Eva's funeral is majestic, a combination of the magnificent excesses of the Vatican and of Hollywood with huge crowds, much pageantry, wailing and lamentation. Che is the only non-participant.
Che is at times a narrator, at times an observer, at times simply a device that enables the authors to place Eva in a situation where she is confronted with direct personal criticism. There is no evidence whatsoever that Che Guevara ever met Eva Peron or became in any way involved with her, but the character Che is based upon this legendary revolutionary. He was, however, an Argentine born in 1928 and would therefore have been 17 when the Perons came to power and 24 when Eva died. He became strongly opposed to the Peronist regime during Eva's lifetime and it is not unreasonable to suppose that his later activity in Cuba and elsewhere was in part a reaction against the government he had known in his youth.
Flashback to 1934. A night club in Junin, Eva's hometown. Eva Duarte is just 15. She asks the singer appearing in the club, Augustin Magaldi, with whom she has had a brief affair, to take her to the big city - Buenos Aires. He is reluctant but she gets her way.
Once in Buenos Aires, Eva quickly disposes of Magaldi and works her way through a string of men, each of whom helps her one rung more up the ladder of fame and fortune. She becomes a successful model, broadcaster and film actress.
1943. Colonel Juan Peron is one of several military leaders close to the presidency of Argentina, which in recent years has proved a far from secure job for its tenant.
At a charity concert held to raise money for the victims of an Argentine earthquake, Eva and Peron meet. They both realize that each has something the other wants. From now on Eva hitches her ambitions to political stars. She evict Peron's mistress from his flat and moves into Peron's life to such an extent that she excites the extreme wrath of two factions who were to remain her enemies until her death - the Army and the aristocracy.
As the political situation becomes even more uncertain, it is Eva rather than Peron who is more determined that he should try for the highest prize in Argentina - the presidency, supported by the workers whose backing she and Peron have long cultivated.
Eva's ambition is fulfilled and from the balcony of the Casa Rosada on the day of Peron's inauguration as president (June 4, 1946), the vast crowd gives Evita, now Peron's wife, an even greater reception than that accorded to Peron - thanks to her emotional and brilliant speech ad to her striking appearance. Che notes and experiences some of the violence that was never far away from Peron.
Che asks Eva about herself and her success but does not meet with a great response. Eva's main concern is her forthcoming tour of Europe which begins in a blaze of glory in Spain but meets with later setbacks in Italy and France. She never gets to England.
On her return home, Eva resolves to concentrate solely on Argentine affairs, undeterred by continual criticism from the society of Buenos Aires. Che points out that the regime has to date done little or nothing to improve the lot of those Eva claims to represent - the working class.
Eva launches the Eva Peron Foundation, a huge concern of shambolic accountancy and of little practical benefit to the nation's economy although it helps to elevate her to near goddess status in the eyes of some of those who benefited from the Fund - including children. Che's disenchantment with Eva is now total. He sneers at those who adore her and for the last time tries to question her about her motivation and the darker side of the Peron administration. Eva's response is that of the pragmatist. "There is evil ever around, fundamental." She has now realized that she is ill.
Anti-Eva feeling among the military reaches new heights, and Che lists several of the major failures and abuses of the Peron administration. Peron attempts to justify her domination of Argentine life. He draws attention to her illness.
Peron and Eva discuss the worsening situation - he is losing his grip on the government, she is losing her strength. Eva refuses to give in to her illness and resolves to become vice-president.
But the opposition to her from the army is too great; more importantly her body lets her down. She knows that she is dying and makes a broadcast to the nation, rejecting the post of vice-president, a position she knows she could never have won.
In her last hours, images, people and events of her life flow through Eva's mind, while the nation's grief knows no bounds - to the mass of people she has become a saint, nothing less. As her life draws to a close she wonders whether she would have been happier as an obscure ordinary person. Maybe then her life would have been longer...
But even in death she is denied obscurity. The moment she dies the embalmers move in to preserve her fragile body to be "displayed forever," although this never happened. The story of the escapades of the corpse of Eva Peron during the quarter-century after her death is almost as bizarre as the story of her life.
I received the following from Roman by email - just some food for thought!
"In Evita the character called "Che" may not be actually Ernesto "Che" Guevara. In Argentina the word "Che", according to the Spanish Royal Academy dictionary, a familiar form of treatment used to call someone or ask for attention.
So perhaps the character known as "Che" is not a particular person but a personification of the people's feelings (or what Lloyd Weber thinks are the feelings of the people).
I think so because Guevara wasn't like the character of the performance. Ernesto Guevara was, before he went to Cuba, an university student and a member of an aristocratic family (the "Guevara Lynch"). He wasn't a common man, a member of the middle class."