“Evita” at the Marquis Theatre in New York City
by Zander Opper
“Evita,” Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s popular 1978 musical is currently being given a mostly thrilling, extremely starry new revival at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway. Though there have been many professional productions of this musical staged since the original (not to mention the fine 1996 film version starring Madonna), this production at the Marquis Theatre is the first Broadway revival of this work since the show first opened in 1979 (and turned Patti LuPone into a star). Or course, any new staging of “Evita” is dependant most especially on the actress cast in the title role, and this current Broadway revival is fortunate in presenting the dynamic Elena Roger, who played this role to acclaim in London in 2006, and acquits herself quite well in the part. However, the producers have been even wiser in their casting of the supporting character of Che (or the Antonio Banderas role in the film): international superstar Ricky Martin, who, to paraphrase a lyric in the show, brings quite a touch of star quality to this revival. And though there are other virtues in the show—the production design is extremely handsome and the rest of the cast is very good—having Ricky Martin’s star billing above the title is ultimately going to be the factor in turning this revival of “Evita” into a smash.
Before commenting even more on Ricky Martin’s electric presence in this show, I think it is only fair to give Elena Roger her due as Eva Peron. Though a diminutive woman, Roger’s onstage personality is larger-than-life and, although some critics have found her singing strained and unattractive, for me, she is quite exciting vocally, especially in the “Rainbow High” and “Buenos Aires” numbers and she hits those high notes in the Act I finale, “A New Argentina,” as well as anyone I have ever seen or heard in this part. But it must be stated that Roger’s finest moment in the show is ultimately her singing of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”—indeed, the image of her dressed in a white ball gown atop a second level balcony is unforgettable and indelible. (Just as a quick note to those who will want to see Roger, it should be mentioned that Christina DeCicco plays the title role on Wednesday evenings and Saturday matinees).
However, this is probably the rare “Evita” revival where audiences will clamor even more to see the character of Che, at least as long as Ricky Martin is playing the part. Weaving in and out of the action and providing ironic commentary to Eva Peron’s rise to power, the excitement of Martin’s performance can be cut with a knife, and though this is only his second role in a Broadway musical (I saw his first, back in 1996, when he was a replacement in the original production of “Les Miserables”), his command of the stage, strong singing, and superstar good looks almost literally raise the roof. Indeed, the screams and cheers he receives when he comes out for his bow are unparalleled in any show that I have seen on a Broadway stage; it’s as if the theatre almost literally explodes.
With the one-two punch of Elena Roger and Ricky Martin, it is almost difficult to concentrate on the other elements of the show. Suffice it is to say that Michael Cerveris is pretty much ideal as Juan Peron and Rachel Potter shines as the Mistress. As for the production, director Michael Grandage and choreographer Rob Ashford keep the action moving swiftly along, although Act II feels a little padded (and slowed down) with the addition of “You Must Love Me,” which was written for the film, and, ultimately, the final moments don’t quite register the genuine emotions for Eva, like they should.
Still, with the exciting Elena Roger and Ricky Martin center stage throughout, it is hard to complain. Watching this current revival, it occurred to me again how well constructed this musical is and, if this new staging is not as quite as stylish as the original, it is still a worthy and handsome production. Also, it must be stated that while the movie version of “Evita” will always be a favorite, the chance to see this work live in a Broadway theatre (and to be able to hear one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best scores presented so strongly) is a treat and, what with these starry leads, this new revival of “Evita” is something of an event and, as such, is highly recommended. Tickets can be ordered by calling Ticketmaster at 877-250-2929 or by going to EvitaOnBroadway.com.