Ricky Martin and 'Evita' on Broadway: What did the critics think?
Broadway's eyes were on pop star Ricky Martin Thursday night as a revival of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita" opened at New York's Marquis Theatre.
The musical based on the life of Eva Perón, the Argentinian actress turned major political player, has created its fair share of fame. The 1979 Broadway debut launched Patti LuPone's career, and the 1996 movie version helped to reinvent another pop singer, Madonna.
This time around, "Evita" boasts the star quality of the '90s pop heartthrob (and his hip-swiveling moves) as the show's truth-telling narrator, Che Guevara. Argentine actress Elena Roger plays the title role.
The first reviews from New York were mixed: Some critics felt the heat in this retelling of the fiery first lady's life and death (or at least in some of the performances), while others were lukewarm toward the show and its actors.
Howard Shapiro of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that Martin was the most "compelling" reason to see show -- even though the accent he uses for the role slips in and out. Shapiro wrote that "Evita's" pageantry was "impressive at the beginning, but it fills the stage at a constant high pitch in a storyline with too little swagger."
The New York Times' Ben Brantley wrote that Michael Grandage’s revival felt more like a funeral for Perón, and that the production "never seems to whip up any human life in the intervening two hours of sung-through flashbacks." Brantley added that it was Roger as the title role that kept the show alive as opposed to a "barely-there" Martin.
Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News was wooed by the performances. He wrote that the show left him wanting more and praised choreographer Rob Ashford's "sexy tangos, erotic waltzes and meticulously built ensemble dances."
Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal found a lot to like about the play, saying "the best parts are good enough to make the worst parts tolerable." While he found Roger wanting, Teachout said Martin was effective as Che.
Entertainment Weekly's Melissa Rose Bernardo wrote that "Evita" made for an "adequate" Broadway revival with “happy” fans and ticket sales as a sign of the show’s success. Bernardo was less than pleased with the performances, writing that she found Roger’s voice "shrill and — as an 'American Idol' judge would say — pitchy.” Bernardo added that while Martin could "dial down the enthusiasm," he still sings "like a dream."
-- Jamie Wetherbe
Photo: Ricky Martin portrays Che Guevara in a new revival of "Evita." Credit: Richard Termine