Musical Monday: Evita

evita playbillName: Evita

 Credits: Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Tim Rice. Book by Tim Rice.

 Summary: The musical focuses on the life of Eva “Evita” Duarte de Peron, an Argentinian actress who rose from poverty to become the wife of Argentinian president Juan Peron and a powerful political figure in her own right.

Dates:  
Premiere: London’s West End in 1978.
Broadway: Opened in 1979; ran until 1983.
Broadway Revival: Ran from 2012 – 2013 (followed by a national tour).
Movie: Released in 1996, starring Madonna as Eva Peron and Antonio Banderas as Che.

 Awards: 
Broadway: Nominated for 11 Tony Awards. Won 7, including Best Musical and Best Direction.
Revival: Nominated for 3 Tonys, including Best Revival of a Musical. 0 wins.
Movie: Won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “You Must Love Me.”

Rating: PG (movie rating)

Why This Musical:  After Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice (ALW/TR) wrote the music and lyrics for two biblical-themed musicals (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ, Superstar), they tackled the life of Eva Peron, a controversial political figure. It’s an ambitious musical—23 songs, very little dialogue, and a main character who often comes across as cold and manipulative. But whenever I listen to this musical, I’m drawn into the story, thanks to the catchy, clever lyrics. Having Che, rather than Eva, serve as the narrator is a smart move, as he’s the most likeable character in the show. The story moves at a quick pace, as we trace Eva’s rise and fall, through poverty, her early radio/acting career, her marriage, her political ambitions, and ultimately, her death.

My Connection: My first exposure to this musical goes way back to 1982, when my friend, Karen, returned from a summer band trip to Europe. She knew I was a big fan of ALW/TR (my teenaged obsession with Jesus Christ Superstar will be covered in a later blog post), so she couldn’t wait to tell me that she’d seen the duo’s latest musical, Evita, at the West End Theatre in London. We listed to her record for hours, and eventually I bought my own copy. For years, Evita was on my regular rotation of musicals, and I had most of the songs memorized. When the movie came out, I saw it in the theatre, but my husband was more enamored of it than me, probably because I wasn’t that excited about Madonna as Eva Peron. However, Antonio Banderas is smoldering and swoon-worthy as Che. A couple of years ago, the national tour of the revival came to Milwaukee, so I was lucky enough to see it live. Totally worth it, and much better than the movie!

Where to See It: The movie is easy to find on DVD (Target has the original for $5; a 15th Anniversary Blu-Ray is available at Target and Wal-Mart for $13), and you could probably find it at the library. The musical is often performed by local theatre groups. If you’d rather just listen to the soundtrack, both the original London recording and the Broadway revival are available on iTunes.

Favorite Songs:* “Good Night and Thank You”, “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”, “High Flying, Adored”, “A Waltz for Eva and Che”  (*I didn’t include “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina,” which is the iconic song from this musical, because I’ve heard it too many times.)

Trivia:

  • Among the actresses considered for the part of Eva Peron in the movie version were Liza Minnelli, Charo, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Barbra Streisand.
  • Cover versions of the song “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” were released by Olivia Newton-John and Karen Carpenter in the 1970s
  • Patti LuPone, who starred in the original Broadway production of Evita, has stated that it was one of the “worst experiences of her life” because of the lack of support she got!

Final Thoughts: Definitely worth a listen, or if you’re in the mood for Madonna, check out the movie version.

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