Evita leads a summer of must-see shows at the Orchard Theatre

WOW Kent What's on Where in Kent Evita

Bringing the West End to North Kent audiences for over 30 years, the Orchard Theatre has a blockbusting summer ahead, featuring music, drama and comedy for both adults and children.

Evita takes us into June, with a storming opening night last night. Santa Evita, forever immortalised by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, was the breakthrough role for the majestic Elaine Paige (appearing at the Orchard in October) and tells the story of Argentina’s first lady.

From poverty to the grandeur of public office, Eva Peron was loved by her people and through her work by the side of her President husband, gave a voice to the descamisados, the ‘shirtless ones’. In 1947, she urged women to fight for their rights, and was responsible for the women of Argentina being given the right to vote in September that year.

It’s an extraordinary story, accompanied by a powerful live orchestra and featuring one of the West End’s most exciting leading ladies, Emma Hatton, as the iconic ‘Spiritual Leader of the Nation’.

The charismatic Gian Marco Schiaretti makes his UK debut as a smouldering Che, prowling the stage as the voice of the Argentine people.

The vocal talents of the cast are impeccable, whether in the lively Latin American rhythms or wistful ballads – the ‘Mistress’ (Sarah O’Connor) singing Another Suitcase in Another Hall, was a particular standout.

With West End production values apparent in the lighting and set design, this Bill Kenwright produced touring Evita captures much of what made it such a huge hit in the first place.

For the musical lovers amongst us, the toe tapping doesn’t stop there. The brilliant Hairspray, featuring the amazing Brenda Edwards, takes residence from the end of August, while the music of The Small Faces features in Mod musical, All or Nothing, in June.

Classical music fans are also catered for in June, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra presenting a selection from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Sibelius, Mozart and Mendelssohn, while the English Youth Ballet’s young cast stage an innovative Sleeping Beauty (August).

For lovers of Irish dance, both Rhythm of the Dance (June) and Spirit of the Dance (August) should slake your appetite.

If it’s an old fashioned murder mystery you’re after, there are productions from the Queens of the genre: Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced drops in August, while Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone hits the stage in September.

Comedy is well catered for, with the acclaimed farce Out of Order by Ray Cooney leading the way, beginning its run on Monday, 5 June.

But the children, what about the children?

Do not fear – our little darlings are spoilt for choice, with Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom (July) and The TIger Who Came to Tea (August) just two of the treats in store.

For details of the full programme, visit the Orchard Theatre website here to plan your cultural itinerary.

Getting there: The Orchard is opposite Dartford Station, while car parking in the station car park is just £1.50 for the whole evening after 6pm.