BWW Review: EVITA, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
It's official. Regent's Park Open Air Theatre has found its niche, in hosting productions that are inventive and bold reimaginings of well-established works. We had Jesus Christ Superstar, Little Shop of Horrors...and now we have Jamie Lloyd's Evita, which dazzles with an interpretation that is stylistically groundbreaking.
Speaking of "bold", one rarely encounters a performance as unapologetic as Samantha Pauly's in the titular role of Eva Perón. Ruthless and ambitious to the end, Pauly's Eva storms her way into the hearts (and beds) of as many influential men as possible, eventually clawing her way to the ultimate prize - becoming the First Lady of Argentina.
This scrappy and determined portrayal of Eva packs a punch, and Pauly is undeniably a force of nature. There is a sense of vulnerability lacking in this portrayal, even in Eva's her darkest hours, which is clearly intentional, but there's a danger that this lack of emotional range will disconnect the audience from Eva's plight.
Pauly's chemistry with the brilliant Trent Saunders as Che is natural and engaging and fast becomes the most interesting relationship to watch evolve. Saunders brings a scene-stealing, sarcastic swagger to Che, and excels in his bigger numbers. The role of Juan Perón takes a backseat, allowing Eva to dominate, and Ektor Rivera turns in an understated performance with pleasing vocals that don't have the opportunity to really take flight.
Fabian Aloise's signature style is all over this production, with slick and vibrant choreography that works at is best when it leans into the sumptuous Latin flavours in the score. This production is all about movement, and the ensemble never stop, handling complex choreography on a tricky stage set with boundless energy and flair. Whether you're a fan of lengthy dance breaks or not, there's no doubting that the skills of this ensemble deserve this lengthy showcase.
With a stripped-back set by Soutra Gilmour, and lighting design by Jon Clark, the production values don't disappoint, with an imaginative use of colour and light filling the air like an intoxicating drug. Many of the visual techniques used to move the narrative along are high-concept, and are as impactful and sophisticated as any traditional set-pieces ever could be. Together, Gilmour, Clark and Nick Lidster on sound design have created an immersive experience that is utterly sublime.
Evita has surprises exploding from around every corner, created by visionaries, and powered by a cast of uninhibited talent - who could ask for more than that?
Photo credit: Marc Brenner