'Evita' returns | EW.com

News

'Evita' returns

The legendary musical tangos back to Broadway for the first time in a generation. And its new stars -- Ricky Martin and Argentine breakout Elena Roger -- know a little something about Latin flavor

(RICHARD PHIBBS for EW)

Packed into a rehearsal space above Manhattan’s 42nd Street, 36 performers practice the splashy ”And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)” number in Evita, lifting Elena Roger, who stars as Eva Perón, into the air amid a flutter of falling bills. It’s less than a month until the musical’s first preview at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre on March 12, and the cast members are happily drilling their parts to perfection, fine-tuning every step and note. The fact that one of these sweating performers — the one playing the narrator, Che — is the Latin music superstar Ricky Martin doesn’t seem to matter to anyone involved, least of all Martin himself. He’s just another actor stretching and joking and popping Altoids between run-throughs. That is, until Michael Cerveris, the show’s Juan Perón, takes a moment during a break to share one of the cast’s running jokes. ”As we like to say,” he says, flashing a conspiratorial smile, ”we’re living Evita loca.”

Martin’s star power might be a punchline in the rehearsal hall, but for the producers of Evita — the first Broadway revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical since its original 1979-83 run — it’s also a key part of a plan to turn the period piece into a brand-new hit. And Martin isn’t their only reason for optimism. Directed by Michael Grandage (Frost/Nixon), with choreography by Rob Ashford (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), this iteration of Evita was nominated for the Olivier award for Outstanding Musical Production during its yearlong run in London in 2006-07. Evita’s leading lady, 37-year-old unknown Elena Roger, is already being heralded as the next great Broadway star. And the truth is, Evita’s legions of American fans never left her: The show’s rich pop culture legacy includes everything from a 2003 parody episode of The Simpsons to a 2010 Glee rendition of its signature song, ”Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”

But can an earnest, dialogue-free musical thrive on post-Book of Mormon Broadway? Martin doesn’t take the challenge lightly. ”If I’m doing a classic like Evita, this is not a joke,” he says. ”We need to do this right. It has to have dignity and power and conviction.”

Lloyd Webber and Rice first developed Evita as a 1976 concept album about Eva Perón, the Argentine first lady who became a figure of near-religious devotion in her country before dying of cancer in 1952 at age 33. ”On one level you could say it’s a straightforward rags-to-riches story,” says Lloyd Webber. ”But on the other hand, it’s much more than that. It’s a cautionary tale about what can happen when someone manages to get hold of control and manipulate the media.”

As directed by Hal Prince, the show became a hit in 1978 in London and again a year later on Broadway, where it made stars of Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin and ran for four years. After decades of stop-and-go development (with everyone from Meryl Streep to Liza Minnelli attached), 1996’s big-screen Evita earned Madonna a Best Actress Golden Globe and introduced ”You Must Love Me” — an Oscar-winning Lloyd Webber/Rice song written for the movie and included in subsequent stage productions. In 2004, André Ptaszynski, who oversaw Lloyd Webber’s London theaters at the time, began planning a major revival. ”It was hard to think of any reason why Evita wouldn’t be worth reviving,” he says. ”It’s about power, lust, corruption, ambition. And it’s got the most stunningly beautiful score.”

Page: