Entertainment Views Interviews: Star of Evita, Lucy O’Byrne

Musical Theatre Star, Lucy O’Byrne first appeared on my radar when she appeared on The Voice in 2015 and made it to the final under the mentorship of renowned coach Will.i.am. I’ve watched her as Maria in The Sound of Music and now she’s setting the stage alight as Eva Peron in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic ‘Evita’. I saw the show in Malvern and in my humble opinion, O’Byrne is giving Elaine Paige a run for her money. I chatted to Lucy about the show, the challenges of such an iconic role and her favourite musical numbers in the score.

Thank for chatting to Entertainment Views, Lucy – may I congratulate you on an amazing performance as Eva. First of all, how familiar were you with Evita before you took the role? 

I played the role in college, so I learned it then and I grew up listening to the soundtrack with my dad singing along to a lot of the songs, it was like the soundtrack of my childhood. I remember seeing the movie, although I wasn’t allowed to see it when it first came out, I wasn’t old enough to watch it at the cinema so I remember watching it later on video when my parents bought it. It just has such fantastic music. It has four of my favourite songs in it.

What are your four favourite songs? 

‘High Flying Adored’, ‘You Must Love Me’, ‘The Lament’ and ‘Rainbow High’.

My favourite song from the show is Rainbow High…

Yes it’s a lot of fun to perform, Bill Deamer’s staging and choreography makes it so much fun. It’s a bit of a power trip in a weird way, just listening to it gives you an empowered feeling because it’s Eva at her strongest. That song is her saying “I know I’m this good just watch me”.

What do you feel are the challenges of the role?

It’s relentless from the moment you walk on the stage until the very end, I pretty much sing everything in the show, I’m in every number. The show spans about eighteen years and it’s the journey she goes on all the way from her as a teenager to her dying at the end, along the way you see her at the height of her power – the character has incredible energy all the way through which she holds onto even at the end. It’s quite emotionally, physically and mentally draining and there are times for example during a warm up for a matinee where you think “I’m not going to get through this” then you get to the number ‘Buenos Aires’ and the energy surrounds you.

What other roles would you like to play in the future? 

There’s so many, I’ve been incredibly lucky so far, I’ve ticked off three of my bucket list roles in quite a short space of time. I’ve got a long, long list that I’m working away at.

I first saw you when you appeared on The Voice, did you always feel that a theatrical path would be the one for you or did you have something else in mind?

No, I always had theatre in mind, my family are all involved in theatre my dad is an actor and singer, he’s now a musical director. My mum was an actor and dancer and she now has her own stage school. We grew up around it, it was never really a choice that I remember making. My dad said to me “get a real job” but I think we all knew which way it was going to go!

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come and see the show?

I think it’s worth a watch, I’ve always enjoyed watching the show myself, I have a ball doing it and everybody I’ve spoken to so far who’s seen the show has enjoyed it.  It’s a great story and what’s amazing about it is that it’s a true story. It’s the ultimate rags to riches, it’s the story of a strong woman, a woman who knew what she was about. It’s got some of the best show tunes ever written and some of the best melodies ever written as well.

Evita arrives in Coventry tomorrow at the Belgrade Theatre before continuing an extensive UK tour, book your tickets herehttp://www.kenwright.com/microsite/evita/#booktickets

Check out Entertainment Views’ review of the show here: https://entertainmentviews.co.uk/2018/09/05/evita-malvern-theatres/

Evita ~ Malvern Theatres

Evita stays at Malvern Theatres until Saturday 8 September before continuing its UK tour – to book tickets for Malvern Theatres click here: https://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/whats-on/evita/

Star rating: *****

When a show really blows you away, mentally and physically, it’s a rare and beautiful thing. Evita, one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classics, has been on my radar for years and I have reviewed it on many occasions in the past. However, last night’s incarnation at Malvern Theatres may have just trumped the lot with a cast de force, spectacularly slick choreography (Bill Deamer has done a wonderful job) and a live orchestra which in my humble opinion is unbeatable.

The story charts the rise and fall of real life icon, Eva Peron. With Lloyd Webber’s stunning composition and Tim Rice’s innovative lyrics which have stood the test of time, this musical ‘take’ on a historical figure is moving, intriguing and intricate. Subtle tongue-in-cheek humour lightens the often heavy mood and powerful performances bowled over the full house. As we see Eva (Lucy O’Byrne) manipulating a myriad of men on her quest to conquer Buenos Aires, the big apple, there’s eloquent and bitter narration from Che (Glenn Carter), a revolutionist. Eva eventually gets her man, when she presents herself to Peron (a military man who is also on the climb as he heads up Argentina) as a woman who would be ‘surprisingly good’ for him. The story, though life affirming in its own way is not without its tragic twist.

Lucy O’Byrne positively shine as Eva, it’s a role that was seemingly made for her it’s such a perfect fit. Her vocal ability pushes boundaries as the intensity and immense power of her voice increased with every musical number. Her chemistry with both Glenn Carter as Che which is brooding and stalking and Peron (Mike Sterling) – which carries a more passionate and fiery determination, was palpable. Carter’s diction was on point throughout, a greater story teller I’ve yet to see in this particular show. Sterling had magnificent stage presence which lent itself brilliantly to the role of Peron. The entire cast should be proud of their accomplishment, Oliver Slade particularly stood out as one of the ministers, likewise Verity Burgess grabbed my attention and held it in all of the numbers in which she was involved.

Two of my personal favourite songs were as memorable as I hoped they would be, ‘Peron’s Latest Flame’ and ‘Rainbow High’ – such rousing melodies with engaging performances to match. O’Byrne handled ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ like a dream, the crescendo literally blew me backwards in my seat. Each musical number has something different to offer, though and there isn’t one that doesn’t belong.

Don’t miss the opportunity to catch the show at a theatre near you, it is a true masterpiece and the cast are treating it as such.

Photo credits: Pamela Raith

Evita ~ New Wimbledon Theatre, London

Evita stays at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday 25 February 2017 and then continues a tour of the UK, to book tickets visit: http://www.kenwright.com/evita  

Star rating: ****

“I’m their product it’s vital you sell me, so Machiavell me…” and my word did Emma Hatton sell herself as leading lady, Eva Peron. I was previously unfamiliar with Hatton’s work, but I can honestly say that she is my favourite actress so far to play the legendary role. Eva Peron was an icon in her time and deserves to be played by the best.

Emma Hatton as Eva Peron

Evita is one of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s classic musicals and Don’t Cry For Me Argentina is widely known. This particular incarnation of the production was fast, furious and had a distinct Argentinian flavour running through it. From the choreography which was slick, commanding and dazzling in equal measure to the powerful sound of the orchestra who played every musical number so beautifully, it’s undoubtedly an Argentine rose of a piece.

In previous productions I have been disappointed with the actor playing the role of Che, which has affected my enjoyment as he is the Narrator and therefore a pivotal role. In Gian Marco Schiaretti the perfect Che, fiery, brooding and with diction that was so abundantly clear that had I not have been familiar with the musical, it wouldn’t have taken long to have gotten the gist of it. I’d go so far as to say that a shining star has been discovered in this triple threat performer. Kevin Stephen-Jones was a good choice for the role of Peron, I thought, imposing and with a notable light and shade to his performance.

Natalie Langston was the presence I was drawn to in the ensemble, whether she was playing an upper class ‘snob’ or a peasant, she was making the most of her part. It was unsurprising to discover that she is the alternate Eva, and although I cannot speak personally, I suspect that she would be rather brilliant in the role, too. The ensemble as a whole failed to capture my interest, they appeared to blend into the background a little too much at times.

Emma Hatton was Eva Peron and Gian Marco Schiaretti

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina should be the highlight and Hatton did justice to a song that has been sung by so many. Rainbow High was my personal favourite though, the determination of Eva’s character shone through in this number. You Must Love Me was highly emotive too and the pinnacle moment of the musical.

Based on a true story, there’s no shortage of ups, down, trials, tribulations and it is a theatrical experience that as a rule, renders me emotionally drained if I connect with the show fully. That was certainly the case last night, I was moved to tears by the heart-felt performances from the lead actors and the spirit of Argentina was alive at New Wimbledon Theatre. It’s a history lesson and creative master-piece rolled into one.

Photo Credits: Pamela Raith

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