Madalena Alberto is Evita in the West End

Evita at the Dominion Theatre London until 1 Nov - Madalena Alberto as Eva - photographer credit Darren Bell

Despite the fact that in Portugal they don’t have musicals, Madalena Alberto decided to follow that path when she moved to London. Her debut was nothing more and nothing less than with Sir Ian McKellen in “Aladdin”.

After portraying strong women such as Fantine in “Les Miserables” or Lucy in “Jekyll and Hyde”, Madalena is playing Eva Peron in the musical “Evita” in the West End.

She wanted to connect with her as an actress and a woman. That’s why she watched a few Argentinian documentaries and read the book “In My Own Words” to see her in the eyes of the people who loved her.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Madalena spoke about her beginnings, her work in “Evita” and her EP “Heart Condition”.

How did you start your artistic career?

I’m not sure how it started, possibly when I was home alone, late night watching movies! Since I was 6 I attended a dance school, not because I wanted to be a dancer but I loved performing and at the age of 16 I was invited to move to London and take performing arts more seriously. There I started having singing and acting lessons, and then it all happened naturally, I got an agent, and started auditioning.

How did you decide to follow the path of the musical theater?

I never thought I would go down the musical theatre path as we don’t have musicals in Portugal. So it was only when I moved to London that I was introduced to the idea of following this path. Because I was training in dance, singing and acting, it seemed like the right platform to explore these qualities.

How was it like making your theater debut in 2005 in “Aladdin” alongside Sir Ian McKellen?

I was pretty star-struck. I would spend the whole show in the wings, when I wasn’t on stage, watching Ian and the other incredible actors, like Alan Rogers and Maureen Lipman. It was a big learning experience for me, not only to be able to watch them closely, but also to see how things work backstage and amongst company members. I remember being totally determined and committed to work on my acting a lot more, put my dancing shoes aside, and strive for bigger roles.

Why have you decided to audition for the role of Evita? Have you seen the show before?

I didn’t “decide”… Like most experiences in my career, it just so happened I was asked to audition. In this case, the sound engineer working on Piaf had been working with the producers of Evita and suggested my name for the part. Then I was called in for a few meetings and voilá. It was all very sudden, and I cannot believe my luck…

You brought your own ideas to the role of Evita, how did that work?Evita at the Dominion Theatre London until 1 Nov - Madalena Alberto as Eva - photographer credit Darren Bell (3)

Very naturally I suppose. I came into a production that was already in motion, the sets, the lighting, the staging were all set. So in rehearsals I just had to find within the parameters I had, what felt natural to do. I was very lucky that the director was very open to new ideas and new interpretations and he allowed me to explore the score in my own way.

How did you prepare yourself to portray Evita? Have you read about her and what she did in Argentina?

I read a book called In My Own Words by Eva Peron, and watched a few Argentinian documentaries. I wanted to see her in the eyes of the people who loved her more than in the eyes of the ones who criticized her. I wanted to see where I could connect with her as an actress and a woman. The rest of the time was focused on learning the score and try doing it justice.

You’ve portrayed different strong women on stage, such as Fantine in Les Miserables, Lucy in Jekyll and Hyde, Piaf, among others, what does it feel like to have been part of shows like that?

I feel very lucky to have had the chance to portray them, and looking back, they have all enriched my experiences both as an actress and a singer, a preparation for Evita I suppose.

Which was the most challenging role you had to portray? Why?

All of them were challenging at the time I was working on them. Now I look back and see that Evita has been the most challenging because it encompasses so many of the other characters, and it is physically and emotionally relentless. But maybe my next role will be more challenging and Evita will seem a walk in the park.

You’re a singer and songwriter too, what can you tell us about your EP “Heart Condition”?

It was a summer project. I do have many songs I’ve written, so I chose four that would reflect my state of mind that summer and went into a studio to record them at a good standard. I’m so happy with the result, especially when my friends listen to it in the car while driving to the beach.

Which other projects do you have for this year?

Right now, I’m just focusing on doing a good job at the Dominion Theatre. Then, my schedule permitting, I’d like to just go travelling and start the New Year fresh, ready and open for whatever may come.

Samantha Schuster