BY TAMARA BECK
ONE of the reasons we value theater as an art form is that it enriches us. Sometimes, the fact that it also lightens our wallets has a dilatory effect on the experience.
A case in point is the current revival of the Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice masterpiece, “Evita.” Of course, it is not only the high ticket prices that inflate expectations that lead to disappointment. “Evita” won the Tony in 1980.
Fond memories of the original Broadway production starring Patti LuPone in the titular role and Mandy Patinkin as Che added to the letdown brought on by the current production in an open run at the Marquis Theatre.
The story of “Evita” takes Eva Duarte (Elena Roger) out of a backwater slum to shiny Buenos Aires where she woos and marries Col. Juan Peron (Michael Cerveris).
In “Evita,” it is clear that while the colonel is the up-and-comer, it is Eva who is the consummate populist politician. Eva Peron ascends her “throne” as the First Lady of Argentina through her wiles and naked opportunism. As ALW and TR discovered in their research of the real-life diva, she is adored and sanctified. (See videos at http://www.evitaonbroadway.com/videos.html)
Juan Peron (Michael Cerveris) is wholly captivated by Eva (Elena Roger) who would become an icon in "Evita."
The songs in this operatic musical play off of Evita’s glamour and star power. They are smart, well-written and cheeky. Puns and anachronisms make for a lively narrative delivered by Che (Daniel Torres understudying for Ricky Martin) as the storyteller. RM is meant to provide some added razzle-dazzle to “Evita,” but DT was a more than adequate sub. In the current iteration, most of the pizzazz is in the music and libretto.
Despite her rather weak singing, ER’s “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” rose to the high point in the performance. Admittedly, ER is an adept dancer, and the company also moves beautifully through the tango-inflected choreography by Rob Ashford.
The most noteworthy performances are by Max von Essen as Magaldi, the two-bit crooner whom Eva uses to get away to the big city. Another is Rachel Potter as the Peron mistress Eva displaces. Alas, the Tony-winning MC (“Assassins”) is not up to his usual standard in his portrayal of Juan Peron.
Slum dweller Eva Duarte (Elena Roger) uses Che (Ricky Martin) as a pawn in her scheme to get to the big city and bigger things in "Evita."
The minimalist sets by Christopher Oram (who is also responsible for the excellent costumes) are lost on the cavernous stage at the Marquis. In a smaller setting the re-purposing designed to suggest many a scene – from nightclub to hotel to presidential palace – would have been clever.
The second-act song about Eva’s charities with the lyric, “And the money kept pouring in,” becomes an unwelcome reminder that the seats are very expensive. It harks to the unfortunate complaint that the high cost of seeing this show added to the disappointment in the production.
Visit http://www.evitaonbroadway.com/ to learn more about “Evita.”