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Evita New York


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#1 Doogie Hoser

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 05:13 PM

Has anyone by any chance been across the pond and seen it?

I was in NYC last weekend and did.  I was... disappointed, having loved the London revival, in particular the choreography and the orchestrations.

The opening has changed.  It's like a split screen now, with projections across the top half of the stage and the company beneath it.  Very black and white.  I remember the lighting of the revival, with the priest, crucifix held high, and the shadow cast against the wall as a result.  It was very dramatic.  The new staging has the cast competing the with the movie projections of newsreel footage.  It was a flat opening.

Elena Roger:  I loved her in the revival... just loved her.  Yes, the accent was thick but she seemed to be able to do it all... sing, dance, act, cry at will.  I loved her.  This time, she seems a little flat to me because the energy didn't feel present in the whole show.  Maybe she has nothing to feed from.  I heard the guy behind me mutter:  'best thing she's done tonight' after she concluded You Must Love Me.  He was right.  Dunno where the magic has gone, but she seems somehow subdued (and I hope, perhaps it was just the night.)

Michael Cerveris (sp?  Peron)  The only one of the principals to get a Tony nomination and I don't know why.  He seems much beloved in New York but I didn't see anything exceptional about his portrayal.  I think Peron is a bit of a thankless part.  The only actor I've ever seen play it with distinction was Philip Quast, who I thought had enormous presence (maybe due in part to his enormous size!)

Ricky Martin as Che.  He can sing.  He can smile.  And he does through out.  Apart from that, he doesn't offer much.   Doesn't seem to know what do with his hands.  Frankly, there didn't seem to be a lot of acting going on.  Not to say it was bad acting, I just didn't get the impression he particularly knows how to act.

The Company:  when they power sing in unison, it's a rare merger of voices.  Really remarkable.  The Lament was particularly strong (I loved the choir effect of the company behind the main vocals in London and it still delivers here.)

Various moans:  During Don't Cry for Me, Argentina, the company groups right beneath the balcony and I was sitting there thinking it's kind of hard to get excited about the moment when it looks like all she could pull was about twenty people, with that big vast stage in front of them.

The tempo:  man, have they ramped that up, or at least seemed to.  The thing was so so fast.  If I recall, we were done the first act in about forty minutes.  Is that standard?  It seemed very rushed.    Maybe that's one of the challenges for Elena Roger... she's got to gallop through some fairly complicated lyrics.

I was surprised Elena Roger didn't earn a Tony nomination and I was surprised Ricky Martin didn't get one, just for being Ricky Martin.  I thought it was a bit bitchy not to nominate Elena Roger just out of good manners (which I know sounds nuts, but she's still delivering a strong performance and in an iconic role and, despite everything, the night I saw it she got the biggest reception from the crowd of any of them, even Ricky, and it was loud, enthusiastic and genuine... there was definite respect for her work.)Overall, the Broadway production is very, very similar to the widely popular London production (if you don't count the length of the run!) but something's missing.  I don't know why exactly.  It just doesn't seem to click like London did.  It's almost all the same talent behind the scenes.  I am mystified.  Now granted, it's somewhat tricky to write a musical about politics, with a not very nice principal.  But I was left wondering if perhaps Evita is a musical better consigned to memory.  Maybe it's time has passed.  You can't revive them all.  Maybe what was exciting thirty years ago isn't able to excite thirty years later.  (Though London was so well received.  I always thought it was a glut of choice and to some degree the economy that did it in so early.)  

Then again, I know the tours do well.  Maybe it's now just a touring musical.  I don't have a clear theory but I am surprised at how flat I felt once the Broadway Evita was over... maybe it's a one off dud and I'm putting it on the shelf too early.  

Anyway, that was my disappointing return to Evita in New York.  (Though I will also say I saw Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow, who totally kicked ass.   The play is even stronger than in London... people went wild throughout.)

#2 Distant_Cousin

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 08:03 PM

Very interesting and fair comments.

Interesting point about tempo.  Apparently the producers of the original production insisted the tempos were increased from the London production too.

Same has happened again for Broadway with the revival from what you say - how bizarre!

#3 The Scorpion

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 10:43 AM

I went to see this a couple of times in New York too, after loving the revival in London.

Overall I tend to agree with your comments. The tempo is a little faster, although not by a great deal. The tempo difference between the Hal Prince production in London and New York was MASSIVE; ALW kept slowing it down every time he went to see it in New York, only for the orchestra to ignore him and up the tempo again once he left. Although you wouldn't guess from the recording, the London revival did have a fairly fast tempo live - the show was over by 9.40pm!

I think the show's been a little whitewashed too, possibly so as not to offend the many Latinos who are making the trip to Broadway to see this (primarily for Ricky Martin).

Differences between the London production and this one that I noticed:

- Opening completely restaged - instead of the church with the mourning descamisados, the descamisados now appear carrying candles beneath projected images of the real Eva's funeral. I think I preferred the scene in London with the wailing woman. Some people thought it was over the top, but I found it moving.

- The biggest difference is the staging of Rainbow Tour. It is much better on Broadway. Instead of Che carrying tiny flags, huge flags come down from the flies behind Eva, while Perón and his advisors are on 'ground' level rather than on the balcony, which is obscured behind the flags. On the second performance I saw, the flags got stuck and they had to pause the show!

- The proscenium has an Argentine flag surrounding it with two cut-out pictures of Perón and Eva which fly up when the Requiem starts.

- More flags in 'A New Argentina', but I missed the banner with Perón's face on it.

- The orchestration is even better now and sounds more Argentinian. The bandoneón is more prominent and better used in the show.

- The soldiers in 'Dangerous Jade' appear in tank tops rather than full uniform.

- The set is more varied now. They change it so you know whether you're inside or outside the Casa Rosada with the use of windows.

- The Lament is more or less the same (and is absolutely beautiful), but as an extra thing they have confetti which comes down on stage during Eva's final verse.

Little differences in things that Elena does from London:

- During 'Rainbow High', she says 'You're not decorating a girl for night on the town' angrily to a dresser who hurts her by mishandling her earring - it's a nice touch.

- She doesn't drop her suitcase any more during 'Screw the middle classes' - I missed that.

- In 'And the Money Kept Rolling In', she looks and acts a lot less 'evil', which I thought was a shame. She comes across as just a nice charity-worker. This is one example of the whitewashing I was talking about.

- She is more aggressive towards the Mistress when she throws her out.

Otherwise things are mostly the same as they were.

Ricky can dance very well. Singing OK, but he doesn't do any of the vocal acrobatics that Matt Rawle did with the high notes. He also forgot his lines twice during 'High Flying, Adored' but covered it up well. His acting isn't really there, he does not come across as angry. I don't know if it's his fault or whether Michael Grandage has deliberately directed him to be bland. His speech in Act 2 when he says 'What's new, Buenos Aires?' doesn't sound furious enough.

Cerveris is very good as Perón. Philip Quast looked more like Perón, but Cerveris is still very good. He cries out 'Nooooo!' when Eva collapses in Act 2.

Rachel Potter is EXCELLENT as the Mistress with a fantastic voice. I am torn between her and Lorna Want's renditions.

Elena is wonderful, but American audiences hate her (hence I'm not surprised by the audience comment you overheard).  The major complaint concerns her singing. My opinion? I think everyone on Broadway is expecting and wanting Patti LuPone, and they want a Patti-soundalike. Everyone keeps saying they want 'A New Argentina' to be belted as LuPone did it (never mind that it almost destroyed her voice to do that, and that she never actually did that all the time live like she does on the recording, and that Elaine Paige herself didn't belt out those top Es and used her head voice), and that Roger just "can't sing". I readily admit that she is scratchy in her upper register, but the occasional shrillness is what I find thrilling about her performance -- Eva Perón was exactly the same, and that's what makes her believable. For me, it's Elena's sheer charisma and energy that make her so great (not to mention that she can dance, and I mean REALLY dance, like no other Evita can...and Patti couldn't really, indeed the dancing was toned down for her when the show premiered on Broadway, as she couldn't do the moves Elaine Paige did). Roger's voice is raw, not remotely like anything heard on Broadway and very different. That's what they were going for when they were casting the role (ALW kept saying how they found her after hearing a lot of people doing what felt like impressions of Paige or LuPone or Madonna), but it appears US audiences really do want to hear Patti all over again. It seems the LuPone-Evita connection on Broadway is extremely strong and etched firmly in everyone's memories, in a way that quite never happened with Julie Covington or Elaine Paige in London, so my personal belief is that Broadway audiences are more resistant to a completely new interpretation.

I will admit that Elena seemed to have more energy in London, but it's still an amazing performance IMHO, and plus she's six years older now. Perhaps the reaction would have been more approving/welcoming if the transfer had been quicker, rather than taking 6 years to materialise. It seems a shame the audiences don't find Elena at least more than makes up for any vocal deficiencies (even though I could listen to her sing all day) in her acting and dancing. She also doesn't play Eva as a diva-bitch and opts for a far more sympathetic and softer approach. This works well for the Latino contingent of the audience, some of whom I suspect would have been horrified if they saw how Eva Perón was played in the 70s, but it doesn't appear to satisfy the traditional Broadway audience, who I think desire the diva-bitch-chewing-the-scenery element. I still find Elena larger than life on stage, despite her diminutive stature, just like Elaine Paige.

Tony or no Tony, I'm glad we're at least getting the full cast recording this production deserves. Just wish they had done that in 2006 with the London production.

#4 sjh11

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 02:46 PM

The Scorpion is right about Rogers - the American critics went straight for her jugular, but seemed to love Martin. If she was expecting the same reaction she got in London, then her confidence may well have been knocked and hence the performances noted here. The American reviewers once again showed how much they love to hate Lloyd-Webber, with the Wall Street Journal writing the snootiest of reviews. All the critics did a compare and contrast with LuPone, which was really unfair. If they had hired another booming vocalist, ALW would have been slated for that as well! Some of the reviews were hilarious in their attempts to have a dig. One reviewer, in criticising the orchestrations, complained that a harp section had been cut. Another referred to how ALW should now be know as 'Baron" (due to his peerage) which was a clever way to misrepresent him: I don't see Evita as a show written by some crusty old Lord, I see it as something co-written by a guy in his 20s - which it was.

#5 Jim

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 04:10 AM

As an American in the NY area, I'll say it -

American Critics are just a-holes who hate anything not-American.  If they didn't attack Elaina, they would have attacked ALW.  

Patti LuPone is such a bitter, shrill, classless actress whose arrogance appeals to these critics.  

I only wish I could get in to see Elaina - but alas, Evita is one of the hottest tickets in town at the moment and I can't get in.

#6 The Scorpion

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 11:07 AM

What struck me though is that it's not so much the critics as the actual audience. Many of the audience members at the Marquis echo the negative comments about Elena Roger and indeed say far worse things. They keep saying they want Elena to belt like Patti and nothing else will do. For the life of me I can't quite get my head around how some say they can't understand her though; her pronunciation is greatly improved since London and she's fluent in English now (she wasn't back in 2006). If anything, her diction is better than Patti's. The complaints all really centre around Elena's vocals rather than her dancing or acting, which at least some of the more generous audience members compliment. It really saddens me, though, because Elena was the toast of London when she did the role here and I thought and still do think her performance was/is remarkable. There are so many bland, cookie-cutter Evas out there, but I think that's bizarrely what the Broadway audiences want.

Oh well, if Broadway doesn't want Elena, London and Buenos Aires are happy to keep her. Loved her in Piaf and Passion too.

#7 Doogie Hoser

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 12:33 PM

I maintain part of Elena's difficulty is the tempo change.  Some of those lyrics would be challenging to get out at normal speed.

#8 sjh11

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 04:33 PM

View PostJim, on 21 May 2012 - 04:10 AM, said:

As an American in the NY area, I'll say it -

American Critics are just a-holes who hate anything not-American.  If they didn't attack Elaina, they would have attacked ALW.  

Patti LuPone is such a bitter, shrill, classless actress whose arrogance appeals to these critics.  

I only wish I could get in to see Elaina - but alas, Evita is one of the hottest tickets in town at the moment and I can't get in.

Excellent post. I think LuPone has criticised the score of Evita since she was in it, too. I think part of the problem is that people get so used to the cast album that they find anything else difficult to deal with. The fact that the Broadway critics appeared to know the show so well, around two decades after it finished, rather betrayed their snobby views on the source material.

#9 The Scorpion

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 10:10 PM

Americans also prefer Eva Perón as a diva-bitch, which Grandage's production pretty much avoids altogether; it is less a one-dimensional morality play as it was in Prince's (genius, by the way) production and far more ambiguous, since historical research done since the 70s reveals a much greyer picture than the one that was prevalent in the 70s.

I listened today to the professionally recorded tracks that have been sent out to the Tony voters. I REALLY hope these aren't excerpts from the forthcoming cast recording (although I fear they are, since that's already been recorded), because they don't sound very good. Elena's voice is indeed shot on these tracks and cracks a number of times, plus the top notes have thinned out; Cerveris is bland and the orchestrations sound synthetic and rushed (a notably smaller orchestra as well than that used on the London recording). Weirdly though I saw the show in New York during the week they were recording, and they sounded OK live. But I have a fear if this is a sign of the quality of the new recording, then the American audience (and maybe international audience) will forever bitch about Elena Roger using these tracks as the basis for their opinions; but this is really not her at her best at all. She ironically sounds better on the London recording, and even that was not a great recording. Her performance has really been done a disservice. How I WISH RUG had had the sense to make a full cast recording of the Adelphi production in 2006.

#10 Titan

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 12:25 PM

I liked her in Passion, but didnt overly like her in Evita in London.  I though the whole production was a let down, it was to be my first Evita on stage and found the whole thing limp and unimaginative with poor direction and lazy staging.  The lack of any real set change didnt help.  Philip Quast was hammy as Peron, Matt Rawle was the only saving grace.




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