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Meet the ‘Swing’ in ‘Evita’

Ugly duckling?: Tug Watson blossomed into the handsome actor making his way to Houston for the “Evita” tour.
Ugly duckling?: Tug Watson blossomed into the handsome actor making his way to Houston for the “Evita” tour.

Versatile cast member Tug Watson can play 10 roles, including tango singer Agustin Magaldi.
by Donalevan Maines

It’s hard to picture Tug Watson as an ugly baby, but he says that’s how he got his nickname. When he would cart a wagon that carried his twin sister, he explains, “My father said I looked like a tugboat pulling out to sea. I was a very unattractive, unfortunate-looking child.” Fortunately, the homely duckling became a handsome swan.

Theater fans can see Watson this month in Evita at the Hobby Center. The 1980 Tony Award-winning musical is the transformative story of a backstreet girl from rural Argentina who hustled, clawed, and charmed her way into fame, power, and immortality.

“Anyone who’s ever been told ‘no, you can’t do this’ is inspired how, through her personality and all-around appeal, she had the whole country at her feet,” says Watson. “Her star quality was unparalleled.”

Watson is a cast member and the show’s “swing.” “I know 10 roles—nine in the ensemble and one featured, Magaldi,” he says. “At the drop of a hat, I can get the call.”

Recently, however, “One of our guys had it in his contract that he would be out, so I knew in advance who I would be playing,” Watson explains. “Sometimes, it’s just minutes.”

Agustin Magaldi is the dashing tango singer Eva blackmails into taking her with him to Buenos Aires in Act I. Magaldi shines in the songs “On This Night of a Thousand Stars,” “Eva, Beware of the City,” and “Good Night and Thank You” as Eva sleeps her way to the top.

“The Lady’s Got Potential,” observes Ché, the cynical narrator.

“The music is just shamelessly fabulous,” says Watson. “You sing it into the rafters.”

Is Watson familiar with the disco version of “Evita” songs that introduced gay fans to the iconic figure? “You bet I am!” he says. “I have it on my computer!”

However, he’s also grateful for the original cast recordings of the score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. “Thank God we have the recording of Patti LuPone,” he says, not to disparage the work of this tour’s star, Caroline Bowman. “[Caroline] is absolutely phenomenal,” he says. Bowman was in the original cast of Kinky Boots, the reigning “best musical” on Broadway, and starred as Elphaba in Wicked and Lady of the Lake in Spamalot.

Watson has seen many a fan wave bar napkins at Madonna singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from the movie soundtrack in 1996, but he’s partial to Julie Covington, who sang the title role in the original concept album 20 years earlier.

Born in California, Watson was “a military kid” living in England when his sisters got to see Cats in the West End. “I guess my parents thought I wouldn’t like it,” he recalls. “It spurred two of my sisters to be dancers, and for the next five years, I was jealous.

“My parents kept sending me to parks and recreational sports activities. I was a very, very untalented athlete. I mean, I would come home and my shirt would still be clean. Finally, I said, ‘No more soccer! I want to go to ballet. I want to be an actor. You know I can sing. Throw me a bone here!’”

Watson’s father, a Marine Corps officer, became convinced while he was sitting next to his son at a local production of The Music Man,and Watson could barely contain his excitement.

His parents enrolled Watson in dance and musical theater classes, which eventually led to him playing Munkustrap in Cats (the show he didn’t get to see as a child) when it played Houston three years ago.

Now 30, Watson hopes to mature into a career not unlike that of Harry Groener, who wona Tony Award as Munkustrap after Cats debuted in New York in 1982. Also known as Mayor Wilkins on TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Groener played such plum onstage parts as Georges/George in Sunday in the Park with George, Will Parker in Oklahoma!, and Bobby Child in Crazy for You.

“In the next five years,” he thinks, producers will begin to see him as right for leading roles in Stephen Sondheim shows.

When: May 6–18
Where: Hobby Center, 800 Bagby Street
Tickets/info: or 713.558.TUTS (8887).

Donalevan Maines wrote about the it gets better tour in the April issue of OutSmart.

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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