Did the years melt away for songstress Elaine Paige when she attended last night’s triumphant return of Evita to London’s West End?
It’s been a show-stopping 36 years since the chanteuse took musical theatre by storm with the show’s fabled Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.
And last night she was there again – this time in the star-studded audience of the Dominion Theatre, in Tottenham Court Road – to see the magnificent Portuguese singer Madalena Alberto take a prolonged standing ovation.
Ms Paige, the original Evita in the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, smiled radiantly throughout though it must have felt like déjà vu watching the magical Ms Alberto as Argentina’s leading lady.
The cavernous auditorium proved the perfect stage for Bill Kenwright’s lavish production which has been touring the UK before moving into the revamped Dominion for a limited run.
Marti Pellow is now entrenched in the role of Che and, though far too old to be the upstart revolutionary, acquits himself well, prowling around the stage acting as narrator.
The only time he lets himself down is during his few spoken words of dialogue which have a distinct Scots brogue.
But the production hasn’t changed much since its original inception, only the names rotate in the cast list.
Former Phantom Matthew Cammelle sings Peron beautifully but has little chance to inject any life into the character.
While Jesus Christ Superstar himself, Ben Forster, blesses Evita with his presence. It’s shameful that we don’t see more of this talented singer.
But that’s the nature of Evita. It’s packed with wonderful performances and memorable moments.
Forster plays Evita’s first lover, Augustin Magaldi, and has a couple of key songs at the beginning before being dispatched.
With slicked back hair and Latin sideburns he makes a convincing, if slightly sleazy, lounge singer who charms with On This Night Of A Thousand Stars.
It’s a charismatic, if brief, appearance but pure delight to hear his powerful voice.
Similarly Sarah McNicholas, as Peron’s former mistress, stays on stage long enough to wow the audience with a splendid rendition of Another Suitcase In Another Hall before being given her marching orders.
Both pop up in the ensemble but you can’t help feeling that it’s a waste of their superb vocal talents.
This is very much Alberto’s show. The tiny dynamo with a huge voice begins as Maria Eva Duarte, an “actress”, sleeping her way through the echelons of power before landing the big fish, General Juan Peron, head of the military junta in Argentina.
To the surprise of everyone who knows her, and many who don’t, she gives the performance of a lifetime in her supporting role, turning Peron from aloof military dictator to saviour of the people.
She is revered by the peasants and almost beatified before shocking the country by dying.
The score is one of the finest ever written – Oh What A Circus, Buenos Aires, Another Suitcase and the sensational Don’t Cry For Me Argentina – arguably Rice and Lloyd Webber at their finest.
The audience sat rapt as the diminutive Alberto appeared on the balcony to serenade her people. It still has the power to give me goosebumps.
Evita is an iconic musical with huge demands asked of its leading lady and Madalena Alberto more than steps up to the mark.
The show itself hasn’t lost any of its impact since it first opened in 1978 and still packs a powerful punch.