Evita (UK Tour), Grand Opera House, Belfast | Review


Evita (UK Tour)
Grand Opera House, Belfast 
Reviewed on Wednesday 1st August 2018 by Damien Murray 
★★★★

When the idea of a musical based on the life of Eva Peron was first suggested back in the 1970s, many people were dubious about its chances of success… fast forward to today and it has become a modern classic with major theatres like Belfast’s Grand Opera House playing host to an extended run of Bill Kenwright’s 40th Anniversary Touring production of the show. 

As last week marked the 66th anniversary of her untimely death from cancer at the age of 33, the show has not only been a success, but has already outlived the real Evita by quite a few years. 

A sung-through musical story of her short life, the show takes us from her humble beginnings through to a life of wealth and power, dubbed as the ‘spiritual chief of the nation’ by the Argentine people. 

From its dramatic opening with Eva’s funeral juxtaposed with Che’s angry and cynically mocking song, Oh What A Circus, and going full circle through her eventful life back to her lying in state, this must be one of Bill Kenwright’s best ever productions. 


Jointly directed by Kenwright and Bob Tomson, this excellent touring revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s relatively early musical about the former Argentine dictator’s wife – which, like Jesus Christ Superstar, originated as a concept album – may be slightly scaled down from the original… but, you would never realise it. 

For this was a classy staging boasting basic, practical, but opulent, settings in a well-dressed and extremely well-lit production, which also included some child performers for added realism. 

Strong tango rhythms encouraged fiery and passionate performances, especially in choreographed ensemble pieces like Buenos Aires as the hard-working ensemble brought the ideas of Choreographer, Bill Deamer – ranging from passion-filled tango to militaristic movement – to life. 

Thanks to Musical Director, Tim Whiting, and his 10-piece orchestra, Webber’s sung-through format threw up many memorable musical highlights, including: great vocal clarity from young Cristina Hoey as the teenage Mistress in Another Suitcase In Another Hall; and from Oscar Balmaseda as the nightclub tango singer, Magaldi, during On This Night Of A Thousand Stars, while the rousing chorus of A New Argentina also stood out, as did the young girl’s beautiful singing of Santa Evita; Che’s expressive interpretation of High Flying Adored and the ailing Eva’s heartfelt and moving rendition of You Must Love Me. 


Mike Sterling provided a commanding Peron, while Glenn Carter really impressed in the demanding role of the ever-present Che, the self-styled narrator of the story. 

Carter’s diction, clarity and, at times, almost patter-style of delivery were vital to this show, as – being sung-through – those new to the story or with any hearing difficulty needed such clarity to put everything in context, especially during songs like Oh What A Circus and High Flying Adored. 

In addition to her beautiful singing voice (particularly in the show-stopper, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina), The Voice finalist and musical theatre songstress, Lucy O’Byrne, turned in a very confident performance as the ambitious backstreet actress whose ascendancy was unstoppable, because she was so loved and adored by so many that she almost rose to the dizzy heights of sainthood. 

My only small criticism was that, as Eva Peron was enigmatic, manipulative and charismatic; I would have liked to have seen a little more charisma throughout, as it did take a little longer than usual to warm to the character of Eva. 


This may have been because O’Byrne was more operatic in style than some others I have come across in this role, although her display of humanity during You Must Love Me at a time of critical physical weakness was heart-breaking and probably the best and most moving ever, as was the touching death scene. 

All dressed and decorated in a rich tapestry of sumptuous sets, authentic costumes and wigs, and attractive, mood-inspiring lighting, this production was a visual treat with some beautiful theatrical pictures at the end of most songs. 

Forty years after its West-End premiere, this fast-moving production is a high standard revival of a passionate and powerful piece of musical theatre. 

Evita runs at the Grand Opera House, Belfast until 11th August before continuing it's tour.

photo credit: Keith Pattison

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