May 4, 2012 with Elena Roger as Eva Peron
August 18, 2012 with Christina DeCicco as Eva Peron
Background: “Oh, what a circus. Oh, what a show”! On April 5, 2012, the first Broadway revival of Evita opened at the Marquis Theatre, starring Olivier Award winner Elena Roger as Eva Peron, Ricky Martin as Che, and Michael Cerveris as Juan Peron. The production was nominated for three Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards with no wins. Boasting music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, Evita depicts the life of Argentine First Lady Eva Peron, focusing on her ambitious rise to power via controversial means, her marriage to Argentine President Juan Peron, her charity work for the “common man” of Argentina, and her death at age 33.
Brief History of Eva Peron: Maria Eva Duarte was born in Argentina in 1919. Raised by her mother in a state of poverty, she moved to Buenos Aires at age 15 to pursue an acting career and eventually became a successful radio performer during the early 1940’s. Eva met Juan Peron at a fundraiser held to raise money for earthquake victims and they married in 1945. Eva soon joined her husband in his presidential campaign, emphasizing her own impoverished upbringing in order to gain the support of the poor. Shortly after Peron was elected president, Eva began her “Rainbow Tour” of Europe, meeting with important political figures in Spain, Italy, France, and Switzerland, presumably to improve Argentina’s relations with other countries. However, she was not always received well. Eva Peron is praised for her attention to the poor and her charity work, specifically the creation of the Eva Peron Foundation which provided clothing, education, and healthcare to Argentines living in poverty. She also participated in women’s suffrage. In 1951, Eva considered running for Vice President of Argentina, but renounced her candidacy due to declining health and opposition from the military. On July 26, 1952, Eva Peron died of cancer. Her body was embalmed and displayed for the public. When Peron was overthrown from power in 1955, Eva’s body was seized and hidden by the new government for 16 years before being reclaimed by Peron and later buried in Buenos Aires. Though one cannot deny Eva’s impact on Argentine history, many people have mixed views of her. To some, she was viewed as “Santa Evita” or “Spiritual Leader of the Nation”, while others believed she laundered money and retaliated against those who opposed her. Regardless, Eva Peron left an indelible mark on the people of Argentina.
Comments: Never having seen a performance of Evita, I went into the theatre knowing nothing about Eva Peron and very little about the musical itself. After seeing the show for the first time in May with Elena Roger playing the title role, I became very interested in Eva Peron and her story. Because Evita is completely sung-through and, in my opinion, fast-paced and “wordy”, I felt that I had missed many key parts of the story-line, and so I vowed to go home, research the life of Eva Peron and the musical, Evita, and hopefully return to the Marquis Theatre to see Evita again through more knowledgeable eyes. And that’s what I did- this time, with Christina DeCicco (Eva alternate) playing the lead role. Knowing the character’s history the second time made all of the difference and I was able to sit back and just enjoy the performance with more understanding and clarity. If you are planning on seeing Evita for the first time, I would strongly recommend googling Eva Peron. You will appreciate the show so much more.
Argentine actress Elena Roger, who also played the title role in the West End, was magnificent as Eva Peron. Elena Roger brings a genuineness to the character, a special authenticity that is only possessed by someone who actually grew up in Argentina, surrounded by the lingering influence of the real Eva Peron. That special authenticity cannot be acted, and I felt that Elena’s Argentine heritage allowed the character of Eva Peron to be portrayed in a way that has never been portrayed before. Her accent, mannerisms, and the quality of her voice were exactly as I would have imagined Eva Peron sounded in real life. Her performance is something special.
Christina DeCicco, the “alternate” Eva, was phenomenal. I was most impressed with her singing voice and endurance, especially “Buenos Aires”. She had boundless energy as she sang Andrew Lloyd Webber’s insanely difficult score and did not disappoint. She had a way of making something extremely difficult look easy. I can't wait to see what the future holds for her on Broadway.
When I first learned that Ricky Martin would play Che, the voice of the people, I rolled my eyes and groaned. Another pop star coming to Broadway to bring in ticket sales. But surprise- Ricky Martin is a Broadway veteran, having played Marius in Les Miserables. And surprise again, I actually really liked his performance. I definitely appreciated the “light” humor that he brought to the show, especially in his performance of Tim Rice’s sarcastic, matter-of-fact lyrics.
Tony-nominated for his role in Evita, Michael Cerveris gave a stellar performance as Juan Peron. I have always wanted to see Michael Cerveris perform and I was not at all disappointed. Known for his impeccable attendance record (he didn’t miss a single show for eight years), Michael Cerveris is undoubtedly an actor who takes his craft seriously, as evidenced by his authentic and well-researched portrayal of Juan Peron. He plays Peron with a quiet intensity while his singing is simultaneously soft and rich. If you love Broadway, you need to put Michael Cerveris on your bucket list of performers to see before you die.
Rachel Potter as Mistress and Max von Essen as Magaldi were also wonderful. The choreography was amazing, the set was simple and beautiful, and the costumes were gorgeous. During the first performance, I had some difficulty hearing the actors sing- the orchestra was overpowering them- but this had resolved during the second performance. The most impressive part of Evita was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s insane score, which I think may be one of the best scores I’ve ever heard.
The Verdict: I loved Evita and am sorry that it took me so long to find this show. If you want to see a show with a spectacular score, great talent, and a lot of history, check out Evita at the Marquis Theatre... and if you're not familiar with the musical and the history of Eva Peron, do some research first. You will enjoy the show so much more!