I ALWAYS have the impression that a musical theatre production on tour must be a miniature version of the West End original.

Bill Kenwright's Evita, playing at The Lowry theatre in Salford all this week, is no exception.

I also always think that the stars of the touring show are probably the B team, given the opportunity to prove themselves in the hope that next time they might win the London crown.

That might be true of one or two of the lead players in this production...understudy George Arvidson playing Peron and Sarah O'Connor as his mistress were good but not great.

However, Emma Hatton as Evita comes straight from a starring role in the West End production of Wicked. And it's clear why. Her star quality glitters from the second she hits the stage as 16-year-old Eva in a scene reminiscent of America! in West Side Story. Her singing voice is captivating and held the packed audience completely.

The same is true of Gian Marco Schiaretti as Che. I've never seen Evita, only heard David Essex recordings of Che's famous numbers. But Gian seized them and made them entirely his own. He is masterful as the cynical narrator, looking askance at every ambitious move of Eva and the husband she propels to power as she holds the hearts of the poor in her grasp.

The chorus were few but they sizzled on stage, the dances referencing the Argentine tango we're all familiar with now, thanks to Flavia and Vincent.

The set is uncomplicated but captures the essence of Buenos Aires architecture. And the same is true of the whole production...it whips through the elements of Eva Peron's story, leaving the audience happy to have seen the whole. But with the vague impression that there might have been a whole lot more to it if it had been Drury Lane.

Nevertheless, a good few were roused to a standing ovation. But I wondered if some of them were standing to put their coats on to beat the car park rush.