There, her shady habits dating military men, led her to meeting, equally ambitious Colonel Juan Domingo Peron. Through a military coup Peron became Argentina’s president strongly supported by Eva his (now) glamorous wife.
Evita, the musical, set to Tim Rice lyrics and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music, gives audiences an insight into Eva’s brief, but extraordinary, life. Authors of Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron, claim Rice based Evita’s lyrics on Mary Mains’ biography The Woman With the Whip.
However, the fact is Rice’s interest in Eva stemmed from an Argentinean stamp memorialising Eva Peron - a stamp he had in his schoolboy collection. That’s when he began researching her life. But many years passed before he and Lloyd Webbers’ collaboration resulted in the multi-award winning musical Evita.
Over and above principal characters - Evita, Magaldi, Juan Peron and Peron’s mistress - Rice’s scenario introduces Che (Guevara) as narrator and Greek chorus. Although Guevara did exist as an Argentinean Marxist revolutionary, author, guerrilla leader and military theorist, Rice chose to place Che as an ordinary Argentinean citizen who, understanding Evita’s duplicity, “marvels” at her rise to fame.
From its original 1976 rock opera concept Evita, the musical Lloyd Webber and Rice created, burst on to London’s West End Theatre stage on June 21, 1978, closing after 3176 performances on February 18, 1986. From then on, Evita productions have toured the globe and continue to do so.
From December 1 until January 7, Pieter Toerien and David Ian are presenting an original Evita production at Artscape Opera. In Cape Town to direct Evita is Broadway’s legendary Hal Prince. His theatre experience goes back to the 1950s and with him to reproduce Larry Fuller’s original choreography is Rebecca Kim Jordan.
Jordan is the ideal person to be trusted with carrying out Fuller’s instructions to the last jete.
Not only did she grow up with a mother who was a Broadway dancer, a father a Broadway actor and a step-father an English TV and film actor, she herself trained as a ballet dancer in San Francisco before moving to New York where her training continued.
With her background not surprisingly (virtually) by osmosis Jordan learnt to love theatre with all its quirky idiosyncrasies. She also learnt how important integrity was.
“Reproducing another choreographer’s work carries huge responsibility. Of course small adjustments must be made to accommodate different size stages. But these are minimal. What Fuller choreographed 41 years ago, will be seen on Artscape’s Opera stage. My job is to see, if Fuller were to pay a surprise visit to Artscape, he’d see what he choreographed unfold before his eyes.”
Jordan, who studied drama and dance at New York University, found her first job with the Zurich Opera Ballet.
“I loved dancing there, but then (1979) with no cellphones or easy access to landlines I became dreadfully homesick, so came home.
“Fortunately, I quickly landed a place in Los Angeles in TV’s production of Fame and stayed for two seasons. I then decided to return to New York, met my husband, and married him - though I never stopped dancing in musicals such as Mame, West Side Story, Jekyll and Hyde and a dozen others.
“These shows have taken me to 37 countries on six continents, until I settled down as resident choreographer for As the World Turns. I’ve choreographed for Bravo TV, commercials for Met Life and Nike and worked as director and choreographer on Norwegian Cruise Lines for nearly seven years.”
Petite, exuding vitality, deep brown eyes sparkling, Jordan’s enthusiasm for her work is palpable. In between following her great love of dance and raising her daughter, Jordan became involved in Actors’ Equity. It’s the oldest labour union in the US and Jordan is second vice president.
“My proudest achievements, so far, have been to improve thespians’ wages, level pay packets for women, and restructure working conditions.
“It took time to persuade governing bodies the era of theatre people working for the love of it and happy to go hungry had gone. Performers expect to eat and sleep in reasonable accommodation. Also, it becomes a quid pro quo relationship - actors, in every genre, will perform better, audiences will note the difference and fill seats.”
Asked if Jordan didn’t tire of living out of a suitcase, reproducing choreographic gems, her answer was an emphatic “no”.
“I love every moment as it brings me in contact with new countries, cities, people and theatres. It is a wonderful life and I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here. Table Mountain is marvellous.”
Taking the role of Evita is Emma Kingston, Robert Finlayson is Peron and Jonathan Roxmouth is Che. Original Timothy O’Brien and Tazeena Firth’s sets back Evita’s rise to power in a country, where without checks and balances stopping her pilfering state coffers - people starved. Yet, such was her charisma the public adored her and mourned when she died at 33.
Classical music (Requiem for Evita), instrumental passages, rhythmic Latinate styles (Buenos Aires), ballads (High Flying Adored), rock (Oh! What a Circus) and Don’t Cry for Me Argentina are among Evita’s popular and award-winning songs, songs to sing along with at either a matinee or an evening performance.
* Evita will play at the Teatro at Montecasino from October 14 to November 26. Bookings at Computicket.