Evita – Open Air Theatre, Regents Park  

Beware spoiling a good show with too many pyrotechnics. By the end of this revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1978 piece I was hoping I wouldn’t have to see another firework, hear another celebratory explosion or smell another blast of stage smoke for a very long time.

Jamie Lloyd’s take on Eva Peron’s tragic tale opens dramatically with Samantha Pauly quietly appearing at the bottom of Soutra Gilmour’s tiered set. Once the audience has silenced, she crawls up towards Trent Saunders as Che. Then there’s an explosion of noise, colour and sensation and, no, of course that’s not a metaphor.

Pauly is a fine Eva, with a terrifically wide singing and acting range from full belt to intimate and from flamboyantly public to privately anguished or manipulative. It’s a performance of impressive depth delivered with fine intonation and lots of resonance. Her rendering of the last reprise of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina which she sings through tears with a catch in her voice is pretty riveting.

Full marks to Trent Saunders too – the everyman commentator and narrator who is rarely off stage and develops into Eva’s inner voice. He gets the right balance between insouciance and sincerity and makes every single one of Tim Rice’s splendid words clear. The story telling here couldn’t be more direct and accessible.

Ektor Rivera is convincing as Peron and there are some nice cameos by children. Best of all, though, is the choreography (by Fabian Aloise) which pounds along arrestingly in the hands (and feet) of a very fine ensemble company who bring the sort of energy and vibrance which lifts a show like this off the ground, often literally.

I also liked the positioning of the eighteen-piece orchestra visibly above the stage and making a first-class sound under the baton of musical director, Alan Williams.