Evita Returns: My Review

Categories: Theater

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Disclosure: I busted my ass to get from a TV appearance to Evita but got there moments late. I had to watch the first 15 minutes on a monitor in the lobby, then was allowed in to my seat.

And it was worth the ass-busting.

I always thought the highly conceptualized 1979 Harold Prince-directed production with a fiery Patti LuPone as the Argentinian first lady could never be rivaled, but this one does well on its own terms.

Directed by Michael Grandage and majestically designed by Christopher Oram, it's a fast-moving, atmospheric version of the sung-through musical about the manipulative rising star of Argentinian politics, in all her well-coiffed contradictions.

Ricky Martin is the everyman narrator, Che, and he doesn't approach the role as angrily as the original, Mandy Patinkin, going for a more bemused, lightly mocking quality.

Though he comes from the Jude Law school of arm gestures (usually with his left arm), Martin sings like a lark and has an appealing stage presence. He definitely has a future off the charts!

As Evita, Elena Roger -- an Argentinian performer who's won acclaim in the West End -- is a pint-sized, seemingly squeaky celebutante, quite believable as the woman who rose to glory as she climbed the ladder to a game of musical chairs.

Roger dances like a dervish, is a good singer (except for some occasional high notes), and fearlessly goes to the dark side when throwing the belongings of Juan Perón's mistress off the balcony or when glaring at anyone who doesn't give her husband (Michael Cerveris) his proper respect.

And she acts the cojones out of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," giving it passages of defiance and certitude rather than just making it a weepy apologia.

While substituting professionalism for star power, Roger provides some "wow" moments that make your Christian Dior collar stand up.

The show itself is borderline kitsch, as always -- especially in a deathbed medley of reprises -- and the second half isn't as potent as the whirring madness of the first, but it's best when served with conviction, like this production, which treats it as if it were Shakespeare.

It caps off a good season for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, whose Jesus Christ Superstar has also been resurrected as a reminder of the days when they could pack a sad, iconic saga with sumptuous songs.

So while Broadway's original Evita was more innovative and starry, this one has a bracing intimacy and vigor that makes you feel the truth is, she never left you.



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15 comments
Lisa
Lisa

Elena's voice is not a pleasure to listen to at all.  I'll give you she has a very powerful diaphragm but ugh...       A friend enjoyed the show so much that she bought tickets to see it for a second time during her 1 week trip to the city.  Therefore, I thought I had to see it on one of my 2 evenings during my weekend trip.  Ugh!  Her voice is like nails on a chalk board.  My husband and I stole several glances at one another during the first act and understood that we were on the same page.      Despite Ricky Martin doing a nice job, I simply didn't feel invested in any of the characters.  I just didn't care what happened to them and couldn't wait for the show to be over.  Thank goodness we had tickets to see 'Once' the following night....now that was an excellent show!

Lisa
Lisa

I agree with you regarding Elena's voice.  A friend enjoyed the show so much that she bought tickets to see it for a second time during her 1 week trip to the city.  Therefore, I thought I had to see it on one of my 2 evenings during my weekend trip.  Ugh!  Her voice is like nails on a chalk board.  My husband and I stole several glances at one another during the first act.  Not to mention that despite Ricky Martin doing a nice job, I simply didn't feel invested in any of the characters.  I just didn't care what happened to them and couldn't wait for the show to be over.  Thank goodness we had tickets to see 'Once' the following night....now that was an excellent show!

mzmiller52
mzmiller52

i saw the original in previews and it was mandy patinkin's show. it took some time for patti lupone to become pattie lupone, star quality. and how can anything compare with hal princes conceptions for all the show he did. there was a reason that andrew lloyd weber chose himto direct.

Musto
Musto

Some critics are trashing it because it doesn't measure up to the original production. Well, the original production didn't get raves. In fact, it got the following half hearted praise in the NY Times: "The evening is not boring."

Bwaybill
Bwaybill

Elena played Piaf in London, so maybe she's more suited to that. But I did like her fierceness and she's a great dancer. The choreography was terrific and the set was nice, though it became a little stagnant.

Rc61austin
Rc61austin

Ben Brantley has given "Evita" a fairly negative review.  But I did see it in the first preview.  Ricky Martin was o.k. and has stage presence, obviously.  Michael Cerveris did a great turn as Juan Peron.  I loved Max von Essen as "Magaldi".  I knew  he could sing and act, but his dancing impressed me.  With regards to Elena Roger, I've read (on Broadway World) that critics in the West End just loved her.  I wasn't  enthralled by her as I thought I would be.  She's a good singer...but lacks the power to muster thru certain songs and high notes.  I thought she brought more of an Edith Piaf-type voice, than anything else.  Yes, there are inevitable comparisons to Patti and Elaine.  But I was disappointed she didn't possess more of a stronger voice.  The Mistress was amazing! 

Yuri
Yuri

"Juan note." I saw it.

anonymouse
anonymouse

More on Michael Cerveris, please. How was his Juan?

Payton_vege
Payton_vege

Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

Mickylaird
Mickylaird

Elena was awful. Ricky was fantastic. I went in rooting for them both, but he impressed me. I saw her do the show in London and loved, but her voice and acting made my ears and eyes hurt this time. I had better seats for the show this time and wonder if I would have enjoyed her as much 5 years ago if I wasn't so far back when I saw it in London. I always wish the best for Broadway, but I would not suggest this unless you love Ricky. He was adorable and the rest of the cast were awesome. But when you've heard better versions of "Don't Cry For..." at karaoke bars, we've got a prob. 

Musto
Musto

Well, Variety raved, Hollywood Reporter was favorable, and there are a lot of other good reviews coming in.

Diesel
Diesel

Great review. Thank you for being fair.

Matthew Rettenmund
Matthew Rettenmund

I'm surprised by the negative reviews (even pans) I've been reading. I really enjoyed it, especially (and surprisingly) Ricky.

Savannah Montgomery
Savannah Montgomery

Thank you for the perspective....we gay folk tend to get caught up in the "iconography" of Patti and not the actual show.

Rc61austin
Rc61austin

While there are some good reviews, many of them seem to be mixed to negative.   Or so it seems. 

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