Wed, May 02, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Evita’ feels like a mockery of nationalism’s return

By Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita was performed to a half-full audience on Sunday at Taipei’s National Theater.

Photo courtesy of The Really Useful Group

Not even Christian Dior could have helped Sunday’s ill-timed performance of Evita at Taipei’s National Theater.

Even with Instagram-worthy one-liners like “Thank God for Switzerland,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s portrayal of a first lady’s savior complex felt cliched and outdated for an audience much too familiar with political showmanship.

At a time when politics has become a spectacle and reality more thrilling than fiction, Evita feels like a mockery of the comeback nationalism has made.

The months-long diplomatic waltz between North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and the South’s Moon Jae-in culminated in the two leaders crossing the North-South border at the demilitarized zone holding hands, and any five-second interval during last Friday’s meeting could have inspired more discussion than the two-hour long performance in Taipei.

It did not help that Emma Kingston’s delivery of Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina in Act II was anticlimactic at best.

Despite the song being more than likely the only one audience members knew the lyrics to — in a show they paid upward of NT$5,800 to see — no one mouthed along, at least from what I could tell sitting in the back row of the first floor.

The number, made in part famous by Madonna, received not even a polite round of applause.

The uncomfortable silence in the half-empty theater could be attributed to confusion over why the flawed protagonist suddenly demanded sympathy after a 15-minute intermission.

Christian Dior me, Eva Peron sings as she dolls herself up for the equivalent of a taxpayer-funded Grand Tour and surrenders herself to her self-given responsibilities (though one would hardly call it a sacrifice).

At times Juan Peron’s chess piece and at times the real commander-in-chief, the fictionalized former Argentine first lady — with all her guilt and insecurities — had me wondering whether she reminded me more of Ivanka Trump or Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Or perhaps a different viewer would have found it easier to liken her to Soong Mei-ling (宋美齡), better known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the wife of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).

A sense of irony certainly could not be avoided as the plot unfolded with Chiang’s memorial lurking outside the theater’s doors.

In Evita, the Argentine crowd on stage immortalizes Eva and declares her a saint for shattering expectations, but hopefully the musical today serves as a warning about worshipping false idols.

At the end of the day, Eva is more analgesic than antidote and the last thing the world needs right now is a Blanche DuBois-esque escape from reality.

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