- Photo by Archie Carpenter.
- Don't cry for her: Laurie Gayle Stephenson in the CLO's Love Changes Everything.
Indulge me: Give a serious listen to the Andrew Lloyd Webber song "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." What is this song even about? The lyrics are odd, spidery and hardly make sense. If you've seen Evita, the words are confusing. If you haven't seen Evita, they're total gibberish. Why would Argentina weep for Eva Perón? What "promise"? How could Argentinians not keep their distance? Perón is standing on top of a building!
And I'm sorry, but the phrase "mad existence" should never be used in verse, unless that verse is written by a European emo band.
Remove the lyrics, and "Argentina" is a song so beautiful that you'll forgive Tim Rice's pitiful libretto. And that's how it is with Webber: You must ignore his attempts at substance and just go with it. There's no message or subtext, just pretty melodies.
The Civic Light Opera has done us an enormous favor, because Love Changes Everything is a fine sampler of the Webber songbook. You needn't sit through all of Starlight Express and its rollerblading train wreck to find "Light at the End of the Tunnel." This show is just a concert with smoke machines, which spares us the horror of actual dialogue. The onstage orchestra plays -- magnificently -- and the singers sing. The end.
The only problem is that even Webber's best songs aren't always great. Act I features a few masterpieces ("Close Every Door") and a whole lot of Adult Contemporary. Not even the CLO can salvage "I Believe My Heart." For that matter, I doubt even Jesus could salvage it, Superstar or not.
The show consists of four leads and an energetic supporting cast, and every one is a joy to watch. Kevin Kern plays the handsome leading man in several songs, and his voice is pure silver. Laurie Gayle Stephenson plays several women of distinction, including, yes, Eva Perón. Liz Callaway nabs the best songs, "Memory" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye," and she seems to relish every last note. Franc D'Ambrosio is a wondrous tenor, and the only thing creepier than "The Music of the Night" is his exact duplication of the original recording.
So, yes, don't keep your distance.
LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING continues through Thu., July 14. Benedum Center, 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org.