REVIEW: Evita (Palace Theatre, Manchester)

 © Keith Pattison
© Keith Pattison
Guest REviewer: Karen Clough
Upstaged Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Evita tells the story of Eva Peron, who grew up in poverty in Argentina and found fame and adoration as an actress. She used her notoriety to highlight the struggles of less fortunate Argentinians, married a powerful military figure and went on to lead beside him as first lady when he was made President.

It’s suggested this role served her own need for love and adoration as much as it served the people’s need for hope and change. The significance of Eva’s appearance and her yearning for affection and validation from the people are themes which re-emerge throughout the show.

Set against the surrounding political unrest in Argentina in the 1940s-50s, many topics, such as sexism, objectification of women, social division and corruption are touched upon, and no doubt hold current relevance for a modern audience. Eva knows too well that her physical appeal can be used as a vehicle, to propel herself into a position of influence, as the face and heart of her country. 

Visually, this is a sophisticated production. The combined efforts of the set design (Matthew Wright), wardrobe team (Caroline Hannam, Caroline Heppell, Katie Bell, Billie Sanger, Hannah Forbes), choreographers (Bill Deamer, Kylie Anne Cruickshanks), orchestra (David Cullen) and lighting design (Tim Oliver, Mark Howett), ensure the audience are treated to a real ‘show’ experience. Under Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright‘s direction, everyone and everything looks and sounds the part for a high-end stage musical.

As would be expected from a Lloyd -Webber & Rice production, the musical numbers keep on coming – 28 in total. If you struggle to stay with back-to-back singing, bear with it in the first half, it’s quite full-on. Helpfully, narration by Che (Gian Marco Schiaretti) joins things up very nicely. Often Eva’s biggest critic, he mingles smoothly between scenes and invites us to look beneath her polished, altruistic exterior. 

Madalena Alberto is a captivating and expressive Eva Peron, from ambitious teenager to passionate leader through to Eva’s ultimate frailty. Jeremy Secomb is strong as her militarised husband, Juan Peron. Their duet ‘You Must Love Me’ is a touching moment, where Secomb lets the more vulnerable side of the President show through.

‘Rainbow High’ provides a great example of the skilful choreography and visual appeal of the show. Alberto holds the audience in goose-bumped silence during her powerful and glamorous balcony performance of Evita hit, ‘Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina’.

This is a good, well put together and entertaining Evita with convincing performances which do not disappoint. 

-Karen Clough

Evita continues to tour the UK through 2018. Further tour dates can be found here.

Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (The Palace Theatre, Manchester)
Guest Reviewer: Karen Clough
Upstaged Rating: 

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, one of the first productions borne of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice partnership in the 1970s, is making as colourful an appearance as you might expect at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.

The story is adapted from the Bible’s book of Genesis, in which Joseph is one of 12 sons of Jacob. Joseph, a dreamer, attracts jealousy and contempt from his brothers, who fear that their father favours him and that the gift of his coat of many colours symbolises this. When Joseph dreams he is destined to rule them, they cannot risk that it may be prophetic, so fake his death and sell him as a slave, in the hope he’ll never be seen again.

Following in the footsteps of likeable household-name ‘Josephs’ spanning four decades, Joe McElderry (of X-Factor) has stepped into Joseph’s Dreamcoat and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it.

After a leisurely start, the large and enthusiastic cast and choir (Stagecoach Chester and Wirral choir) were revealed on a stage filled with glitz, colour and bold lighting (Sean Cavanagh, Nick Richings). The impressively co-ordinated choir brushed off a curtain malfunction with true ‘show must go on’ professionalism.

The entire script is sung, the story joined up by a vibrant and cheery-voiced narrator, Trina Hill. Within a bizarre show, the narrator helpfully keeps the audience in the loop of the story amidst a buzzing, constantly moving and singing stage crowd (Bill Kenwright, Henry Metcalfe). At times this was overwhelming, McElderry’s presence lost in the mayhem of comic inflatable sheep, Elvis (Ben James-Ellis), Egyptians, a golden motorcycle, curious handmaiden (Anna Campkin, Sallie-Beth Lawless, Gemma Pipe) wardrobe choices, Joseph’s range of skirts and, not forgetting, The Coat (Phil Murphy). McElderry did well to recover command of the stage and audience attention as the lead and gave undeniably strong renditions of the show’s best-known hits, ‘Close Every Door to Me’ and the finale ‘Any Dream Will Do’.

This is a chaotic, cheery and at times disorienting whirlwind of a show, performed by a cast who seemed to fully recognise and laugh along at the boldness and absurdity threaded through it. The youngest and oldest in the audience showed their appreciation the most. Take your children or your grandmother – they’ll be dancing in the aisle, or sitting with their hands high and their heads swaying by the end.

-Karen Clough

REVIEW – Twelve Angry Men (The Lowry)

© 2015 Pamela Raith
© 2015 Pamela Raith
Date: 23 march 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Twelve Angry Men opened at The Lowry last night following its record breaking run at the Garrick Theatre in the West End. Presented by Bill Kenwright, this powerful new production sees Reginald Rose‘s gripping courtroom drama and three-time Academy Award nominated screenplay, including best picture, suited perfectly for the stage.

It’s late summer in 1954 and the scene is a New York City courthouse, a jury of twelve men has murder on their minds as they decide the fate of a young delinquent accused of killing his father. If found guilty the boy faces the death penalty. At first the trial appears to be an open and shut case, with a unanimous verdict of guilty, but there is one juror who believes the case isn’t as straightforward as it first appears to be.

Olivier Award Winner, Tony Award Winner, Variety Award Winner and Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Tom Conti plays Juror 8, an architect, who believes it could be possible that the boy did not kill his father. The verdict of the case becomes a huge dilemma as tensions, prejudices and discriminations, from each of the jurors, towards the accused are laid bare and thrashed out.

© 2015 Anton Belmonté
© 2015 Anton Belmonté

Under the direction of Christopher Haydon, the whole play works perfectly in the one setting of the jury room, there are no scene changes and the walls of the jurors room become claustrophobic as the tension builds throughout. The thunderstorms and stifling summer weather transfer well into the jury room. Michael Pavelka‘s set design sees the rain pouring down the windows to the sound of thunder- it’s all very reflective of the pressures and anger of the twelve jurors confined to the room.

None of the jurors are known by their names instead they are referred to as a number, although, there is some reference made to their occupations. It is hard to pick out any stand-out performance in this show as it is extremely well cast with many strong performances, Tom Conti‘s performance as juror 8 is outstanding.

The production did start half an hour later than planned on its opening night, because of technical problems, however this did not detract from the show in the slightest. Twelve Angry Men is an edge of your seat courtroom drama that was well worth the wait, managing to keep the audience captivated from start to finish.

-Kristy Stott

Twelve Angry Men is at The Lowry until Saturday 28 March 2016.