Last night we went out to see Evita at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. It was a good production, but it was a slightly odd experience for me because it was based on the original staging by Hal Prince. Back in college, I was in a production of the show at school…and our director also based it on the original staging. Visually, the show was almost exactly what we would have done if we’d had the budget. (And a full orchestra, and more experienced actors, and so on.) They did make different choices in characterization at points—Eva was harder, Che was more comedic, etc.—but there was a definite deja vu element. (Katie will get her turn at deja vu next week when we see Carmina Burana.)
It also got me thinking about the structure of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows . His early works, like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Cats and tend to be much more presentational. There’s lots of breaking the fourth wall, large chunks of Evita are symbolic (and the second half of act 2 is very disjointed), and many of them actually have narrators (Judas, Che, or just “The Narrator” in Joseph). But by the time you get to The Phantom of the Opera, the structure is entirely narrative. I’m not sure how much of that is Lloyd Webber changing his style and how much of it is moving to a new lyricist (Tim Rice worked on Joseph, Superstar and Evita). I don’t know Starlight Express very well, but what I’ve heard seems to fit more with Phantom, Sunset Boulevard, and Whistle Down the Wind.
Looking over at that site, I’ve discovered three more ALW shows I didn’t even know about. It’s not surprising when I think about it, though. I have been out of the musical theater loop for a few years. I mean, the big exciting musical event for me this year? The film adaptation of Rent that opens next month. I’m really looking forward to that, and the show is almost 10 years old!