Something’s amiss in Argentina. If only Forbidden Broadway – the highly successful musical revue that satirized the Great White Way’s hits and misses – was still running they would have a field day with this new production of EVITA and its trio of oddly cast stars.
Starting with the diminutive Elena Roger as Eva Duarte Peron whose strange vocal quality becomes annoying and cannot do justice to the lush melodies created by Andrew Lloyd Webber nor reach the high notes without sounding like a screeching chipmunk. Her unfortunate wigs that go from black to red to blonde are an ill-fitting eyesore. She dances a mean tango but has little “star quality” and charisma that should be inherent in the role.
The charisma factor is left to Ricky Martin who plays Ricky Martin who has charisma to spare. It states in the program that he is Che but that must be a misprint. He is for sure Ricky Martin playing Ricky Martin with all his charm and iridescent smile and smooth moves intact. There is no danger, no irony and no edge. But he’ll surely sell lots of tickets.
That leaves us with Peron, played superbly by Michael Cerveris despite his being made to look like a debonair Count Dracula. He is strong and lures the audience in with his terrific voice and characterization.
The show starts off great with actual newsreel footage of Eva Peron’s funeral and the “Requiem” and then in flashback proceeds to go downhill. Beginning in Junin where the young actress sets her sights on Magaldi (an excellent Max Von Essen) – a smarmy lounge singer and then continuing onto Buenos Aires, where actress Eva Duarte bed hops her way to the top, culminating in her meeting and marrying Juan Peron. Bedded and bejeweled by many men along the way, she died of cancer at the age of 33.
And that’s how long it’s been – 33 years – since EVITA – the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice soap-operatic, sung through, Reader’s Digest version of her life first wowed Broadway audiences.
In this new and lavish production with monumental sets by Christopher Oram that all but dwarf the diminutive star from Argentina who is now cast as Evita, directed by Michael Grandage and entangled in variations of the tango by Rob Ashford, the wow factor has been lost along the way.
The score by Andrew Lloyd Webber is melodic and memorable and sounds wonderful. The light weight lyrics by Tim Rice are merely serviceable. But they sure have made him millions.
And to think that FOLLIES had to close to make room for EVITA to open!
www.EvitaonBroadway.com Photos: Richard termine
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