Friday, November 18, 2011

Evita Comes Back To Broadway!

Forgive me while I do a little Broadway geek-out for a moment.

Evita was my first exposure to performing musical theatre.  My father had a part in the Generals Chorus in a community theatre production when I was eleven, and had managed to score my brother and I auditions for the childrens chorus.  We were excited to learn we had received parts, not just because it was just a big cast and we met so many new friends, mainly because we'd be sharing the stage with our father.  Oh boy, were we little hams on stage.

I was so intrigued by the story of this woman at such a young age and remembered doing research on my own about Eva Perón, wife of Argentinian president Juan Perón and champion of the labour movement, women's rights and the salvation of the poor.  Her story is told in this lyrical opera written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, also known for his works on Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Cats.   (I don't care what you say, he's one of my favourites.  Mr. Webber is an acquired taste for some, but I doubt there's anyone who doesn't know at least a portion of the duet between Christine Daae and the Phantom on the river.  I didn't care for Cats, though.)

My awesome Broadway-bestie Jenna and I had a chance to see Evita play in the Princess of Wales in Toronto, but after being part of so many community theatre productions and knowing this music nearly inside and out, we felt a little weird being so judgmental about it. 

I think the only way to redeem myself is another trip to New York City to see this one.  Evita returns to Broadway in an incredible all-star cast featuring Ricky Martin as Che, Michael Cerveris as Juan Perón and Elena Roger in her Broadway debut as Eva Perón, a small-town girl who became one of Argentina's most celebrated icons for the people.
Che consistently breaks the 'fourth wall' illusion, referring directly to the audience, guiding them through his perceived sense of hypocrisy in Eva's actions and intentions as she is seen as a saint in the eyes of the working-class Argentine people.  Even though many productions have modeled this character in resemblance to Che Guevera, famed Cuban revolutionist, he is actually a culmination of the critics' voices of the Perón government.  He also serves as a narrator of sorts, introducing the audience to Eva by the impact she made on the country as the nation ceases activity and mourns in unity. 

Always remembering her roots as amongst the working class, she used her status to bring attention to the needs of the labour unions and of the poor.  She has scandalous romantic connections with connected men within the entertainment industry and influential politicians, amongst them her future husband, Army General Juan Perón, elected president of Argentina in 1946.  Becoming First Lady of Argentina was the epitome of her career as a statute of rights for what she believed was the backbone of the country's economy.  Her famous speech from the balcony of the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires was immortalized in the song "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina."  In both the speech and song, Eva is dressed in her finest gown, furs and jewels as she pleads to her people from the balcony that although she has broken free from the poverty she knew and now lives in luxury, she hasn't abandoned her people and continues to fight for the workers, the trabajadores and descamisados, the "shirtless ones."  The position of 'Spiritual Leader of the Nation' was created for her alone after Juan Perón's second inauguration election, and was never held by another in history.

Her previous post as a popular model and actress was considered scandalous, especially with her romantic connections with many men of influence and opportunity.  Many times she was rejected by the aristocratic class for her working-class background, having no formal education or etiquette training, as was so common of society women of the day.  She was accused of many dishonest acts during her time in office and was occasionally seen as a master manipulator of sorts to achieve a means to an end.   That end has been debated by many biographers and historians: what was her motivation: personal glory or deliverance of her people?  Which was the higher priority for her?

It's been said that Webber and lyricist Tim Rice were heavily influenced by Mary Main's biography of Eva Perón, The Woman With The Whip, which was extremely critical of her life and career.  (I've yet to read it - it's on the on the Christmas list!)  I believe this work depicts a woman who had to make difficult, unpopular decisions in order to get to a place where she could be the most effective.  It's a beautiful, tragic love story of a misunderstood woman.

AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH, I want to see this badly.  Go see it for me, lemme know.  Bring me back a souvenier program or something.

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