Little Theatre Company
Live theatre in the heart of Burton upon Trent
by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Performed: April 2015
Review by Ross Lowe - Down Stage Centre
18th October 1945. A historic date.
That was that date that in Junín, Argentina, actress María Eva Duarte married government official Colonel Juan Perón.
So here’s another one for you. 7th April 2015. That’s the date that Burton-upon-Trent’s LTC Youth Theatre Company first performed Evita to a stunned audience at the Brewhouse Arts Centre. It’s a date equally as worthy of recognition as, on this night of 34 stars (plus everyone involved backstage and on the production team) this group flew out of the traps as soon as the lights went down to give us a show that never dropped in pace and never failed to impress.
By closing your eyes and simply listening you’d be hard pushed to judge the age of the group, such was the maturity of the sound
Make no mistake, Evita is a tough show to attempt no matter what your age or ability. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s political and historical musical is founded on wonderful songs and gives the central characters and the gravity shift in Argentine history the due reverence that it deserves – a factor which places pressure on those who undertake the show to get it right. What LTC Youth did on their opening night was to not only get it right, but to smash the whole thing right out of the ball-park.
From the moment that the ridiculously talented ensemble launched into ‘Requiem’ the audience were entranced. The songs of Evita are both beautiful and challenging and here they were performed with class. Ryan Gardner as Che gave an early indication of the standard of performance that was to follow with a hugely impressive rendition of ‘Oh What a Circus’, staking a claim for David Essex’s crown (or his beret at least). Hot on his heels came the equally talented Oliver Last as the appealingly louche crooner Augustin Magaldi with ‘On This Night of A Thousand Stars’.
John Bowness’s direction and Katie Haywood’s choreography of this show were first rate, as was the precision and discipline with which it was all executed onstage. Not an entrance or exit was wasted, at no point did anyone try to steal the limelight, and at no point was anything over or under-played. The pitch was spot on – just as it was with the all the singing, under the stewardship of musical director Katie Hailstone. By closing your eyes and simply listening you’d be hard pushed to judge the age of the group, such was the maturity of the sound and the strength of the harmonies and solos.
Stand-out sequences included a well-executed bus journey and ‘The Art of The Possible’ – a macabre and symbolic game of musical chairs used to illustrate Juan Perón’s irresistible rise to power. Again, it was slick, stylised and sensational and it introduced us properly to Jack Dent’s hugely engrossing portrayal of the Argentine colonel – steely, emotionless, cold and with a sublime vocal talent to boot.
Grace and style
And then there was Eva herself. Wherever Katie Ireland went, we followed. This was a terrific performance in which Katie gave everything – conveying the innocence of her early days, her hopes and desires as she grew, the grace and style of an actress in demand and the tougher character and resolve of a successful woman in politics before her body gave succumbed to illness. Again, the maturity of her voice and the measured control of her performance were breath-taking and ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ was every bit as emotive as it should have been.
Add to all this Georga Ratcliffe’s beautifully delicate ‘Another Suitcase In Another Hall’, Emily Haywood’s touching solo in ‘Santa Evita’ and – again - every member of that flipping terrific ensemble and you have all the ingredients for a piece of musical theatre that deserved a rousing reception from the audience.
Needless to say, once they had dried their eyes, they duly obliged.
Oh what a show.
Images from this show
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