Evita (Youth Group Production) 

Wed 12th Nov 2014 to Sat 15th Nov 2014

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic musical. The show is based on the life of Argentine political leader Eva Peron who became the spiritual leader of the nation rising from nothing to become one of the most famous political figures in the country’s history. Evita tells her rise to fame through the eyes of the people, using an omniscient narrator to chart her journey. This production was named by NODA as 'Best Youth Production', 'Best Overall Production', 'Best Technical Achievement' (held jointly with SWMTC production of 'Fiddler on the Roof') and Florence Russell was named as 'Best Youth Performer' for her role as 'Eva Peron' in the same production.

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Noda Report

14th November 2014

Director - Matthew Chancellor

Musical Director - Debbie Turner

Choreographer - Tamsin Clarke-Holland

Report Author: Sue Hartwell, NODA East, District 7

Saffron Walden Musical Theatre Company's talented Youth Group always amaze me with their professionalism and sheer dedication to giving a superlative performance and this has yet again proved to be the case with their latest production. Following on from their success with Phantom Of The Opera last year, the group's production team had chosen another Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice collaboration, the evocative and controversial musical "Evita", which has also been released by The Really Useful Group for youth groups to perform.

When I chose Florence Russell to receive the NODA East District 7's 2012 Young Performer's Award for her performance as Annie, I had an inkling then that we would see this young 14 year old actress go on to greater things. Her poise and confidence in the role of Eva Peron was absolutely spell-binding and the quality and maturity of her singing well belied her age. With every musical number, Florence brought a sense of light and shade and emotion that many a mature singer would be envious of and her iconic "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" balcony scene number had the audience transfixed.

The eclectic mix of musical styles makes this musical one of the most challenging for both cast and orchestra. Ranging from the classical opera number "Requiem for Evita", rock anthem "Oh What A Circus", through soulful ballards "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You" and "Another Suitcase, Another Hall", to the rhythmic and latin-style "Buenos Aires" and "The Money Kept Rolling In", Debbie Turner as Musical Director masterfully controlled the well-balanced orchestra and ensured that they underscored the young vocalists with complete sensitivity throughout the performance.

Florence had the benefit of a wonderfully supportive cast, every last one of them giving their all to produce a phenomenally exciting and dramatic performance, with superbly creative choreography devised by Tamsin Clarke-Holland. Joel Cairns was convincing as Colonel Peron, showing both his ruthless quest for power by the removal of his rival generals in the musical chairs number "The Art Of The Possible" and compassion to good effect in his reflective solo "She Is A Diamond". Alex Holder was well-cast as Agustin Magaldi, the popular tango singer, who the young Eva persuades to take her to Buenos Aires to seek her fortune as an actress. For this youth production, the character of Che Guevara was replaced by a small ensemble of Narrators, each of them extremely confident and tuneful in their story-telling of Eva's extraordinary life from poverty and obscurity to notoriety and ultimate power as Argentina's first lady. I must also mention Imogen Chancellor who, for this performance as Peron's ousted Mistress, gave an emotionally charged and soulful rendering of "Another Suitcase, Another Hall" - pure delight.

The society's NODA Technical Award-winning duo, John Wigmore and David Hardy, had designed a starkly creative set, with movable staircases managed by members of the chorus, representing the various locations of the action, particularly effective in the Casa Rosada balcony scene and during the Rainbow Tour. With a nod to the original West End production, archive film footage and photographic and biographical images were projected onto a large central screen at the back of the stage. A subtle touch of colour was added in the representation of the Argentinian flag draped right across the proscenium arch. This was replicated in the auditorium, across the balcony, complete with a large photograph of Eva Peron. The set worked extremely well, with the technical crew spot on with their cues and lighting effects and all this was visually complimented by the colourful and authentic 1940-1950's style costumes and military uniforms sourced by Parma Jacobs and her team.

Producer Fiona Wilson Waterworth and Director Matthew Chancellor can be justifiably proud of this production and it was especially gratifying that our NODA East Councillor, Don McKay, was present at the performance to witness the wonderful work that is produced by this award-winning youth group. An amazing night!