Arena's interpretation captures the complexity of Evita itself, with its mix of passion, grand ambition and manipulation.
Much of our image of Peron today, and its entry into pop culture, comes from this milestone musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice.
Peron was born in the countryside and became the first woman of Argentina. On the way, she exchanged her homeland in Buenos Aires and her tango singer-lover for more luxurious models, until she met her ambitious match in future President Juan Peron.
In this 40-year restoration of Hal Prince's original production, the hatred of women, sexism and condescending contempt by the powerful forces against our heroine take the breath away. Not in the last place because part of the abuse seems as current as that which is being excreted by social media roles. Rice & # 39; s lyrics still take a hit.
Was she a woman in the making or making a president? This musical offers room for both interpretations and even a bob-every-way. She was worshiped by the poor, but despised by the elite. She defended workers and women's rights, but perhaps had her hand in the throat when her husband's regime became increasingly dictatorial.
While the power of Evita fails – she died of cancer at 33 – the desire of Arena You have to love me, gives a feeling that her relationship with Peron is based on more than just convenience. Written for the film version of 1996 with Madonna in the lead, and now included in the stage musical, it helps to complete her character.
The forces on the scene against Evita are a joy to watch, the champagne-swilling aristocracy and the blue-clad soldiers walking around like malicious nutcrackers. Indeed, the ensemble figures are among the strengths of the musical, and the choreography of Larry Fuller remains convincing.
In the first act Alexis van Maanen delivers, as Peron's teenage girl sent out by Evita, a heartbreaking feeling Another suitcase in another hall. Van Maanen is a young talent to watch.
Michael Falzon brings pathos to the discarded tango singer Magaldi
With his rich, powerful baritone, Paulo Szot is a demanding Peron. As physically towering when Arena is small, they create a dynamic duo.
Kurt Kansley is a charismatic Che. In combat fatigue and black beret he is modeled after the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara (even if the real Che had provoked the revolution somewhere else). He is fit in with the action, partly narrator, partly Greek refrain and partly cynical Jeremiah.
This is one of Lloyd Webber's most diverse scores, based on Latin rhythms, military marches and waltzes. This and his anthemic best-known song, used as a leitmotif, are played with tempo and subtlety under Guy Simpson's musical direction.
With a staging using real Perons images, this co-production by Opera Australia-John Frost is perhaps less striking than the mega-musicals that came in the wake. But it is a classic show that puts performance at the center and lets the audience decide what to do with this woman who sows divisions.
Joyce Morgan is theater critic for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former art editor and author of the SMH and also author.