Politicians and producers kissed and congratulated each other after the triumphant opening of "Evita" last night. But the real politics had nothing to do with Argentina and everything to do with the National Theatre.
Said Maurice Tobin, the theater's chairman of the board: "The National is disappointed that we haven't had the financial support we need. We have gotten only the bare minimum guaranteed -- $100,000. We've never gotten any profits from any of the shows last season . . . The Shuberts [who manage and book the theater] keep saying they have 22 theaters; the National is the 23rd and 'get out of the way.' But this is trial and error. We have to work it out."
And from Bernie Jacobs, one of the heads of the Shubert Organization, annoyed as he sat at his table: "We're a professional organization and we behave like a professional organization and anything he's supposed to get, he'll get. I'm sure he's gotten every penny he's supposed to get. We made a theater that was a disaster into the most successful theater in town. It used to be that the National got what was left over. Now the Kennedy Center gets what's left in town."
Around them swirled several hundred people for the after-theater, opening night festivities at the Four Seasons Hotel. And that was an issue, too.
Because at one point there were plans for two parties -- one at the Corcoran, which would have been Tobin's choice; and the other at the Four Seasons, which would have been the Shuberts' choice, according to Tobin.
They went with the Four Seasons party.
"Of course, it's their party," said Tobin.
By "they" he meant Bernie Jacobs and Gerald Schoenfeld, better known as the shuberts, producers Robert Stigwood and David Land and director Harold Prince. Stigwood couldn't make it -- he's in Los Angeles casting "Grease II."
Guests cornered Helga Orfila, wife of Alejandro, secretary general to the OAS and an Argentine. "It is true?" asked Jacked Kemp (R-N.Y.) intently, referring to the story line in "Evita."
"Nooo," said Helga Orfila, who bore a bit of a resemblance, with her blond hair pulled back, to the Evita on stage.
"I don't mean is it true. Is it true to history? Kemp persisted.
"No, it's a joke," said Helga Orfila. And later she added, "Ask Alex. I'm German."
"No, historically there are a lot of mistakes," said Alejandro Orfila. "But you go to the theater for a good musical."
In an adjacent room where guests dined at a buffet, Valerie Perri, who plays Evita, received well wishers.
"I hear you've invited some Republicans," columnist William Safire said to Schoenfeld and Jacobs.
"This is strictly theater," said Schoenfeld. "Politics couldn't mean anything to us." Among those Republicans: Sen. Mark Hatfield (Ore.), Sen. Strom Thurmond (S.C.), and Rep. tom Evans (Del.).
Roger Stevens, chairman of the Kennedy Center, was there, speaking with the Shubert people with whom he has not always seen eye to eye.
Said Bernie Jacobs, "I've always said Roger has done a great job for the Kennedy Center. But at the same time there should be competition here in this city."
And from Stevens: "They always said I was worried about the competition. I'm not. We run a different operation."
As in don't-cry-for-us Mr. Jacobs.