Eva Peron, of course, was a real person, and one whose story might feel eerily familiar to some. Webber's tragic treatment of the former Argentine first lady borrows heavily from ancient Greek drama, and so it is fitting that he uses a Hellenic theater conceit and inserts a fictional narrator into ostensibly factual events. Che, then, is a chorus, our prism through which we experience and interpret the play. It's a deft bit of writing, and works as well in Evita as it does in Sophocles' Electra or Shakespeare's Henry V.
Che is the Argentine people given voice (as the chorus represents the Women of Argos in Electra, and so forth). He speaks (or more often, in keeping with the dramatic form, sings) their frustration, their hope, their rage, their despair. He gives us insight into motivations that Eva Duarte, or Juan Peron, or a host of other characters might not even realize themselves. Having never seen this show on stage, I was reluctant and skeptical when the 1996 film was released with Madonna and Antonio Banderas. I should not have been. Madonna's performance is electric and impressive, but I was blown away by Banderas' tour de force as Che. He is more than capable of meeting the song and dance demands, and consumes them whole, robust and swaggering, sensitive and contemplative, always powerful and magnetic. Che is Argentina personified, Eva's elusive conquest, passionate lover, and mourning adversary. I hesitate to use the word to describe Webber, but it's brilliantly done.
Evita is pop history and cautionary tale, a modern fable, and Che is at its heart. Would that we had a Che as our chorus rather than nattering mannequins on cable TV and talk radio.