It’s kind of gone back and forth whether Lloyd Webber and Rice really meant Che to be Guevara (or at least partially based on him) or not.
In recent years, they’ve claimed that their conception of Che was always meant to be an everyman figure (as in the movie). “Che”, in Argentinian, is kind of an all-purpose nickname like “buddy”. They claim it was Harold Prince’s staging that explicitly made him Guevara and that they wrote the line where Che describes having grown “from seventeen to twenty-four” watching the Perons destroy his beloved country. That was Guevara’s age range during Eva’s regime.
Then again, on the original concept album Che describes himself as a research chemist who’s working on a new kind of insecticide (which he isn’t able to market because he can’t get Eva’s endorsement–it’s an idiotic subplot which is the only flaw on an otherwise great album). That was, apparently, Guevara’s job in his youth, and he did experiment with insecticides (although why they thought that was appropriate for the show is anybody’s guess).
So, are ALW and Tim Rice telling the truth when they say they never meant Che to be Guevara and that it was Hal Prince’s idea? Or are they backpedaling now that many very brutal actions of Che Guevara’s have come to light and they don’t want their show associated with him?
Now, I like the movie a lot. I was never a fan of Madonna’s acting, but she actually came through quite well in it. In fact, during “Eva’s Final Broadcast” when her voice broke on “I’m Argentina…and always will be…” all I could think was “Damn, Madonna…if you could act all this time why didn’t you just SAY so?!”
And I have a soft spot for the original concept album since it was the first version of the show I ever listened to. Oh, it has its flaws…the disco-ish orchestrations of some parts and the aforementioned ridiculous insecticide subplot. But it has numerous strengths, too…especially the ending. The current stage ending always seemed a little clumsy to me…to end a sung-through musical on a spoken passage. It seemed like the equivalent of the “superimposed text” you see at the end of many biopics.
But the ending of the concept album…the full two-verse version of “Lament” with the sad flute quotation of “Eva, Beware of the City” between the two verses, the brass quote of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” to symbolize Eva’s final breaths…and then the eerie, echoing voices of the morticians singing to a minor-key reprise of the “Rainbow High” chorus…
…you know, you do NOT want to make the same mistake I did on the second hearing and listen to it late at night with the lights off.
You guys might be interested in the background notes from actor-director Scott Miller of St. Louis’ New Line Theatre.