Forty years ago this year, Evita opened at the Prince Edward Theater in London, becoming the third successful musical created by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, following Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar.
However, unlike several of Lloyd Webber’s later musicals, such as Cats and Phantom of the Opera, Evita never made it Taiwan, much less the rest of Asia, until this year, when a new international touring production opened in Singapore in February.
Perhaps the tale of a free-spending wife of a dictator hit too close to home for some Asian governments in the 1980s and 1990s.
Photo Courtesy of The Really Useful Group
Taiwanese audiences will finally get their chance to see Evita when it opens at the National Theater in Taipei on Wednesday next week for a seven-show run.
Like Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita began life as a rock musical concept album in 1976, and Don’t Cry for Me Argentina became a No. 1 hit for Julie Covington in the UK, as well as topping record charts in several countries.
The familiarity of that song, along with High Flying, Adored and Another Suitcase in Another Hall, helped sell tickets when original stage production, directed by Broadway legend Harold Price, finally opened in London — and later on Broadway and elsewhere.
The two-act show has won a slew of awards for Lloyd Webber, Rice and Prince in its various incarnations over the decades. While the range of musical styles that Lloyd Webber used ranges from classical choral to rock ballads to tango, it is really Rice’s witty, though often acerbic, lyrics that sell the show — especially those in Peron’s Latest Flame (the generals’ song) — and linger in the mind for years.
Which is only appropriate, because it was Rice’s obsession with Eva Peron, an actress who became the wife of Argentine president Juan Peron and first lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952 at the age of 33, that inspired the show.
While “based on a true story,” as Hollywood likes to say, the historical accuracy of Evita’s rag-to-riches tale is dubious, but that does not detract from quality of the show, or enjoying it.
The production opening in Taipei next week has British actress Emma Kingston, whose mother is actually Argentine, in the lead role, with South Africans Robert Finlayson as Juan Peron and Jonathan Roxmouth as Che.
WHEN: From Wednesday, April 25 to Saturday, April 28 at 7:30pm; April 28 matinee at 2:30pm and April 29 at 11am and 3pm
WHERE: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)
ADMISSION: NT$2,800 to NT$5,800, available through Kuang Hong Arts Management’s Web site at www.kham.com.tw, OK Mart convenience store ticket kiosks or by calling (07) 780-7071, Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 5:30pm, or faxing (07) 780-5353
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