WHERE AM I GOING TO?
*drunkly warbles* "That I'm immune to gloom, that I'm hard through and through But every time it matters all my words desert me"
Thanks to it being my birthday on Wednesday, “A shame you did it all at twenty-six” is another song from a line that I’ll never relate to, along with “you are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only 17” and “She’s insecure, don’t know what for”
The former isn’t so bad because it’s from the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical Evita, and she was instrumental to a fascist regime.
Now, I’m not saying you need to be a fascist or sympathetic to their worldview to be a twentysomething wunderkind, I am all too well aware but being like Eva Peron is not an aspiration of mine, so being a little behind in my life plan is a price worth paying to avoid this.
I like to think I have some morals in this capitalist hellscape so therefore a priority of mine is not marrying dictators, supporting their regimes nor yelling about “descamisados” on pink balconies in white dresses. So while I scramble to make something of my emerging adulthood benchmarking my goals to hers is not really a good idea. I’ll take being a bit of a comparative flop, please.
As much as I love the show, which is A LOT - I’ve seen it on Broadway and the boring Madonna movie about thirty times - it BLOWS my mind that it exists. Compared to other political musicals, it’s by the far the most insane. It’s not even the subject matter, but rather the framing, the attempted positioning of her actually being a saviour of the working classes, and not instead, the prototype for Asma Al Assad.
If you are not aware of The Discourse that surrounded the similarly themed musical, Hamilton, well, then this issue might not be for you, but my point is that politics and musicals are not as foreign as that hullabaloo would tell you. There are so many political musical theatre productions; 1776, Les Miserables and so on but as problematic as the Founding Fathers were, they were not fans of Mussolini? Basically, what I am calling for is an international reckoning about Evita. We spent too long talking about Hamilton when this bad boi exists. Make it make sense because Evita does not.
To the creators’ credit, there is Che, the narrator, who is like, WHY DO YOU ALL LOVE THIS WOMAN SO MUCH, but it’s not really good enough.
He comes across like a party pooper and a sexist twat who refers to her as “just an actress” when there are so many things you could say about her rather than being “unqualified”. Girl Boss feminist I am not, but it especially egregious when you know she was not a prostitute nor famous for sleeping around. Like, as bad as she was, she was not the worst in the show? She is the best subject though, even if you have to fabricate the truth. As she didn’t trick a singer to take her to Buenos Aires, but rather her mother dropped her off. We would miss that excellent number though….
Yes, it well documented that Lloyd-Webber is a big fat Tory, but like there’s a difference between being a big fat Tory and being a fascist…. Patti LuPone did say that whoever wrote that score “hated women” hmmm….
Despite knowing all of this, it still slaps. Everything about it appeals to me like a flower to a bee; its melodramatic, set in the mid-twentieth century and sung entirely all the way through. It is like a very short audiobook. All the songs are amazing. My favourite change all the time, but special mention to Oh! What A Circus, Another Suitcase in Another Hall and Rainbow Tour. My copy of the cast album would be very worn if it was not an iTunes download, filling in until they revived it in New York the year I happened to go on holiday there.
Lin Manuel Miranda spoke about this, about how theatre is so inaccessible, but cast recordings are not. His first taste of theatre was his parents’ music collection. Most of my favourite shows, I’ve never seen live, for example, the only thing of Anything Goes I’ve seen is Patti LuPone’s performance at the 1988 Tony Awards, but I know and love all the words to all the songs.
Yes, while theatre is inherently an exclusive model of art but there are movie musicals, and yes they are great, but as Lindsay Ellis has well documented, Andrew Lloyd Webber works make terrible movies, or really he makes terrible movies.
He micromanages, refusing to acknowledge that stage and screen are different mediums and therefore they need to adapt to the unique challenges. We all know what happened to CATS and the 2004 movie of The Phantom of The Opera is just blah, which is quite an achievement because its literally an eighties rock opera about a man who lives under an opera house and a girl with the worst case of daddy issues ever documented? Seriously, it is so bad, for example, the Phantom is played by Gerard Butler, yes, him! He sings like Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia, but Mamma Mia is different, but that is different and for another Sunday morning….
Luckily, they released the Royal Albert Hall 25th-anniversary performance of the Phantom of The Opera starring Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karmiloo, which is like an actual professional West End production with people you’d pay 50 quid to see.
Not all of ALW movies are AWFUL! The other day, I watched the 1973 film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, which was just the stage version put on in the Israeli desert, which was okay, I suppose, but I don’t think a movie should have you utter “but I bet the stage show is better…”
Oh and another thing, it is absolutely wild to me when people refer to Mandy Patinkin as from Homeland or Patti LuPone from American Horror Story, and while gatekeeping is not a fun attribute, but like, absolutely not…