“She didn’t say much, but she said it loud.” So sings Che, observing the rise of Eva Peron. This scathing comment could apply to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1978 musical, which, even in this energetic revival, is oddly thin and uninvolving. The potted plot sees some bint marry a dodgy politician, get a kick out of being loved by the voting poor, then die of cancer. We’re given few clues to why we should care.
Tim Rice’s masterstroke as librettist was the Che character: pre-empting our criticism of Evita’s motivations, which are shallow to the point of evaporating altogether. In that role, Trent Saunders is like a cross between John the Baptist and Russell Brand. His charisma is in short supply elsewhere, although Samantha Pauly is a game and gamine Evita. The pyrotechnics distract somewhat from the story’s hollowness. But even the most inventive take struggles with a musical with only two good songs. The first, Another Suitcase in Another Hall, is immaterial to the plot; the second is frankly baffling. Why, on the eve of her husband’s election win, would Evita tell the country not to cry for her?