Don’t cry for “Evita” - the tickets are moving briskly for this national touring production at the Spokane Opera House.
That’s because there are thousands of Andrew Lloyd Webber fans out there and because “Evita” is considered one of Lloyd Webber’s best.
It was a huge smash from the day it opened in London in 1978. Then it moved to New York in 1979, where it was equally successful. It even spawned a hit song (unusual in musicals of this era) with “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”
“Evita” tells the story, in near-operatic scope, of one of the most remarkable women of the century. Eva Peron worked her way up from the slums of Buenos Aires to become an actress, broadcaster and finally, first lady of Argentina.
She was Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe rolled into one. During her funeral in 1953, 16 people were crushed in the crowds and 4,000 people were treated for injuries.
No wonder Madonna wanted to play Evita in the film version of this musical (which has yet to be made).
In this touring production, Kerri Jill Garbis has the role. Garbis was playing Eva Peron in a regional theater in Pennsylvania when she heard about the national auditions in New York. She auditioned, got the part and thanked her lucky stars.
“This is one of the best parts in musical theater for a woman and definitely the most challenging,” said Garbis by phone from a tour stop in Anchorage. “Not very often does an actress get a chance to relive a person’s entire life in two hours. And what a fascinating life it was. This is not Ado Annie, that’s for sure.”
Garbis is only 23 years old, far younger than most women who have tackled this role. Actually, Garbis is the ideal age to play the part.
“Eva’s life span in the play is from 15 to 33,” said Garbis.
Eva Peron died at age 33 of cancer. This is not an altogether upbeat show.
“‘Evita’ is a dark show, you can’t escape it,” said Garbis. “But it’s somebody’s life - it’s realistic.”
Mostly realistic, at least. Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice took a few liberties with the story, the major one being the recurring appearance of Che Guevara. In this show, he serves as narrator, observer and critical commentator on Eva and Juan Peron’s personalities and politics.
Che Guevara was, in fact, an Argentine citizen who came of age during the Peron regime. However, there is no evidence that this legendary revolutionary ever met Eva Peron or that his politics were even affected by her.
Like most of Lloyd Webber’s musicals, the story is told entirely through song. There are only three spoken lines in the entire show.
And even though “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” is the song everyone knows, it is not Garbis’ favorite.
“I think my favorite song is ‘Buenos Aires,”’ said Garbis.
The show also contains a few big dance numbers.
The touring show has 24 cast members and an eight-piece musical ensemble, plus a musical director.
Reviewers at previous stops have commented favorably on the production values:
“The sets, while not Broadway quality, were adequate for a bus-andtruck tour such as this, incorporating certain features of larger productions, including actual photos of Eva projected on a screen,” said a reviewer for The Sun in Lowell, Mass.
The show has a somewhat unusual schedule in Spokane. It will play a show on Sunday at 7:30 p.m., and then skip Monday and play another show on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Touring shows traditionally get Mondays off, and in any case, it is hard to draw audiences on Mondays. Call 325-SEAT for tickets, which are $32.50 and $30.
MEMO: This is a sidebar that appeared with the story: ‘Evita’ Location and time: Spokane Opera House, Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $32.50 and $30.