by Brenda W. Clough
This warhorse of the musical theater was revived in 2012 on Broadway and is now on tour. I caught it at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. I have seen the movie, which is a different and IMO a lesser work, but for some reason have never seen the stage musical until now.
And wow, what a perfect musical this is! As Hal Prince famously said of it, how can you go wrong with a work that begins with a funeral? And biographical material has a natural through line that is very congenial. Meanwhile, the score is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best, blending pop with Latin and tango rhythms.
In case you have not noticed up to this point, I am a musical theater fan. I have listened to the entire score, which does indeed comprise just about the entire stage show, since it is sung-through, like an opera — there are hardly any spoken ‘book’ scenes. And what I notice, seeing it on stage for the first time, is the important contribution of staging and dance. It’s not just words and music. The thing comes to life on the stage, which is the insignia of all true drama. You get only a pale ghost of Shakespeare, reading the plays. You need to see it performed.
Evita is a particularly good show for tango dancing and the translation of political conflict into dance and movement. But it is also famous for the use of historical newsreel footage — crowd scenes, Argentine political rallies and so forth. This is especially nicely done at the beginning, with huge movies of Evita Peron’s funeral; they somehow manage to get the black-and-white photographic images large enough so that the actors, standing in front of the picture, are the same size — part of the historical crowd.
My favorite song is not the usual “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.” It is the last song, “Eva’s Lament,” the apologia for her life. A perfect book song, and I am so glad to have heard it in its dramatic context.
The ebook version of my novel How Like a God is now available from Book View Cafe.
My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out from Book View Café.