Whether we admit to it or not, we each have a ‘bucket list’ which we wish to achieve in life. Earlier today I was able to tick another item of mine. Chatting to, conversing with, and interviewing the current lead in one of the world’s finest ever musicals, Evita. Currently playing Eva Perón is Dublin’s Lucy O’Byrne, and talking to her today was such an honour, and a real achievement for this North West Culture Gal.
It’s just over 9 years ago now that I first (and last) saw Evita. I was super excited then and I’m super excited now on its return to Derry. Back in 2009 I went along to the show not knowing anything about the story other than it had fabulous music. I recall thinking that night I would never see another show like it. Since then I’ve seen some amazing shows, and yet none of them match that feeling I first experienced at Evita. So when I got the opportunity to speak with Lucy O’Byrne, all those feelings returned. I was excited and I was in awe.
Having reached the finals of The Voice in 2015, O’Byrne has catapulted into the world of musical theatre. Playing Maria in The Sound of Music and Fantine in Les Misérables, this young lady has achieved so much in such a short time. And now she falls into another pair of huge shoes, those of Eva ‘Evita’ Perón. And she does so in her stride.
When I asked O’Byrne if she’s looking forward to bringing Evita to Derry, she tells me excitedly: “I can’t wait to come to Derry. I’ve never been. I’m going home to Dublin for the week (we have a week off) just before Derry, and my Dad is driving me up on the Tuesday morning.” We immediately engage on a chat about both our loving the Fair City and how it really is such a wonderful city. Getting sidetracked by my love of Dublin I reengage with Evita discussion!
Does Lucy feel an affinity with Eva Perón? “Like Maria in The Sound of Music, Eva too was a real person. I have a responsibility to the show, but I also feel I have a responsibility to these women. I’m telling the story of Eva and it really is a huge privilege. So yes, I have a real affinity with Eva.”
Once Lucy starts talking about Eva and her life, she becomes so passionate and fully engaged with this amazing heroine. “It’s haunting the difference Eva made. The tragedy that was her life. She changed not only her life, but that of her people. It’s heartbreaking that her life was cut short at 33. Whether you love her or hate her, she was such a remarkable lady.” I do believe Lucy O’Byrne could talk all day about this amazing lady. But O’Byrne herself is also an amazing lady and very much still in her youth.
Now 27 years of age and already taking the world stage by storm as Eva Perón, O’Byrne was one of the youngest women ever to play Fantine in Les Misérables. She says “The Voice catapulted me into these roles and I am forever grateful to everyone who voted for me. I really wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now.”
I was telling Lucy about my first experience of seeing Evita and how it has never left me. Just why is this such I asked her? She eagerly tells me: “It’s such a real story and yet so haunting. It grips you from the opening scene and you never really do forget it.” I’ve certainly never forgotten this show and am so looking forward to the Derry production of it.
I wondered if Lucy O’Byrne had anything in common with Eva Perón? “Ambition” she immediately replies. “Not cut-throat ambition, but ambition to achieve my goals and to continued success. Eva was also afraid of flying and I am the same. Even flying home to Dublin is an ordeal as I just have that constant fear. I’m very aware that I’m safe on the plane but it’s a fear and it’s very real.”
And finally, why does Lucy O’Byrne think people should come and see Evita in Derry? “It’s a great show. It’s a fantastic evening. It’s a journey which everyone gets taken on. The show just grips you from the first moment and it sweeps you away. I still find it breath-taking every night.”
I can certainly vouch for this show taking you on a journey. I have never forgotten that journey 9 years ago. And I’m very looking forward to travelling it in just two weeks time with Lucy O’Byrne at the helm.