Created in 2014, Carpe Diem Emmie is a Midlands based Lifestyle, Theatre and Travel blog. Ran by Emmie, a 28 year old woman based in rural Leicestershire.

In the day Emmie works in a primary school where she is passionate about inclusion and mental health. In the evening she escapes to the cultural world.

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REVIEW | Evita, Duchess Theatre

Chatsworth Arts Centre, W Gate, Long Eaton, Nottingham NG10 1EF, UK

Kristian Thomas Company
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton
★★★ 1/2

Evita is one of the well-known musicals from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The lyricist Tim Rice had heard about Eva Perón from many headlines from his childhood and was immediately intrigued 'She’d come up from the lowest origins and was fantastically glamorous'. He researched Eva under his own steam and even travelled to Argentina to do some interviews, all whilst keeping a low profile. His initial plan for this musical was to 'tell the story from the point of view of Eva's hairdresser'. This all changed when Rice discovered that Che Guevara was from Argentina and was there when the Peróns were in operation. He thought that 'Che would be much more interesting than some unknown hairdresser. That way, I get two icons for the price of one'. 

Evita has had incredible success since it opened on Broadway in September 1979. It won an impressive seven 1980 Tony Awards including Best Book, Best Score and the Best Musical of the Year. Even a year later in 1981, the cast recording was rewarded a Grammy Award. Since then, Evita has been performed all over the world and most recently in London's West End between 2006-7. It is more known for the 1996 Hollywood film that starred Madonna and Antonio Banderas.

I headed to the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton to see Kristian Thomas Company, a local performance company perform the musical. 

Evita takes on retelling the historical story of Maria Eva Duarte de Peron, a poor Argentinian girl who grows up to become the First Lady of Argentina. An influential woman who is worshipped as seen as a saint by the poor and working class. Of course, it isn't all that easy and we see how Eva learns to use her feminine ways to hold power among a culture, and a political system ran by men. 

Having never seen this musical before the KTC are a stellar cast and know how to put on a fantastic show on such a small scale. Their company brings together professional working and aspiring performers, high-quality performers who do this on the side of their full-time occupation as well as their young company, a group of emerging and energetic individuals emerging through the professional ranks too.  The company is only in its third year but their standard of professionalism is to be admired. 

The production really draws you in from the beginning as we start at Eva's body lying in state and an overwhelming sense of grief and sadness. The vocals are spine-chilling and beautifully harmonised for this. 

Taking on the title role of Eva is Helen Perry and she's undeniably a perfect casting for it. Perry does a fantastic job at using her operatic tones in such a demanding musical that is largely sung. She really knows how to command the audience's attention and show a real balance for class and desirability that Eva's character carries. Her rendition of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" is flawless, particularly for such a challenging song. There's a real quality to her performance and you couldn't keep your eyes off her whenever she was on the stage. 

Chris Grantham plays the role of Juan Peron, the president of Argentina. He is an excellent actor who captivates Peron's weaknesses and sensitivity to Eva in a great manner. You really saw how Eva had him in the palm of her hands and the overwhelming power she had over a powerful man like Juan. 

Playing Che Guevera, a political activist and narrator of the show is Tom Simpson. A fantastic portrayal of the impulsive, jealous and manipulative character as well as having an accomplished voice for rock opera. Simpson masterfully creates his character on the physicality and facial expressions needed for the smugness that Che Guevera portrays. His narration really helps move the storyline along, particularly if you are a newbie to the musical. He also helps to draw attention to the more challenging times for Eva.

This production of Evita had some really carefully modernistic elements intertwined into it. The slight use of slow motion was really effective and this isn't taking it away from the pace in which the story is told at all. A fabulous job from Alysha Gomes who clearly knows how to create a more "traditional" musical to life. Kristian Cunningham does an excellent job with the choreography in this show. Cunningham uses his skilled performers to give the musical numbers vibrancy and all of the choreography is particularly tight and well rehearsed. The Buenos Aires choreography was a particular highlight for me! 

I absolutely loved what the company have created with Evita, it kept me entertained throughout and I definitely think I'll be watching the 1996 film in no time. The only downside to the musical was that at times the music drowned out some of the singing, meaning it was hard to hear the lyrics but it didn't distract me from enjoying such a wonderful musical.  

Evita is performing at the Duchess Theatre until Saturday 27 April. All tickets are sold out but do check with the theatre for any cancellations. 


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