“Evita” is smart and glittery, but papers over harsh truths of Peronism

By Lucy Komisar

This production of the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber biopic of Eva Per³n is “Evita” lite, stripped of politics. Director Michael Grandage’s production is smart and glittery, but it doesn‘t convey the corruption and brutality of the government of Argentina during Juan Per³n‘s three terms in the 1940s, 50s and 70s. While Per³n sought to improve the economic and social position of the working class, he also stepped hard on the opposition.

Michael Cerveris as Juan Per³n, Elena Roger as Eva Per³n, photo Richard Termine.

The play, which takes place from 1934 to 1952, is thus a fiction about Eva, the up-from-the-slums actress who the authors suggest slept her way to the top, finishing as the wife of Per³n (Michael Cerveris), an army colonel. He would become president in 1946, and with him, Evita became powerful in her own right, setting herself up as the patron of the poor. She would pass out largesse to them, but a lot of the cash stuck to her fingers. (And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)

Cerveris is excellent as the dour, driven strongman. But Elena Rogers, while very appealing as an actress and musical star, lacks the physical magnetism of Evita.

Ricky Martin as Che Guevara, Elena Roger as Eva Per³n, photo Richard Termine.

And, though the titular star is Rogers as Evita, the play seems revised to showcase Ricky Martin, who plays the narrator/everyman, Che.  (Apparently Tim Rice did not mean him to be Che Guevara, but when Harold Pinter, a leftist, got involved with the original 1978 production, he pressed for Che to be the Argentine revolutionary. And Che in the first production was appropriately fitted out with a beard.)

In any event, Martin, the celebrity bringing in the audience, was a huge pop star ten years ago, but as the narrator, he is bland. He lacks the cynicism that a real Che, Guevara or otherwise, would have expressed about Evita as the so-called defender of the working class.

Elena Roger as Eva Per³n, and cast, throwing money around, photo Richard Termine.

That said, and this is not a contradiction, the production is entertaining as a Broadway musical. After all, what we expect there is fantasy, not truth. And Grandage‘s staging is dazzling, featuring such highlights as Evita’s jazzy dance number, “Buenos Aires,” by accomplished choreographer Rob Ashford and the iconic “Don‘t Cry for Me, Argentina.” Christopher Oram‘s sets are evocative and sophisticated.

In 1952, Eva Per³n died of cancer. She was only 33. Outside Argentina, where many still revere her, this is as close to a memorial as she will ever get.

Evita.” Book and lyrics by Tim Rice. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Directed by Michael Grandage. Choreographed by Rob Ashford. Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway, New York City. 800-745-3000. Opened April 5, 2012; closes Jan 26, 2013. 1/2/13.


Click here to donate to The Komisar Scoop

One Response to "“Evita” is smart and glittery, but papers over harsh truths of Peronism"

  1. Lorri   Jan 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks for the EVA Peron story. The only thing I knew about it was the Madonna portrayal, and I know there was more to that.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.