Back in the mid-1980’s, Andrew Lloyd Weber seemed to have a Midas touch that would never fade. Just looking at my own history of musical viewing reveals a giant Lloyd Weber fingerprint: Joseph was the first professional show I even saw (at the Marriott Lincolnshire), and not long after Cats was my first big-budget, downtown musical. Soon enough, Phantom arrived at the Auditorium with a massive traveling show, and it stands in my memory as the first show I left disappointed following tremendous hype.
Then there is Evita, which I esteem as Lloyd Webber’s best musical. Evita presents a remarkable range of musical styles throughout its score, and every song plays an important role both in telling the story and in creating the varied emotions associated with a controversial historical figure. Consider these five numbers, all of which I could intermittently find stuck in my head:
- “Goodbye and Thank You” – An upbeat and witty look at Eva’s rise through masterful sexual politics.
- “A New Argentina” – The perfect end to a first act, this number showcases Evita’s ambition through belted high notes, connecting her media-savvy with Perón’s subdued strategizing. To the side, the full chorus is impassioned with hope for a new regiment.
- “High Flying Adored” – A wonderful love melody that is not sung by lovers. Che’s lyrics embody the divine worship Evita has gained from her people.
- “Rainbow Tour” – The most satirical song in the musical, two melodies contrast Evita’s public face with the now entitled figure that emerges between the photo ops.
- “And the Money Kept Rolling In” – A rousing dance number with a mariachi sound. The lyrics sung by Che, which are critical of Evita’s foundation, are secondary to the celebration of dreamers believing in a prosperous future.
Drury Lane hit the same correct notes with Evita that they found back in March 2020, when An American in Paris sadly closed early due to the pandemic. Director and choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge was clearly not interested in photocopying the blueprint set by the 1980 Broadway production. She opted instead to create a much deeper dive into the complexities of the titular figure. Dodge’s central conceit is that Eva is driven by insecurities stemming from her childhood, when she was rejected by her father’s middle class family. Nina Poulimas is introduced in the opening number as a young Eva Duarte, and she pops up on stage at critical moments as her counterpart deals with her meteoric rise to fame.
Addie Morales as the titular lead plays Evita with the usual charm and charisma when she is addressing her adoring fans, but Morales adds an extra touch of disdain toward others in her private scenes. For example, the dressing down that Eva gives to her designers in “Rainbow High” is reminiscent of many of our worst nightmare bosses. Richard Bermudez as Che has the exceptional voice that is reminiscent of Mandy Patinkin’s defining sound as the show’s narrator.
One of the most fun aspects of this production was watching for the nuances added by the creative team to distinguish this production. “The Art of the Possible” presented the would-be candidates as a drum line, each candidate for dictator competing in a series of solos until Juan Perón (Sean MacLauglin), with a notable lack of style, bangs his drum the loudest. “Goodbye and Thank You” added a female suitor to the chorus of those Eva scorns giving new meaning to the lyric that “There is no one, no one at all / Never has been, and never will be a lover, male or female…” “Rainbow Tour” is often played comedically, but in this case Morales emphasizes Evita’s tedium as she puts on the same show in each city while Perón watches from the side engaging in affairs while his wife is in Europe.
Evita closed on March 28. See this promotional video for a look back. The King and I is currently on stage at the Drury Lane until May 22. This viewing of Evita has led me to consider favorite songs from each of Lloyd Weber’s musicals – stay tuned for a future blog on that topic.