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Proven Masterpiece Gone Terribly Wrong 
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Post Proven Masterpiece Gone Terribly Wrong
Found this review of an ambitious 2009 Denver area production of Evita. I'm not too sure I agree with the author's complaints regarding the lack of "ethnic casting," considering this show is always cast using almost all white performers.

I think he's missing the real problem, but go ahead and read the review and see if you can figure out what that problem is.

http://www.denverpost.com/theater/ci_12 ... f=obinsite

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Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:33 am
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Each of us probably have different ideas of what's wrong here and some might even feel there's nothing wrong at all. Obviously, these are my subjective views and not meant to be the final word on anything.

Hal Prince worked around [most likely unintentionally as far as casting] possible casting issues by setting his original production in an abstract, all-purpose environment. I'm sure I read somewhere that he was concerned nobody would even know where Argentina is located or that it even exists. Not only did set designers Timothy O'Brian and Tazeena Firth's highly symbolic and suggestive set erase the need to anchor the show in a specific location in the minds of an audience, it also didn't require a cast that looks or sounds like the people from the place the story is firmly set in.

Audience's are then left with one main task and one main task only, and that's to follow the complex story. Even then, the show is presented in such an intuitive way that one need only understand that this woman named Eva Peron went from rags to riches, abused her power, manipulated the masses, and continued to do so even after her death. The cause of death does not even have to be mentioned or dealt with, but in the end, we get the sense it was something that spread and devastated her body.

The Arvada center has put on brilliant productions of shows before and the raves their Les Mis received immediately comes to mind. However, there are two things that worked against them here; one, they were heavily influenced by the film version and; two, they attempted to firmly set the show in a place that was supposed to represent Argentina.

You mix that together with the all-too-familiar attitude of "We are NOT going to present the SAME OLD show" and you're asking for trouble. The designs borrow so much from the film but what really makes it problematic is what the designer settled with is not in any way representative of Argentina, or any other country for that matter. Like the reviewer said, it could be the exterior of the White House for all we know.

It seems they tried to mimic the film in the way Che is presented as well--big mistake. They should've seriously left what worked on film to the film and focus on delivering the musical on stage.

One might argue that the London revival was similar and that it worked. But they went an extra step and hired an Argentine actress complete with heavy Spanish accent and all. Besides, their designs invoked more than the immaculate posh palace set of the Arvada Center production. Even so, I feel the London revival choreography was distracting, even ridiculous at times in all its complexity which ultimately failed to deliver anything. Quite unlike Larry Fuller's stunning work in the original production which told a distinct story of its own (especially in "Buenos Aires") and moved the plot forward to a point where we know so much more about Eva than we did at dance number's start.

One thing that has been a pet peeve of mine in recent years is the tendency to hire Madonna-like talent in the title role. Right off the bat I know there's someone less than qualified to work on a theatrical version. If you hire an actress based on the film version and ignore the way the stage role has been traditionally cast throughout the years, then you have no business working in the theatre. Madonna's subdued version is mostly that way due to limitations in vocal range and acting chops. No, as much as people want to make you believe that it is, it is NOT an artistic variation on the role. I get a kick when people try to suggest Madonna intentionally went for a more gentle, caring, humanized Eva. Nah, you better believe that if Madonna had the singing and acting chops of Patti Lupone, she'd have portrayed her as the sneering, belty diva that is ideal considering, well, that's how she's written into the show.

So I chuckle when I see yet another Madonna clone attempting to "humanize" Eva onstage. That's the main thing that made the film so confusing; here you have the text tell you one thing, then you have a limited actress tell you another thing that clashes violently with the text and continues to do so throughout the film. What you've got is a work that can't make up its mind. Do we really want this to replace the awesome, proven masterpiece directed by Hal Prince? No thank you.

Like the author of the review says, variation in design and direction is expected in the theatre and there's nothing against that but the artistic integrity must be respected and while a director can go ahead and place his/her stamp on the show, they must do so while being honest with themselves about what works and what doesn't. Why it works and how, and what their vision might potentially add to the piece.

Obviously, I'm not generalizing here but I'd say that in most cases, going in with an anti-original production approach will only assure you take away, and in taking away what works, present but merely a shadow of a proven masterpiece.

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Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:03 am
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Post The Interpretataion of EVITA on Film
I do get your point, but it is not fair or accurate to blame Madonna entirely for her portrayal in the film. If you read through any of the stuff that was written by director Alan Parker, it's clear that it was his intention to ignore everything that Hal Prince had done in adapting the album to the stage and to humanize Eva Peron by providing what he calls a more balanced look at her life. I agree with you that this was not the correct approach to take in adapting the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice version of the Eva Peron story, but I think that the blame for the approach lies mostly on the shoulders of Parker rather than anyone else.

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Wed Jun 09, 2010 11:28 pm
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I know Parker had a lot to do with it but regardless of who's to blame the movie portrayal didn't work too well in the movie, now imagine how awful it would be in a stage version.

In recent years, there have been too many productions (European ones being most guilty) that hire very Madonna-like women for the title role. So you get what comes off on the surface as a big tribute to Eva and those who actually pay attention to the lyrics get either frustrated or confused at the lack of consistency.

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Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:51 pm
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Forgot to mention, but I agree with you, Q.

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Fri Jul 02, 2010 12:14 pm
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