Friday, April 6, 2012

The Broadway Revival of Evita Opens to Mixed Reviews

EVITA opened last night on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre. The company of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's landmark musical is led by Ricky Martin as Che, Elena Roger in her Broadway debut as Eva Perón and Michael Cerveris as Juan Perón, along with Max von Essen as Migaldi and Rachel Potter as the Mistress.
Review Roundup
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Despite the hard work of its spirited leading lady, the Argentine actress Elena Roger — supported by a barely there Ricky Martin and a sterling Michael Cerveris — this musical combination of history pageant and requiem Mass feels about as warmblooded as a gilded mummy. ... I thought I was fully immune to the show’s signature song, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” from having heard it everywhere (even discos) in my youth. But darned if that slippery thing, whose melody is a repeated leitmotif in the show, hasn’t attached itself like a leech all over again. And can anyone advise me about how to expel from my brain the jinglelike refrain, “I wanna be a part of B.A./Buenos Aires — Big Apple.” The show’s ads, borrowing from Mr. Rice’s lyrics, have it that “the truth is she never left you.” No, the notes she sings were just lying dormant, like a virus, waiting to infect our systems all over again.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Though Rogers' voice isn't strong, her singing has a raw ache and folky authenticity. She also moves like a gazelle, reinforcing Eva's beguiling sensuality and adding further sparkle to Ashford's earthy, vibrant dance numbers. The narrator, Che, isn't presented as the flamboyant revolutionary (based on Che Guevera) he became under Harold Prince's original direction. A charming Ricky Martin plays the character more as an amused, sometimes sympathetic spectator; though critical of Eva, as Rice's lyrics demand, he also conveys a certain tenderness.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Much of the buzz coming from the new revival "Evita" has been about the spitfire Argentine playing the title role. But all of the heat actually comes from the guy shaking his bon-bon. Ricky Martin is easily the best thing about this revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's bio of Eva Peron, which opened Thursday at the Marquis Theatre. He sings beautifully, dances gracefully, athletically climbs ladders, plays his role with a knowing sneer and elicits drools in his suspenders and tight white shirt. He even makes a mustache work. In fact, maybe it's time for Broadway to have a new rule: Put Ricky Martin in everything. He would fit in happily at "Newsies." He would definitely enliven "Death of a Salesman." Heck, put him in "Mary Poppins" and watch the roof really lift off.
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: Never having seen Harold Prince's much-admired original production of "Evita," I'm not in a position to compare it to this one, and in a way I'm glad. Despite the inadequacies of its nominal star, Mr. Grandage's "Evita" is an impressive achievement that should be judged on its own merits, which are legion. Even if you don't like Andrew Lloyd Webber's music, it will hold your eye from curtain to curtain.

Steve Suskin, Variety: Director Michael Grandage scores with a dynamic new "Evita," graced by an impressive performance from Argentinean actress Elena Roger and the ticket-selling presence of recording star Ricky Martin, who acquits himself nicely if not remarkably. The 1979 Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice poperetta comes off fairly well in its first Broadway revival, thanks to a director who doesn't seem crimped or intimidated by Hal Prince's striking original staging. That said, the flaws inherent in the material -- typified by grasping-at-straws rhymes like "That's what they call me/so Lauren Bacall me" -- remain. Look for boffo biz so long as Martin chooses to stay.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News: Eschewing the character’s familiar military fatigues and stogy, Martin plays Che (who never had anything to do with Argentina) as a populist observer. He’s more the jaunty, glinty- eyed critic than the embodiment of dashed hopes. In an open shirt and suspendered slacks, his eyes crinkled and mustache a bushy wonder, Martin exudes bonhomie.
That’s not enough to offset the comically shameless Perons, especially given Rice’s compressed libretto. We’re left to connect a lot of dots. In her Broadway debut, Roger has plenty of the star quality Evita sings about. I worry how long her voice, a little brittle at the top, will hold up, even on a limited performance schedule.
David Sheward, Backstage: The production is entertaining enough for those who are satisfied to hear the now-familiar score—including “You Must Love Me,” which was written for the 1996 film version starring Madonna—pleasantly performed. Musical supervisor–conductor Kristen Blodgette deserves credit for the precise delivery of Rice’s wordy lyrics and Lloyd Webber’s rich tunes. But if you yearn for a powerful wallop to your gut, listen to either of the original cast albums and fall under the spell of Paige or LuPone.
David Rooney, Reuters/Hollywood Reporter: While Buenos Aires-born Roger is new to Broadway, this production made her a star in London, where it originated in 2006. At the risk of sounding harsh, the actress is physically unprepossessing – short and beaky – not to mention occasionally shrill in the vocal department. But she acts the hell out of the role. ... The other bit of headline casting is Ricky Martin as Che. Moving away from the original production’s clear allusions to Che Guevara, he appears here as an enigmatic peasant worker who serves as the bio-musical’s narrator and its voice of skepticism, seeing the beatified “Santa Evita” for the ravenous spotlight-seeker she really is. His dramatic presence could be more aggressive, but Martin’s Latin-pop vocals are a smooth fit for the role, and his relaxed charm and dreamboat looks will yield few complaints. Fans eager for him to bust some serious dance moves have to wait until midway through Act II, but he eventually turns on the trademark sizzle.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly: There are three questions facing any woman in the title role of the 1979 Andrew Lloyd Webber–Tim Rice musical Evita: How is her 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina'? How is her arm raise (a.k.a. the signature Evita pose)? And how does she handle that vocal-cord-killing score? For Argentine actress Elena Roger in the adequate new Broadway revival, the answers are: Passable. Effective. And badly.
Linda Winer, Newsday: This time we have a fierce dynamo of a Broadway debut by Elena Roger as Eva, the ambitious street girl with a contradictory fondness for finery, Mussolini and the poor, and who slept her way to superstar first lady before dying of cancer at 33. Roger, despite a few frayed top notes at Tuesday's preview, is a justly celebrated Argentine native whose sprite of a dancer's body belies a massive theatrical presence and the steely heft of her tangy voice. (Christina DeCicco plays the strenuous role on Wednesday nights and Saturday matinees.)
Michael Musto, The Village Voice: So while Broadway's original Evita was more spectacular, 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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