I’ve been listening to recordings of the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical recently and as usual, I’m left wondering whether the “Montage” that takes us from Eva’s final collapse through to her deathbed is really a satisfying moment dramatically. No doubt that it can be, as it was conceived in Hal Prince’s original production, as a kind of coup de théâtre bridging “Eva’s Final Broadcast” with the “Lament”, but what does it really accomplish dramatically?
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice faced a similar problem in their earlier musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, when they wanted to contrive a moment in which the audience could question whether Jesus’ sacrifice was a worthwhile one. They put the words into Judas’ mouth, writing the song “Superstar”, which achieved that intention in an innovative manner. In contrast, the “Montage” in Evita is lazy, lazy dramaturgy: it is a shortcut and plays as nothing more, despite what Harold Prince was able to do with it in his staging. It is Prince’s staging and that of those who follow in his footsteps that makes the number work; the number doesn’t really contribute much based solely on its own merits.
The film dispensed with the “Montage” and did not feel incomplete without it. Is it perhaps this great show’s greatest flaw?