Thursday, October 31, 2013

THAT’S Your Favorite Musical? - Part 3

Happy Halloween, campers!  We have come to the third and final installment of musicals I just don’t get.  I’d like to reiterate that everyone is entitled to their opinion on these musicals and you are free to voice them.  Except for Oliver! I’m sad to say I don’t think you’ll ever change my stance on that show.   We will conclude the “THAT’S Your Favorite Musical?” series with the (for some reason) West End and Broadway smash, Evita.

Based on: Life of Argentine First Lady Eva Peron
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics: Tim Rice
Broadway Debut: 1979
Tony Nominations-Wins: 11-7

High points of Evita:
·         Mandy Patinkin. Need I say more? He belts like a boss!
·         The music
Low points of Evita:
·         Patti Lupone. See below.
·         The plot (historical ambiguity and failure to create empathy)

The only exposure I’ve had to Evita is the original cast recording, that God-awfulnumber Ricky Martin and Nurse Ratched’s sister did at the 2013 Tonys, and the Madonna film.  I don’t think the film is terrible, I just think Antonio Banderas is the only one who has a clue what the frak he’s doing there….. Mmmm, Antonio!!!  He should do more Broadway.  I’m such a sucker for them triple-threats!  But seriously; Jonathan Pryce just stood (and sang) there like a prop while looking lustfully at Madonna, who was just happy to be there, always singing a key lower than the original score.

Evita follows the brief life story of street-scamp-turned-actress-turned-spiritual-leader-of-Argentina, Eva Peron.  Brought up in impoverished Junín, she tags along with a tango singer to happenin’ Buenos Aires to make her fortune at the tender age of fifteen.  She makes her way up the social ladder to the rank of “established radio actress” by way of numerous trysts with increasingly prominent gentlemen.  Then she meets the significantly older Col. Juan Peron at some fancy shindig.  They hook up.  Rich people and the military don’t approve.  They get married.  Rich people and the military REALLY don’t approve.  She gets up on a balcony in a ball gown and tells the Argentinians that they shouldn’t cry for her.  Pandemonium! Then she gets all dolled up and tours Europe to try and gain favor with other nations, receiving mixed reviews.  She comes home and creates a charity foundation that happens to line her own pockets quite nicely.  She gets uterine cancer and dies at 33. Argentina is beside itself.  Juan sticks her in a glass coffin and has a bunch of embalming preservatives pumped into her (I’m guessing he had some Snow White fascination or something, cuz that’s just creepy). The End.

I spent the majority of this musicalrockoperawhatever thinking so what?  Yeah, she made her way from a bastard street urchin to spiritual leader of Argentina and stuck it to the elite who snubbed her.  Yeah, she was a champion for the descamisados, but she also manipulated her fascist husband’s political movements, screwed over countless people and organizations to fund her charity foundation (*cough* money laundering *cough cough*), and she was an avid Nazi sympathizer (it’s widely speculated that her European “Rainbow” tour was a front to help transport former Nazis to South America).  Why should I invest in this story emotionally?  She gives me no reason to like her.  I give a bigger shit about Che’s character than hers (and he’s not even a “real” character). So whenever she’s got her hands raised up on the balcony going, “Oh, my impoverished Argentine people, I LOVE you!” I’m just thinking How nice, the power-hungry, full-o-crap tyrant with a better wardrobe than Kate Middleton loves her people… still don’t care.  The only conclusion/revelation Evita seemed to come to at the end was her “choice” to be a shining flame that dies quickly instead of being a slow-and-steady success from the sidelines (right, cuz uterine cancer had nothing to do with it). That’s kind of selfish if you ask me.  I wonder if Jackie Kennedy ever had problems like that… 

I do like the songs; very catchy, memorable, hummable, pretty, sweeping melodies. The usual Andrew Lloyd Webber recipe. However, does anyone else notice Andrew Lloyd Webber’s habit of recycling the same tunes? Phantom, Joseph, Cats, Sunset Blvd, etc. He writes 7 tunes for each show and just has his lyricist write different lyrics each time they occur. Y’know that song “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina?”  Well, it’s also pretty much the same tune as “Oh, What A Circus,” “The Actress Hasn’t Learned The Lines,” and “Eva’s Final Broadcast.”  I’m cool with a reprise from time to time, but that’s just being lazy.

There are a two songs that make little sense to me: “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” and “Another Suitcase In Another Hall.” “Don’t Cry…” finds Evita bidding the rabble below not to mourn her ascent to stardom, as she still remembers where she came from and loves her kinsmen.  Cue the puke machine! Please, you’re wearing Dior and we’re supposed to find you endearing because you used to be poor?  LAME.  I’d be cool if she sang that after she was dead or something, but you sound like a pompous ass when no one’s crying yet.  I’m pretty sure the reason she always has her hands raised during this song is because she’s holding up an imaginary cross.  And I’m not alone on this.

I fuckin' OWN this place...
I actually like the song “Another Suitcase In Another Hall.” Peron’s mistress sings about moving on from her failed relationship after Evita unceremoniously supplants her.  A fitting song.  Crap, my lover/sugar daddy found a new hussy and I’m out on my ass… However, I feel kinda bad that this lady with such a good song gets no character development, no addition to the plot, not even a name (she’s only referred to as “Mistress”).  It’s kind of a weird stop in the action of the show. We’re following Evita’s speedy rise to power and then we’re sideswiped with having to listen to this sad, nameless chick who just came out of nowhere…. And then she’s gone, never to be seen again.  At least it made some sense when Madonna sang it in the movie (remember that tango singer? Well, he jilts her as soon as they get to Buenos Aires in the movie).

I've got a glass of Bitch Juice and I ain't afraid to throw it in your face!!!
And what about Patti Lupone?  I would dedicate an entire post to my disdain for Patti Lupone, but I’m pretty sure that if she ever read it, I’d never be seen again.  In one of my favorite quotes from The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby describes the nature of blithe socialite, Daisy, affirming, “Her voice is full of money.”  In my opinion, Patti Lupone’s voice is full of Patti Lupone.  She’s an unabashed diva (not the good kind).  At a performance of Gypsy (which, I believe she demanded be revived on Broadway about 5 minutes after Benradette Peters’ version closed, just so she could play Mama Rose), she stopped the entire show to rant at an audience member for trying to take a picture with his phone.  Now phone use is obviously bad form at a performance, but is it the job of a performer to point that out?  I’m pretty sure if any other cast or crew member had pulled that shit, they’d be on unemployment the next day.  The show must go on, right? ….I guess not if you’re Patti Lupone and someone in the house is pissing you off.  According to her own memoirs, she trashed a dressing room and threw a lamp out the window because they didn’t cast her in Sunset Blvd. when it went to Broadway.  So in a way, I guess the role of Evita is perfect for her: spiteful, entitled, tyrannical…

I will grant you, she has some powerhouse pipes. But when I hear her sing, I hear no character, no richness, no color, no lilt, no enunciation; just a bunch of shrill, slurred notes being adequately hit (and I have heard her live… 2nd worst Mrs. Lovett ever).  Her brassy voice is reminiscent of Ethel Merman, but without the personality.  Her singing range consists of Loud and Really Loud. Her emotional range consists of Lethargic and Slightly Irritated.  Have you ever been in a choir where there’s always that one singer who refuses to blend?  Yeah, that’s Patti.  She’s just not for me…

So that’s my take on Evita.  Not a bad work, just severely overhyped.  But good for Argentina.  The rest of the world can probably find it on a map now, thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber.  I believe the only rave-worthy thing about this show is Mandy Patinkin (and maybe Madonna’s 9,000 costume changes in the movie version).  I don’t care what he sings, he makes the show (and life in general) wonderful.  He could be singing The Brady Bunch theme song and I’d still be geeking out.  But he can only make up so much for the glorified puffery that is Evita’s appeal.  That too harsh for you? Well, you can go to Argentina and cry about it…

No comments:

Post a Comment