Evita as presented by Marian Choral Society
Updated: Dec 24, 2023
Evita as presented by Marian Choral Society
St. Jarlath's College, Tuam
31st Oct – 4th November 2023
Date of Adjudicated Performance: Friday 3rd November, 2023
Following a rambunctious production of Sister Act last year, it was good to see Marian Choral Society go in a different direction with the evocative story of Eva Perón this year, and while the content might have been very different, I’m delighted to say that the two shows had much in common in the standard of production and performance. As with last year, the chorus made a remarkably fine impact on the show with secure presentation and quite excellent vocal quality, and there was a strong and consistent front line of principals. From well-directed principals to effective use of the available stage space, director, Ronan Lardner, showed a good understanding of the narrative nature of the show, and in creating the right atmosphere for each scene. There were lovely comedic touches (often missing from Evita) with a nicely created character in Magaldi, and a very impressive and comical Goodnight and Thank You.
Lighting of the show was of a very good standard, marred only by moving heads that moved slightly slower than their intended target, leaving soloists occasionally in shadow, but their efficiency did improve as the night progressed. Otherwise, there was good use of colours to present some nice pictures on stage and to add atmosphere to many scenes. The set for the show was perhaps a tad cumbersome, given the restrictions of a tight stage, and could maybe have been simplified. The side box-flats took a bit of work and slowed down the action on occasions, but the design was imaginative. The revolving door section for Goodnight and Thank You was excellent, and the balcony was well used. Stage management, under Seán Callaghan, was a little labored for the bigger scene changes, but thankfully there were no major upsets. When the cast were directed to assist with the movement of props and furniture, everything ran smoothly.
Sound quality was generally good, even if for some of the solos the orchestra needed to be pulled back a tad, or the mics boosted a tad, but more often than not, the balance was very acceptable. The use of projections, both moving and still shots, was very good.
The musical quality of the show was of a very high standard, particularly from the chorus, who were meticulously rehearsed and performed with energy, precision and melodic excellence. An equally excellent orchestra, under Musical Director, Shane Farrell, gave a robust rendition of the score, with perfect tempi throughout, even though there were occasions, particularly during some of the more tender moments of the show, when they needed to be reined in a little.
Jay Molyneux’s choreography was at its most impressive during Buenos Aires and the Tango and Waltz numbers, but there was also fluent and well-devised movement and placing in the general crowd scenes, with The Rainbow Tour, A New Argentina and The Money Kept Rolling In all having good patterns and purpose. I felt that the point of The Art of The Possible got a little lost in the complexity of the constantly moving staircases, even though it was a refreshing departure from the norm.
The ladies chorus were delightfully hoity-toity in the execution of Perón’s Latest Flame and The Chorus Girl Hasn’t Learned, and while the military men perhaps needed to be slightly more precise in their military manoeuvres, they were, none-the-less, enthusiastic in their efforts.
In the central role of Eva Perón, Clíodhna McNelis gave an outstanding acting performance, filled with fiery passion, drive and determination and achieved through nuance and coquettish charm. This was an excellent interpretation of the character through its many stages of transition, and for one so young, there was great maturity in her delivery, particularly in her sickness and dying scenes. Vocally, she was very securely rehearsed and assured in all her numbers, even if on occasions her upper register seemed a little forced, but her sentiments were always perfectly expressed.
Sincerity was also the key to the success of Cian Forde in the role of Juan Peron, strong in presence and delivery and yet always vulnerable to the whims of Eva. His vocals were consistently good, and his voice was well used in allowing his emotions to seep through the lyrics of the songs. This was a well-balanced performance.
Keith Hanley gave a towering performance as the narrator, Che, gracing the stage with an assurance and swagger that entirely befitted his character. One always felt that his attitude to Eva was balanced between cold reality and a well-tempered admiration of her capabilities. Coupled with his excellent acting was a lyrical and expressive tenor voice that he used with versatility to realize the sentiments of each moment.
A relaxed charm with strong hints of his comedic abilities gave Niall Conway’s Magaldi more personality that one often sees in the portrayal of this character. His delivery of his vocals was excellent, and his stage presence a delight to see.
With few opportunities to impress, Alana Mullins gave a very fine rendition of Another Suitcase, strong in both her expression and her quality of tone.
There were several good performances (uncredited) from chorus members in cameo roles, and the children involved in Santa Evita and other scenes, were delightful.
Eva Perón was immaculately costumed, as should always be the case, given her passion for fashion. Costuming throughout the show was of a very high standard, with good contrast between the wealthy and the poor. There was good attention to the female hair-styles, with Eva’s wigs being appropriate and very well worn. The Make-up team did an efficient job, particularly with Eva looking noticeably unwell during her later scenes. Props, throughout, were very good, as was the stage dressing that added to the atmosphere of various scenes, most notably A New Argentina and The Rainbow Tour.
It was a pleasure and a privilege to attend yet another very entertaining and well-presented production from Marian Choral Society. Thank you for your hospitality, and for a most enjoyable night of enchanting Musical Theatre.
Peter Kennedy, Gilbert Adjudicator
Some photos kindly sent in by the society to accompany the review
Photography by Paul Kelly of Indigo Lighting