JOHANNESBURG – “Don’t cry for me Argentina”, one of the most famous lines from a stage musical, is ringing out in Joburg.
Evita, one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous and beloved works, has opened at the Teatro at Monte Casino.
It is not the first time the show has graced South Africa stages. But this current production is Evita like you have never seen it before.
A few years ago, the show was staged at the much smaller Pieter Toerien Theatre. The production was wonderful considering the limited resources.
But now, theatre lovers will see the musical as it is meant to.
The set is gorgeous. The gauze hanging down the front is a powerful painting of former Argentine president, Juan Perón and military leaders standing on a heap of bodies.
The musical tells the story of Eva “Evita” Duarte, the actress who married Perón. She was both beloved and scorned and the musical explores this duality of her legacy.
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British actress Emma Kingston, who was personally chosen by Lloyd Webber to play the role of Evita, is mesmerising, with an unparalleled stage presence and a powerful voice that has extraordinary range. She displays remarkable emotion as she implores “her people” to worship her. “You must love me” she pleads, commands. And so they did, with Eva eventually being labelled “Santa Evita” (Saint Evita) by the time she died of cancer at the age of 33.
South Africa’s theatre virtuoso, Jonathan Roxmouth is Argentina's revolutionary, Che Guevara, who is the narrator. As always, Roxmouth plays the role with aplomb, actualising the anger of the people following allegations that money from Eva's charitable foundation may have been siphoned off, but also the adoration, love and hope of Argentinians who believed the Peróns' promises that they would bring change and uplift the poor.
Robert Finlayson, who played Che in a previous production of Evita, returns to the stage to take up the role of Juan.
The set design includes documentary footage of Eva, of the political turmoil and her "circus"-like funeral, screened on a backdrop, lending authority and emotion to the story.
With a live orchestra to bring the award-winning songs to life, Evita is a breathtaking, gripping and beautiful production.
Evita is on stage at the Teatro at Monte Casino until November 26, after which it will move to Cape Town’s Artscape Opera from December 1.
FILE: Emma Kingston as Evita, who became a powerful force within pro-Peron unions as well as a figurehead for women's rights. CREDIT: Christiaan Kotze
FILE: Jonathan Roxmouth (centre) as Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara, the narrator who questions the 'sainthood' bestowed on Eva Perón. CREDIT: Christiaan Kotze
FILE: Robert Finlayson stars as former Argentinian President Juan Perón. CREDIT: Christiaan Kotze
FILE: "Don't cry for me Argentina": Emma Kingston delivers a powerful, moving and unforgettable performance as Evita. CREDIT: Christiaan Kotze
FILE: Documentary footage screened on a backdrop gives lends the show an air of authenticity. CREDIT: Christiaan Kotze