We here at LMezz made sure to catch one of last year’s biggest hits at the Marquis before it closes in (gasp) two weeks. Some thoughts:
I’ve forgotten how gorgeous Broadway musicals can be. The sets in this production, directed by Brit big shot Michael Grandage, are just breathtaking. I couldn’t stop admiring all their details and realisms. Same goes for the costumes. I was also a big fan of the choreography, by Rob Ashford. I was happy to see that the energy and novelty of dance routine I caught a small glimpse of during their TONY awards presentation was consistent throughout. The performances were also excellent (but why is Michael Cerveris the only one with an accent? hmph) even though we caught Christina DeCiccio, and not Elena Roger, in the title role.
My only quip though is that I couldn’t get much of a storyline out of it. I left the theater feeling like I hadn’t learned much else about Evita than the bare basics I already knew: the she was an actress who married a dictator and then she was a national darling and then she died. If you were to ask me anything more specific– What were her policies? What were her husband’s policies? Why did she die? Did she actually care about the people? Or was it all a shtick?– I would give a gloomy “I don’t know.” And while I appreciate Che’s feeble attempt to expose Evita for who she really was… I still don’t know who she really was.
Maybe a closer listen to the soundtrack will resolve some of these issues. But overall, having just experienced that odd feeling that I just saw a glorious show and I still don’t know what it’s about, my dominant thoughts were, Damn, I have a lot of homework to do.
One pet peeve of mine involved the accents from the ensemble. When they sang in Spanish, they sounded more like a boys’ choir than anything remotely Argentinian. When Broadway productions go through so many efforts to replicate anything from Australian to German to Irish, it amazes me when that care isn’t equally taken to a language that in this city is easily heard at your local grocery store.
Another cringe-worthy moment was any part of Webber’s score that goes into “rock ‘n’ roll” mode. It might be just the arrangement, but it sounds so dated. I noticed a similar dated sound in last season’s revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.
The biggest question in my mind though was: What is Evita’s purpose? Grandage’s additions of historical footage and actual portraits of Eva and Juan made it seem like a biography of Eva Perón, which doesn’t quite match the show’s sensibilities. Also, the characters never have a narrative arc or learn anything. Che is still frustrated, and Eva remains insistent that she did right by her country in the song “Lament.” The show has too much rock ‘n’ roll spectacle and not enough dramatic storytelling.
But if your main reason to see the Evita revival was to see Ricky Martin living la vida loca, then you get your money’s worth. Here’s hoping that he’ll appear in something better if he continues to make forays on Broadway.