Apr 6, 2012
Ricky Martin gives a great big touch of star quality to the seductive revival of “Evita” at the Marquis. He also gives an appealing performance in the role of Che, which, like the show, has been re-imagined since the first Broadway run.
The sung-through celebration of the life of Eva Peron, the loved and loathed First Lady of Argentina, is less scruffy, less overtly angry.
Now he’s just Che, a working-class everyman lending color commentary in the songs “Oh, What a Circus” and “High Flying, Adored” and others.
Pop heartthrob Martin (a “Les Miserables” alum from 1996) delivers his numbers with gusto. While he’s at it, he hawkeyes Eva with a sly “Get her!” expression as she bedhops to the top
She was determined — right up to her death in 1952 at age 33.
Argentinian actress Elena Roger, who starred in this production when it premiered in London in 2006, occupies the juicy title part. She’s tiny in stature and not a belter, and her vulnerability proves persuasive on “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You.” But her voice can get thin and reedy — “Rainbow High” is a low.
Fortunately, Roger has such an expressive face and eyes that she rivets attention and gets under your skin.
At the same time, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice‘s tuneful songs lodge in your head — the lovely “Another Suitcase in Another Hall,” say, or a haunting “You Must Love Me,” borrowed from the Madonna movie.
Even with all its beauty, the music adds up to a rather sketchy portrait. The iconic “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina ” comes without context. Why’s she apologizing? Why’s the crowd weeping?
Director Michael Grandage and his designers cleverly fill in gaps and add texture. The set evokes a Buenos Aires in faded gray (even the pink Casa Rosada). A haze looms in shards of light. It all hints at the sinister side of Peron glamour. Such smart detail is a hallmark of Grandage’s all-muscle and ever-fluid vision.
Contributions by choreographer Rob Ashford (now also a busy director) can’t be overstated. Sexy tangos, erotic waltzes and meticulously built ensemble dances create sublime moments.
Best of all is “Buenos Aires,” which evokes small-town Eva’s introduction to the big city. “Stand back,” she declares as she glides, her feet and dress flying.
Stand back? As if. One can’t help but lean in, desperate for more. That’s what seduction is all about.