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My Ambivalence Towards The Musical “Evita”

Nothing is more American than the musical. Well, maybe dipping sauce, but musicals are a close second. The English contributed Shakespeare, the French brought us Moliere, and we gave the world “West Side Story” and “The Book of Mormon”. The “Live” musicals that have been on TV in recent years like “Rent”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, And “Grease” have been big hits. Usually, the subject matter for musicals are things like love stories, wacky mix ups, or stories about baby lions that are part of the circle of life. One man decided to jettison the usual musical plot to tell a tale glorifying the life of a brutal fascist dictator and his whore wife. Stephen Sondheim didn’t make “Il Duce: A Mussolini Musical”, Rodgers and Hammerstein didn’t make “The Many Loves of Hitler”, but Andrew Lloyd Webber did make “Evita”.

I was a theater major back in college, and we used to say that Andrew Lloyd Webber was the herpetic sore on the genitals of American theater. He gave us such annoying musical crapola as “Cats”, “Phantom of the Opera”, and “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Then in 1976, he decided to go south of the border to tell a tale of fascist love. Eva Duarte was a talentless actress that slept her way into C list stardom in Argentina in the 1940’s. She was vain, ambitious, selfish, and conniving. One day, she met a young military guy named Juan Peron. Good ole’ Juan was an anti-Semitic fascist who had his eye one one day becoming Argentina’s dictator. Eva was no dummy. Why settle for being an actress when you can be the wife of the dictator? So, she married Juan and they became the rulers of Argentina. They proceeded to steal millions from the Argentinian people, help escaping Nazis, and murder thousands of their opponents. Eva liked to paint herself as the glamorous mother-saviour of the Argentinian people, a cross between the Virgin Mary and a movie star. There is no doubt that she was popular with many people. The cult of celebrity is nothing new. Then she died of cancer.

Strange subject matter for a musical, right? The problem with “Evita” is that Webber buys into the myth of Eva as this great person. The show glosses over all the messed up stuff they did. The whole musical is narrated by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, because Webber didn’t know any other Argentinian figures and was too lazy to come up with a new one. In real life, Che hated the Perons because he was a communist and they were fascists. In “Evita”, he has a big dance sequence with her. Webber, like a lot of Americans, is largely ignorant of Latin American history. It’s like he based the whole show on a pro-Peronista comic book he found on the subway. In the nineties, there was an “Evita” movie starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas that made some decent money. Madonna was pretty good in it, but that isn’t the point. The point is: screw you Andrew Lloyd Webber. You suck.

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