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Evita (Cradley Heath Amateur Operatic Society)

Let’s hear it for the CHAOS Tour, well it might not be a tour but, it probably could easily grace other venues and in (almost) the words of the song, it’s being an incredible success at least that is my view based on this performance. Let’s be clear that Evita needs some considerable on stage presence and craft to be successful and inspiring, something it absolutely should aspire to be and that doesn’t come without some innate skill from the whole team behind the production and some hard graft in the rehearsal room.

Steve Humpherson (Director), Richard Lathbury-Howell (Assistant Director/Choreographer) and Chris Handley (Musical Director) have created something both inspiring and successful if the response from the audience is anything to go by, a delightfully smouldering piece of musical theatre that tells the story of Eva Peron through all the good and bad of her life and the impact she has on those around her.

Starring as Eva, Liz Compton powers her way through song after song and an array of emotions (as well as costumes), somewhat riding roughshod over the men in her life to achieve her aims of success whilst constantly being taunted by Paul Gardner in the narrator role of Che Guevara, a towering portrayal that is the glue that binds the whole piece together, appearing regularly to keep things on track and state the obvious that may not be as palatable as the storyline would like to suggest.

Chris Psaras is an enigmatic and emotional Juan Peron somewhat seduced by Eva into pursuing power and glory a little outside of his normal sphere and J. Paul Murdock oozes charisma as Augustin Magaldi, Eva’s first male stepping stone to the top. Playing Peron’s Mistress pre-Eva is Jennie Wall, it’s a strange part, one scene, one iconic song and if you don’t make impact nobody even remembers who you were, fortunately Jennie picks this one up and proceeds to ‘smack it out of the park’ with a memorable rendition of ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’.

What makes this production so evocative is the air of tense Latin American heat created by the ensemble cast, whether it’s the Dancers in the ‘Buenos Aires’ number or the Generals in ‘The Art of the Possible’ there is always that nervous feeling that keeps you on the edge of your seat and keen to see the next development.

I should also say that lighting (in the capable hands of Paul Finch) and the set (under the ever reliable control of Peter Hazelwood and his team) also play a part in building that atmosphere.

This is a premiere for the Dudley Area of a well known piece of Musical Theatre and the bar has been set at more ‘pole vault’ than ‘high jump’ level for the rest to aim at. Suffice to say that things will reach a pretty pass if you don’t buy a ticket and see this production which runs until 16th November 2019.

Tim Hodge, Musical Geek

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