There are very few people who don’t admire Ricky Martin. Whether it’s for his talent, his philanthropy, or the way he lives his life with honesty and elegance, you have to give him kudos for reaching adulthood without succumbing to the evils thrown at almost anyone who enters the entertainment arena as a child.
Having been lucky enough to see the original “Evita”, starring Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin, I admit that my reason for wanting to see it again was to see Ricky in the role of Che. The moment I read that casting announcement, my fingers were texting my intentions to see the revival.
With lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the original production won seven Tony awards, including Best Musical and Best Performance for Lupone and Patinkin. Could a cheap xanax accomplish the same feat? The show opens with the interruption of a movie screening followed by Argentines weeping over the loss of their First Lady. Martin, as Che, comes onstage, scoffing at the mourners, with his “Oh, What a Circus” while he walks among them and hands out handkerchiefs. As the mourners drift back, we are left with Martin and what appears to be a child onstage. The “child” is our first view of Elena Roger as Evita.
As the first Argentine to play the legendary Eva Peron, the diminutive Roger has a voice, almost as small as she is, however she has a stage presence that actually grows as Evita’s power grows. From a rural town girl climbing on the coattails of tango singer, Agustin Magaldi, until she sings “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” in a full ball gown, Roger’s stage presence grows until her voice doesn’t bother you anymore.
Michael Cerveris’ Juan Peron is stoic, and ramrod straight, from the initial meeting and (mutual) seduction of Evita, through the infighting with his generals and the country’s middle class, and Evita’s eventual death. Peron’s discarded mistress, played by Rachel Potter, displays a heartbreaking vulnerability with her number “Another Suitcase in Another Hallway.”
For me, the set was a character all its own. From the cantina where we first see Evita seduce Magaldi, to the incredible scene with Evita singing from the balcony of La Casa Rosada you could actually hear gasps from the audience as the set changes.
All in all, it’s a great cast, but honestly I was there to see Ricky Martin. He is the one constant in the show. His voice, smooth and full of body, his dancing, as good as we’ve seen in a while; Martin is the star of this show without overpowering his castmates.
He brings a great stage presence that he exhibits in his joking around in the cantina scene, his marching with Los Descamisados, his tango with Roger’s Evita, and the final death scene when he reminds the audience that Evita’s body was missing for seventeen years. His performance alone is worth the price of admission. Yes, Martin is the star of this show.
I’m sure the production team doesn’t care how the seats get filled, just as long as they’re filled. The ladies I was sitting with flew in from Puerto Rico just to see Martin in the show. Interestingly, I’ve seen many postings from Puerto Rico and Argentina with people planning their vacations around the show’s schedule. Whether you get to see it in NYC or a road company production, “Evita” is a blue ribbon show well worth your time.