Book & Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

INFO:
Opened at the Prince Edward Theatre    February 18, 1978    3,175 performances
(Broadway) The Broadway Theatre    September 25, 1979    1,567 performances (often revived)
Original Director: Harold Prince
Original Choreographer: Larry Fuller
Original Producer: Robert Stigwood
Original Leads: Evita: Elaine Paige (London), Patti Lupone (Broadway)    Che: David Essex (London), Mandy Patinkin (Broadway)
Cast Size: Male: 3 Female: 1 Ensemble: as large as you can do, at least 16. Total Cast Size: 4 plus ensemble, at least 20, more likely about 30.
Orchestra: 19 (Could be done a bit smaller, I suspect)
Published Script: With the Cast Album.
Production Rights: Rodgers & Hammerstein Library, Really Useful Group
Recordings: Several. The Original Concept Album is great!
Film: 1996, starring Madonna & Antonio Banderas. Yeah, it’s okay.
Other shows by the authors: Both: Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph & His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat    Webber: Cats, Phantom Of The Opera, Starlight Express, Song & Dance, Aspects Of Love    Rice: The Lion King, Chess
Awards: Nominated for 4 Oliviers, won 2, Best Musical, Best Performance (Elaine Page). Nominated for 10 Tony Awards, won 6 including Best Musical, Lyrics, Music, Actress (Patti Lupone), Director (Prince)

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:
This is quite a large show, and your three leads have to be uniquely gifted and charismatic. It requires some serious resources to do Evita. Will work for some colleges and universities, large regional and professional companies, Broadway and the West End. Opera companies should consider it.

Be Warned:
Sex and politics…aren’t those two things not to be discussed in polite company? Well, this show trades in both. Eva sleeps her way to the top. Sex is on the menu, and if that will disturb your audience or actors, don’t do this show. And then there’s the politics of the day. Peron was compared to Mussolini, the fascist dictator if Italy during WW II. What started as a campaign to aid the poor of Argentina became an allegedly highly corrupt regime. Che Guevara is a major character in this piece, the Cuban revolutionary that was instrumental in bringing Communism to his country. (Though in reality, he and Peron and Eva never knew each other.) Again, if this isn’t your cup of tea, well…

One more thing. This show is likely to be revived professionally, and often. It may have also been done by (God forbid) your local High School or Little Theatre. Check for availability of rights, and also whether or not it has been recently done in your area, before selecting this show.

THE STORY: (Outline from Wikipedia)

ACT ONE: The opening reveals a cinema in Buenos Aires, Argentina on July 26 1952, where an audience is watching a film (“A Cinema in Buenos Aires, 26 July 1952″). The Spanish dialogue is heard during the film, an announcer interrupts with the message (begun in Spanish, but fading into English) that “Eva Perón entered immortality at 20:25 hours this evening….” The audience is heartbroken, and they sing “Requiem for Evita” (in Latin, which is modeled on a Catholic Requiem). Ché, the narrator, cynically assesses the hysterical grief that gripped Argentina when Evita died. (“Oh, What A Circus”)

Che introduces the audience to 15-year-old Eva, in 1934. She has her first love affair with tango singer Agustin Magaldi after she meets him at one of his shows (“On This Night of a Thousand Stars”). Eva blackmails Magaldi into taking her with him to Buenos Aires and though he is initially resistant, he eventually surrenders (“Eva, Beware of the City”). Upon her arrival at the city, Eva sings about her hopes and ambitions of glory as an actress (“Buenos Aires”). After her arrival, Eva is quick to leave Magaldi and Che relates the story of how Eva sleeps her way up the social ladder, becoming a model, radio star, and actress (“Goodnight and Thank You”). He then tells of both a right-wing coup in 1943 and Eva’s success, implying that Argentine politics and Eva’s career may soon coincide. Che also makes a point to introduce the figure of Colonel Juan Domingo Perón, an ambitious military colonel who was making his way up the Argentine political ladder. (“The Lady’s Got Potential”). In a game of musical chairs that represents the rise of political figures, Perón and other military figures compete for power and exhibit their political strategy (“The Art of the Possible”).

After a devastating earthquake hits the town of San Juan, Perón organizes a charity concert at the Luna Park to provide aid to the victims. Eva attends and briefly reunites with Agustín Magaldi, who coldly shuns her for her past actions. Perón addresses the crowd with words of encouragement and leaps off the stage, meeting Eva as soon as he exits (“Charity Concert”). Eva and Perón share a secret rendezvous following the charity concert, where Eva hints that she could help Perón rise to power (“I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You”). Eva dismisses Perón’s Mistress (the character is known only by that title), who ponders the rejection. (“Another Suitcase In Another Hall”)

After moving in with Perón, Eva is introduced to high society, but she is met with disdain from the upper classes and the Argentine Army (“Perón’s Latest Flame”). In 1946, Perón launches his presidential bid after being promoted to general in the army, and while in bed with Eva, he discusses his chances at winning the election. Eva reassures him and soon they organize rallies where the people show their support and hope for a better future, while on the sidelines Perón and his allies plot to dispose of anyone who stands in their way (“A New Argentina”).

ACT TWO: Perón is elected President in a sweeping victory in 1946. He stands “On The Balcony of the Casa Rosada” addressing his descamisados (shirtless ones). Eva speaks from the balcony of the Presidential palace to her adoring supporters, where she reveals that despite her initial goal of achieving fame and glory, she has found her true calling to be the people of her country. (“Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” Che analyzes the price of fame as Eva dances at the Inaugural Ball with Perón, now Argentina’s president-elect (“High Flying, Adored”).

Eva insists on a glamorous image in order to impress the people of Argentina and promote Peronism. She prepares to tour in Europe as she is dressed for success by her fashion consultants (“Rainbow High”). Her famous 1946 tour meets with mixed results (“Rainbow Tour”); Spaniards adore her, but the Italians liken her husband to Benito Mussolini, France is unimpressed, and the English snub her by inviting her to a country estate, rather than Buckingham Palace. Eva affirms her disdain for the upper class, while Che asks her to start helping those in need as she promised (“The Actress Hasn’t Learned the Lines (You’d Like to Hear)”). Eva begins the Eva Peron Foundation to direct her charity work. Che describes Eva’s controversial charitable work, and possible money laundering (“And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)”).

Eva appears at a church to take the sacrament in front of her adoring supporters (“Santa Evita”), but goes into a trancelike state, beginning to hallucinate. In her vision she and Che heatedly debate her actions; Che accuses Eva of using the Argentine people for her own ends, while Eva cynically replies that there is no glory in trying to solve the world’s problems from the sidelines (“A Waltz for Eva and Che”). At the end of the argument, Eva finally admits to herself and Che that she is dying and can’t go on for much longer. Afterwards, Eva finally understands that Perón loves her for herself, not just for what she can do for him and his career. (“You Must Love Me”, added to more recent productions.)

Perón’s generals finally get sick of Eva’s meddling and demand that Perón force her to leave politics. However, Perón objects and claims that if it wasn’t for her they would never have achieved as much as they have (“She Is A Diamond”). However, he also acknowledges she won’t be able to keep working for long as she will soon succumb to her cancer. Meanwhile, Eva is determined to run for vice president, much to Perón’s fear that they will be overtaken by the military if she runs and that Eva’s health is too delicate for any stressful work, but Eva insists she can continue, despite her failing health (“Dice Are Rolling/Eva’s Sonnet”).
Realizing she is close to death, Eva renounces her pursuit of the vice presidency and swears her eternal love to the people of Argentina (“Eva’s Final Broadcast”). Eva’s achievements flash before her eyes before she dies (“Montage”), and she asks for forgiveness, contemplating her choice of fame instead of long life (“Lament”). Eva dies, and embalmers preserve her body forever. Che notes that a monument was set to be built for Evita but “only the pedestal was completed, when Evita’s body disappeared for 17 years….”

THE SONGS:
“A Cinema in Buenos Aires, 26 July 1952″, “Requiem for Evita”, “Oh, What A Circus”, “On This Night of a Thousand Stars”, “Eva and Magaldi” / “Eva, Beware of the City”, “Buenos Aires”, “Good Night and Thank You”, “The Lady’s Got Potential”, “The Art of the Possible”, “Charity Concert”, “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You”, “Hello and Goodbye”, “Another Suitcase In Another Hall”, “Peron’s Latest Flame”, “A New Argentina”, “On The Balcony of the Casa Rosada”, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, “High Flying Adored”, “Rainbow High”, “Rainbow Tour”, “The Actress Hasn’t Learned the Lines (You’d Like to Hear)”, “And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)”, “Santa Evita”, “A Waltz for Eva and Che”, “You Must Love Me”, “Peron’s Latest Flame Playoff”, “She is a Diamond” , “Dice Are Rolling” / “Eva’s Sonnet”, “Eva’s Final Broadcast”, “Montage”, “Lament”

Hits include “Another Suitcase In Another Hall”, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, “You Must Love Me” (But this whole score is quite strong.)

MY OPINIONS:

I don’t like sung-through pieces as a rule. I think they tend to flatten out the drama. If what is sung in a Musical is important, and in a Musical everything is sung, then everything is important – which is the same as saying that nothing is important, or at least particularly important enough to be highlighted. I think this is almost always bad writing. The exception seems to be when Sir Tim Rice is involved.

Is Rice a great lyricist? Nope. He’s a good one, a clever one, and most of the time, he rhymes when he should – though not always. He’s certainly one of if not the best “pop” lyricist to enter into the Musical Theater market. But he’s no Frank Loesser, Cole Porter, Alan J. Lerner, Ira Gershwin or Stephen Sondheim, to name the best of the breed in no particular order.

But Mr. Rice does seem to be a really good dramatist. The pieces he wrote with Webber are easily Webber’s best works as theater. The construction, using pieces of songs in a modular fashion (taking bits of full songs with revised lyrics) in lieu of composing recitative – dialogue that is sung instead of spoken – to keep the drama and the music moving simultaneously, is a Rice specialty. You do not find it anywhere near as well done in Mr. Webber’s other works, as you do in his collaborations with Rice. It’s not even close. And this tends to make the Rice/Webber collaborations into at least interesting theater works. (I think they are exceptional, except for Joseph And His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.)

Evita, like J.C. Superstar, is an excellent Musical Drama. It is opera, as it is sung through, both Musicals are. They are sometimes called Rock Opera. Okay. They contain a lot of music, are essentially sung-through, orchestrated by the composer, and the lead roles in both pieces require well-trained voices (and actors) to play them well. Opera. And if you ask me, good opera at that. Someday, opera houses will pick these shows up with joy, and shake up their repertoire. That will be a good day for opera.

Webber wrote his best work for these two shows, and the work is fine indeed. What’s more, he orchestrated them as well. I would argue from his work on these two shows that he should have orchestrated all his works. He is an excellent orchestrator, and his orchestrations show off the best and most interesting aspects of his compositions. In this sense, he fits into a very small class of Broadway composers who effectively orchestrated their own works…Kurt Weill (easily the most exceptional at orchestration and I would say dramatic or theatrical composition as well), Marc Blitzstein (his Broadway opera, Regina), Gershwin (Porgy & Bess) Leonard Bernstein (who rarely did orchestrate) and Webber, all classically trained.

I saw Harold Prince’s production of Evita, after memorizing the concept album. Frankly, the show in my head was better, but isn’t that always the case? A terrific job was done by Prince and collaborators, who took a sprawling, massive radio play/Musical and made it into a striking Musical for the theater. It required very clever sets and production values to tell this tale on stage, and a smart staging reliant on modern theatrical techniques (from Brecht onwards), and Mr. Prince did not disappoint. This show was an international hit, and deserved to be one.

When looking at this show, remember that it’s about real people, real times. Peron was a fascist dictator with more than two lives. His wife was and is a legend in south America. Che Guevara was a revolutionary guerrilla fighter who helped end the Batista regime in Cuba, and initiate Communism there.




Part of the show’s electricity is derived from the sense that we are “listening in at the keyhole”, eavesdropping of the lives of the powerful. It would be fascinating indeed to watch this performed (in Spanish) in Argentina.

Here is a link to actual footage of her final speech (if it is still posted).

And a brief, somewhat slanted (against) documentary about her life in which you can even see film of her as a young actress, though she’d ordered all the copies burned.

And a documentary about the real Che, who started out as a doctor in Argentina (and who may have known the Perons.

The film The Motorcycle Diaries, is based on the autobiographical writings of Che as a young man touring South America.

You’re dealing with real lives in this Musical, people that had an impact in this last century, and on millions of people. The more you know about the history, the more interesting the Musical and your production of it can become.

This is, in my opinion, a show requiring a fair degree of professionalism to pull off. The sets do not need to be a terrible drain, but the other values will be a work out, including costumes and lighting. Your direction must be smart, theatrical, and capable. Your lead actress must be exceptional and charismatic.

This show gets revivals, and will continue to. It deserves a long life. (Even if it is sung-through, which I will never be convinced is the best way to tell a story.)

MY RATING: ** (An excellent show, well worth considering.)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:
Fairly interesting score. Not simple, certainly. The music is richly and complexly orchestrated. The music is itself complex rhythmically, harmonically, and to a lesser degree, melodically. A Musical Director must be comfortable with opera, rock, pop, tango and other Latin forms. The music is non-stop, aggressive, moody and smart. A job that can only be done by a highly experienced M.D. Your rehearsal pianist will need to be tireless.

Eva Peron – Mezzo with a huge belt, a powerful and tireless instrument capable of an enormous emotional range. A voice with its own power to attract attention. A capable musician would be a big plus. Must sing rock, pop, and theater forms with comfort and style.

Juan Peron – Baritone with a sense of ease to his voice, a man who expects to be obeyed and at the same time is not without humor or warmth. A solid mid range, warm upper register.

Che – Tenor with a soaring upper register, and a tireless, powerful or at least interesting belt voice. Must be able to handle a rock belt, and sing with great emotion, especially anger.

Magaldi – Romantic tenor, a tango singer of love songs, a Latin crooner.

The Mistress – Mezzo, a warm and expressive voice, capable of singing “Another Suitcase”.

Ensemble – All must belt, have decently strong upper registers, be able to back off in mid-register and sing with beauty, harmonize very well, be at least able to sing some Latin once having learned it.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:
Not really a dance show, but there are numbers where some dance and movement are called for. There is a sort of ritual feel to the show, an inevitability to each action. The story, being told through song, cannot sustain a lot of movement (or the lyric becomes in danger of getting lost), and what there is in way of movement should be dedicated to a stylized telling of this story. A Director who can effectively move actors around may not need a Choreographer. A Choreographer working this show should work closely with, and think like, the Director.

Some numbers a Choreographer may be involved in staging include “Requiem for Evita”, “Oh, What A Circus”, “On This Night of a Thousand Stars”, “Buenos Aires”, “Good Night and Thank You”, “The Lady’s Got Potential”, “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You”, “A New Argentina”, “Rainbow Tour”, “And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)”, “A Waltz for Eva and Che”.

The “Requiem” is just that, a “mass” of sorts, candles lit for the recently departed Santa Evita. It is an energetic dirge, to be sure, but requires nothing but easy, slow movement, perhaps a Latin dance of death and grief and remembrance by a dancer or two at the core? Might be lovely if you have the dancers and the concept. Perhaps an out-of-rhythm South American traditional dance of some sort, danced outside of the music, disregarding the beat.

“Oh, What A Circus” introduces our “narrator”, Che. He might break up the dance I just mentioned, walk through the mourners with disgust. Establish him as a commentator, outside of and immune to the action.

“On This Night…” is a phony, plastic love song sung in a club. Men and women dance an over-the-top romantic tango of seduction, as Eva is seduced by the older man who is singing. (Or is it the other way around, and she does the seduction?) Seeing their dance of seduction as he sings would add a dimension to the show it lacks. She started young, and knew she needed to manipulate men to succeed. This will demonstrate that. Perhaps she dips him at the end, to his surprise?

“Buenos Ares” is Eva’s exuberant, aggressive tribute to excess and success. She would have sex with the entire city if she could, and if it would bring her the notoriety and power she craves. It is pretty near a sickness in her, the need for success, for security and power. As she and Magaldi seduce each other in the last song, Eva and the city go at it in this one, and she perhaps seduces many of that city’s men. The song has an air of triumph to its music, but the lyrics tell the real tale and should not be ignored.

“Good Night and Thank You” is a song about the revolving door of men in Eva’s life, on her way up the social ladder. It should be staged rather than choreographed, but alive with action as men come and go. “The Lady’s Got Potential” is a continuation of same, essentially, with the great line describing Eva (by Che) as “the greatest social climber since Cinderella.” And so she is. Show us.

“I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You is a kind of rumba, a seduction between Eva and Peron. It is a beautiful piece of music, and the lyric is cleverly disingenuous and “naive” while claiming not to be. These are two worldly people who know what they’re getting into. It is a sexy number, and what it leads to should be obvious and inviting. It could use a choreographed feel to it, as the other seductions had, but slower, stretched out, more casual, easier, more delicious.

“A New Argentina” is a big, full-company, full-throated end to Act I, an uprising of the poor driven by the ambition and conniving of Eva and Peron. There should be a sense of danger to it all, the world spinning out of control. The tiger Peron and his people have by the tail could turn on them at any time. There is madness here, and the thrill of riding the crest of the tidal wave of history. It’s easy to fall into the trap of making a big, rousing Les Mis kind of march out of this. Don’t. It is sung by hungry, ravening masses, focused on their temporary God and Goddess. This sort of energy inevitably turns in. Keep Peron and Eva somehow at the core of it. They must be exuberant and worried, relaxed and feverish all at once.

“Rainbow Tour” demonstrates Eva’s failures abroad. She and Peron were dismissed by the international community as a whole. There should be a sense of the forward motion stalling, of things out of sync in the number. Things start to go wrong.

And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)” is a frantic, aggressive upbeat about the probable financial corruption of Eva and the Peron regime, as pointed out indelicately by Che. He takes some sort of savage, bizarre pleasure out of bringing down these two pretty people who have tried to play the game from both ends. At the same time, he is bitter. The promise of a people’s revolution led by these two figureheads is dashed, lost to greed. Che perhaps moves seamlessly through the action he describes, unnoticed. The rest is staged rather than choreographed.

“A Waltz for Eva and Che” is just that, an ironic, grim little waltz filled with ironic delicacy. These two care not one whit for each other, and it is understood by both that this is so. And yet, Eva perhaps longs to have felt some of Che’s revolutionary zeal. And Che perhaps longs to have had some of Eva’s worldly excess, and perhaps the woman herself has seduced him to some small degree, as she did everyone. A chance to focus the entire Musical in a moment, through a song and movement.

There is certain to be more movement. The choreography should feel Latin, based on traditional as well as 1940s South American dances. And these should be bent and twisted so that they are ever in the service of developing characters and the story. A job for an experienced and smart choreographer who understands this sort of dance, and theater, and who can work closely with a Director.

CASTING CONCERNS:

Eva Peron – Late teens-early 30s is the range, usually played by an actress in her 20s-30s. Charismatic, a gorgeous young woman who made movies. As a blonde, a bombshell, classy (all contrived, developed), sometimes bedecked in jewelry, expensively gowned. Intelligent, driven, she can overestimate her power and her impact on others. Idealistic, or is that a show? A mystery to the end. Able to whip a crowd into adoration. Cast for type, acting, voice. A star.

Juan Peron – Late 30s-40s. Quite a bit older than Eva. A man of the world, suave, sophisticated, charming, reasonably intelligent. Not as charismatic as his wife. A man of ideals, yes, but malleable for the sake of expedience. Theirs seems to be a marriage of convenience, they use each other to get and hold power. Does he ever love her? Cast for acting, type, voice. A very strong actor.

Che – 20s – mid 30s. Energized, brutal, direct, filled with anger. A charismatic ideologue who will sacrifice anything and anyone for his cause. Without patience, with little humanity. Not entirely devoid of a sense of humor, particularly of irony. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement. A star.

Magaldi – 30s-40s, a once popular singer of tangos and love songs, now fading from the scene. The Argentinian version of a fading “rock star.” Street-wise, experienced. Cast for type, voice, acting, some movement. May double in ensemble.

The Mistress – Late teens. A beautiful, sexy young lady who has “serviced” Juan Peron until Eva came along. A bit of a waif, a sense of a lost soul. Cast for type, voice, acting. Will double in ensemble.

Ensemble – Argentinians. All mus move well, belt, harmonize. Cat different ages and types.

SETS:
Evita is almost always played on a unit set of sorts, with pieces flown or brought on to represent various locations. The set should represent Argentina at the time of Peron and Eva. Flags, etc. Often multi-media is used, and we start the show by watching the actual Eva Peron as a young girl in a bad movie.

Keep everything simple, let the open stage, decorated to be (generally) Argentina, work for you. Raise the movie screen after showing Eva’s youthful film. A mic, and lowered lighting for the club Magaldi sings in. A dais, then a bigger and a bigger one as Peron gains power. Flags for “A New Argentina” rather than a set change, to be integrated with the choreography, as it always is. Let the actors carry in and out needed chairs or whatever, and keep these very minimal. This show isn’t about sets. Keep them very representational. A lowered stain glass window for a church,. A neon sign for the club Magaldi sings in, that sort of thing. Just the merest suggestion, no more, so the audience will not expect more.

A relatively easy job, really, if you don’t get carried away or remotely literal. I would not worry about “where we are” so much as when we are, and who is doing what to who.

COSTUMES:
All 1940s Argentina. The military uniforms worn by Peron and his people can be easily researched and put together or rented. Peron can graduate at times from the uniform to a fine suit.

The poor are also easily researched and dressed from thrift stores and closets.

Magaldi is a Latin rock star of sorts, for the time, but faded. Perhaps his impressively theatrical garb is distressed somewhat. The Mistress was well-kept until dismissed. She is not poorly dressed, but she has nowhere to go.

Eva is dressed progressively from near poverty to the finest gowns, meant to blow away Euro royalty. This demonstrates her rise to power visually more than any other factor. The dresses will need to be rented, or purchased and adapted, or built. She must be able to breathe and sing. Get her shoes right. And her jewelry especially for her Euro tour. She should always somehow stand out, the color of her costume just right for the actress, but also unique to the stage picture.

Che’s manner of dress is famous and easily researched, again.

A job for a reasonably experienced Costume Designer, but not the most difficult of assignments.

PROPS:
Flags. Perhaps drinks for Eva and Peron. Each production will be different, but this should not be too tough a job.

LIGHTING:
No set? That means great lighting is needed. Moody, elastic, able to focus the audience’s attention rapidly to a part of the stage. There is likely to be a lot of cues. Buenos Ares is hot and humid, with no dry seasons. The light is unique there, tropical to some degree. See if you can make the stage feel hot and damp. It will add to the overall feel 9and sexuality) of Eva’s life.

I’d avoid follow spots except when a speaker is at a podium, when it will feel organic. Which allows you to spot “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”. You’ll want to do that.

A job for an experienced Lighting Designer (with a lot of instruments and a good board.)

MAKE-UP:
Mostly unobtrusive. Eva, however, must always be beautiful – and does her best to retain that illusion even as she’s dying of cancer. Her’s will be the important make-up design job. She’s going to need wigs. Other women may need them as well, so they can play multiple roles (such as the Mistress). Overall, not too difficult a job.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):
Director, Musical Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Costume Designer, Eva, Juan, Che

MY THOUGHTS:
I think, to do a good job with this show, a Director and the design team would be very well-advised to read up on that period of history in Argentina. Look at hundreds of photos of the these people, and film. Look at hundreds of photos of Argentina at that time, especially Buenos Ares. Get your design ideas together while and after doing this kind of research, it’s bound to be fruitful.

Perhaps Mr. Webber’s most theatrical score, if not his absolute best. (J.C. Superstar is his best score.) Perhaps the most stage worthy of all of his hugely successful shows. But it will need a strong directorial hand to work.

The fact that the sets are minimal, and costuming surprisingly simple, means that the show’s technical values are not likely to be a liability, unless you have a very small stage.

This is a dynamic piece, a bit exhausting and relentless, but rewarding.