, which highlights the misogyny she experiences to great effect. As her health declines, Eva’s even angry with God. The contrast, if this isn’t insulting shorthand, is that Che is Rock while Eva is inspired by Pop; both are stars but the differences raise interesting questions. You may have heard the roles sung with more nuance, maybe with more beauty, but these are intelligent performances delivering Lloyd’s requirements.

The show’s dream sequence (the Waltz for Eva and Che) has everyone at their very best – it is amazing theatre. While Che is beaten, tarred and feathered with paint and confetti, Evita narrates her illness as under her control – “the choice was mine and mine completely”. Recall that Lloyd Webber and Rice’s previous work was Jesus Christ Superstar and the mind starts to boggle. Note that Che strips himself, while Eva’s saintly status has been played with all along. Lloyd brings out messianic tones of political cults with devastating force.

Samantha Pauly as Eva Perón and Company in 'Evita' at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Samantha Pauly as Eva Perón and Company

In reminding us how political a story Evita is, Lloyd focuses on protest. Filling the production with menace raises questions about populist regimes that are regrettably pertinent. Lloyd’s greatest ally is choreographer Fabian Aloise, who should surely be looking forward to awards season given his fantastic work here. A crack ensemble of dancers, integral to the action, power the show. Performing as the aristocracy and military one moment and then the descamisados the next, they fight for and against Evita with the most exquisite movements. Aloise deserves full praise for contributing to Lloyd’s astounding vision.

Until 21 September 2019

www.openairtheatre.com

Photos by Marc Brenner

“The Rink” at the Southwark Playhouse

While any show from John Kander and Fred Ebb should earn a crowd, the draw for Adam Lenson’s revival of their 1984 musical is the casting of Caroline O’Connor. ‘Direct from Broadway’, as they say, Anglo-Aussie O’Connor is the real deal: a powerful voice, great acting skills and incredible stage presence. Trust me, don’t miss her.

Both music and lyrics for the show hold their own against more famous works such as Chicago or Cabaret. The plot is simpler – a mother and daughter, Anna and Angel, fighting over the family business of a boardwalk roller-skating hall – wonderfully condensed in Terrence McNally’s book. As the action goes back and forth in time, the estranged women catch up on each other’s lives and revisit their shared history, seeing events from each other’s perspective. The skill in song-writing is astounding: take Angel’s All The Children In A Row, which narrates the search for her father, a death, a birth and hippiedom in one number. Big themes and psychological insight are present and satisfying throughout, covering love, loss and even economics.

Lenson shows admirable confidence in the show’s strengths, never overstating its melancholy overtones and allowing the drama to unfold with a careful eye on nostalgia. The production deserves a bigger home, but the staging and Fabian Aloise’s choreography impress… especially when the roller-skates arrive!

O’Connor is more than capable of carrying the show – she could probably hoist a great deal more. But it should be stressed that she doesn’t have to as a capable team backs her up at every moment. There’s strong work from Stewart Clarke as her husband and Ben Redfern as the childhood sweetheart who waits around to marry her. Co-star Gemma Sutton makes the most of some wonderful numbers and never shies away from her role’s less loveable characteristics. She convinces as a young child, rebellious teenage and angry adult, retaining an equal vulnerability throughout. The Rink is a show full of thrills, emotional and intellectual, and the chance to see a double act this good means you should really get your skates on to see it.

Until 23 June 2018

www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

Photo by Darren Bell