March 18, 2012

A New Evita

Evita is back on Broadway! The musical based on the life of Argentina's polarizing First Lady has taken on a Latin American flavor. Andrew Lloyd Webber's new orchestrations, Rob Ashford's sexy tango-based choreography, and the accents of its stars lend authenticity to the rags to riches tale of the controversial Eva Peron. Director Michael Grandage gives us a stylish and trim revival. The musical is sung-through, with little time to pause for the audience to clap. This kept the story rapidly moving. (Ricky Martin did get entrance applause. However, the entrances of Michael Cerveris and Elena Roger were also cleverly disguised.)

The lighting perfectly evoked the rhythm of South American life (or at least what I imagine it to be). Christopher Oram's costume and scenic design creates the romance of Buenos Aires, with its grand piazza and beautiful balconies, especially the presidential palace Casa Rosada. Eva's gown in Act II was dazzling. Interesting point: There was a slight titter when she stepped onto the balcony, but I took that to mean that the audience got what the show's creators were trying to say. The incongruity of a woman speaking for the descamisados while living extravagantly and wearing Christian Dior.
Ricky Martin is wonderfully appealing as the cynical narrator, Che. Michael Cerveris is at his usual disquieting best as Juan Peron, giving an edge to the former president. An unrecognizable Max von Essen is a sympathetic Magaldi. Rachel Potter as Peron's mistress poignantly sang "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" (take that, Madonna.) The other cast members are terrific singers and energetic dancers.

Argentinian Elena Roger is a diminutive spitfire as Evita. But maybe she was having an off night, but her voice seemed flat at times. Her vibrato occasionally came off as shrill. (At intermission, I overheard an audience member describe her as shrieking. Another man said she was 'pitchy' as we were exiting the theatre. Thanks for that word, American Idol. ) Her accent also sometimes made words difficult to understand. But all in all, she gives a tremendous performance, and gives us a seductive, ambitious Peron. Mercifully, she has erased the memory of Madonna's Evita.

Christina DeCicco plays the role of Eva on Wednesday evenings and Saturday matinees while the show is in previews. The show opens 05 April 2012.


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