Before I officially exited the teaching profession, I brought the movie of Evita with me to a choir class I was substitute teaching, thinking I’d have it on hand in case the teacher didn’t leave lesson plans. There was some time left over in the period, so I popped it in. Most of the girls in the class weren’t even aware of the movie’s existence—and these were girls interested enough to be talking about the MTV showing of Legally Blonde before class.
The truth is, there are kids out there who really like musicals. No matter what an individual movie’s box office gross suggests, there has been a DVD audience for the big film musicals of the recent past.
In my years of teaching, it was not unusual to hear kids having get-togethers to watch The Phantom of the Opera for the tenth time or to hear them talking about loving the film adaptations of Hairspray, Rent, or even The Producers.
The one title, however, that has managed to escape this trend is, oddly enough, Evita. It’s a movie that features two readily identifiable names—Madonna and Antonio Banderas (who is probably best known by the younger generation for the Shrek movies). The music is not only great, but it’s written in a strong rock idiom. It’s like Dreamgirls with white people.
Part of the problem is that Disney (who produced the film under its Hollywood Pictures banner) has not done much to promote the film in recent years, such as discounting it afresh so that retailers like Target and Walmart will stock it and put it in their weekly advertisements (you know, those $7.50 type of ads). Evita has been repacked as a “2 on 1 Disc” special with Frida, but that will probably not do much to sell the movie to the broadest audience It is strange that, with the recent upswing in interest in musicals, that Disney has not done something more significant to remind people of Evita.
Another reason that Evita has fallen through the cracks may be that many kids get introduced to film musicals through middle and high school music classes, which is how Newsies became such a cult hit. That’s unfortunate because Evita has much to offer, and with its PG-rating, it would be appropriate but high-interest for older kids. Yes, it is sung-through, which will be a turn off some, but its great music would win over many others.
I guess to a big company like Disney, one title doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but as a musical theatre fan, Evita does have the power to inspire and delight a whole new generation. It’s too bad it’s fallen through the cracks.
the Broadway Mouth
April 24, 2008