Photo by Joan Marcus/OCPACAbout 20 minutes into Evita, after the show had already shot its wad, melodically speaking, with a rendition of "Oh What a Circus"—which has the insanely whistle-able "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" tune in it—and we began to realize that we were in for a long night of brassy, Broadway-modern, quasi-dissonant music delivered by a huge, whirling crew of actor-singer-dancers who put across this stuff like the salesmen screaming at each other in Glengarry Glen Ross while at the same time doing double-time calisthenics, my date and I turned to each other in disbelief at the nutty goings-on up onstage. And we whispered, simultaneously, "What the fuck is this?" (me) and "Maybe we should be on acid" (her).
We were agog, man. Admittedly, I hadn't seen a Broadway-style musical in a couple of decades, and so I wasn't prepared for jokes so broad they may as well have been delivered by semaphore—or for so strident a mix of rock, disco, flamenco and traditional show music. But after witnessing this thing, I wholeheartedly endorse my decision to have boycotted the form and promise to do it again (though my date insists The Producers and The Lion King are worth seeing, and I've had the entire libretto of My Fair Lady floating happily in my cortex since I was nine).
But, again, I ask, What the fuck is this? I know I should be able to get past this little narrative wrinkle, but why is Che Guevara telling the story of Eva Perón? Isn't that sort of like Martin Luther King Jr. recounting the life of Nancy Reagan? Would Americans flock to a musical called Nancy, or do I detect a note of cultural condescension directed at our good friends from Argentina? I'm just asking, because there's a scene in which Juan Perón's rise to power is dramatized by five Argentinian military officers playing musical chairs. It's supposed to be funny, but while the officers are bumbling onstage trying to get an empty seat, photographs are played on a back screen showing actual deadly riots on the streets of Buenos Aires. Would Nancy have a hilarious little scene where Nancy tries on shoes and attends to her astrologer while pictures of the new homeless starve on a screen above her? Honestly, I don't get Evita: not the fake politics, not the bombast, not the appalling amount of money and energy poured into it—not any of it. But that's just me.
EVITA AT SEGERSTROM HALL, ORANGE COUNTY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, 600 TOWN CENTER DR., COSTA MESA, (714) 556-2787. TUES.-FRI., 8 P.M. SAT., 2 & 8 P.M.; SUN., 2 & 7:30 P.M. THROUGH OCT. 16. $20-$65.