'Evita' Tour Offers Cautionary Tale on Cult of Personality Pols

The current Broadway tour of Evita is more than a veteran musical with a powerhouse lead performance. The tale of an Argentinian icon who died tragically young offers a lesson for anyone who votes for personality over accomplishments.

We may cry for Evita Peron, but the truth is her homeland went broke during her husband's reign.

Those ponying up to see Evita at The Buell Theater in Denver through Jan. 26 (it moves next to Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Cincinatti) can appreciate the show on a visceral level sans politics. Still, the image of the beloved Evita, torn between her passion for extravagance and helping the downtrodden, gives the production a welcome edge.

Our tragic protagonist, given beauty and vibrancy by Caroline Bowman, shed her blue-collar roots with a combination of guile, talent and an ability to bend the minds of men. She runs through a series of romances before meeting a dashing military man named Juan Peron, a partnership not unlike many modern political power couples.

"I'd be good for you," Evita purrs in convincing fashion, and soon we see why.

Together, they brought Argentinians together, but her official government role was more than just a comely figurehead. She cared deeply for the poor, or so she said. The production is more certain of her lust for the finer things and inability to make the changes needed for her fellow citizens.

In short, she was an empty chair, to quote a certain Hollywood legend.

Her followers adored her all the same, and it's hard not to recall the affection many Venezuelans felt for Hugo Chavez, a leader who left his country in shambles upon his passing. Evita tells us that she, too, crushed her foes in a way that hardly suited her kind image.

Evita's staging is crisp and without serious flaws, the spectacular set design is worth tearing up over. The songs, from the prolific minds of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, have that 1970s sense of bombast that occasionally stops them from stirring the soul. The hits still outweigh the misses on the musical number count, and the infusion of Latin-style dance moves is a singular highlight.

The show's creators based its story on a tome critical of its subject, something that becomes clear during the opening moments and doesn't ever wane.

A final political note: The tour's press notes insist the show's narrator, Che (a terrific Josh Young), is not based on famed revolutionary Che Guevara. That wasn't the case during the show's total run. Hal Prince made the Guevara connection while staging the show's original production. The role, as originally written, had Che as the Everyman commenting on the swirling Argentinian political scene.


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