Every week, the box office at the Marquis Theatre in New York’s Marriott Marquis pulls in another $1 million (or more) for the current revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock-ish bio-musical of Eva Perón.
Evita wasn’t the first Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice hit. It followed Jesus Christ Superstar by nearly a decade when it hit Broadway in 1979 in a production that raked in Tony Awards like it was running the table – Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Direction (Harold Prince) Best Actress (Patti LuPone) Best Featured Actor (Mandy Patinkin) and Best Lighting (David Hersey).
Just like Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita began as a concept album long before it reached any theater stage. It was released in 1976 as a two-disc album (back when a “disc” was an analog phonograph record, not a laser-read digital storage device). Its success was probably enough to support an immediate staging.
Lloyd Webber and Rice, however, wanted a specific director – Harold Prince. They waited until he was available, and as a result, Evita didn’t reach the stage until 1978. That stage was at the Prince Edward Theater in London and the production was a huge hit – over 3,000 performances!
Then came the mounting on Broadway, again, with Prince directing, which turned out to be such a hit, it had a three and a half year run.
As we approach forty years since its initial release, The Cast Album Database lists 36 recordings of the score. They are in English, Dutch, Spanish, German, Czech, Korean, Japanese, Danish, Swedish, Portuguese, Hebrew, Hungarian, and Icelandic. Now, Masterworks Broadway ads a two-disc recording of the revival.
The new production did not rival the original in honors. It received three Tony Award nominations but no wins. One of the nominations was for Michael Cerveris, who plays Argentine dictator Juan Perón. He’s the only one of the three leads who has originated a role on Broadway – he was the first Tommy in The Who’s Tommy and went on to originate roles in the musicals Titanic, Assassins and Lovemusik.
Evita – 2012 Broadway Revival Recording
Running time 1:42 over 28 tracks on two discs
Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin, who was a replacement “Marius” in Les Misérables for a while during its lengthy run on Broadway, has the narrator role, “Che,” and Argentinian Elena Roger is making her Broadway debut in the title role.
Musically, the new recording is quite clean and clear and the performances are more than satisfactory. Roger is a bit more coquettish than I’m used to hearing from Evita, which is a good thing in the early going but gets a bit questionable later in the show when she has become first lady of Argentina. It masks the symptoms of her fatal illness which Rice and Lloyd Webber wrote into the score with such skill.
The production uses the song “You Must Love Me” which was written for the movie version of the show and became a hit for Madonna, who played the title role in the film. (It won Rice and Lloyd Webber the Oscar for best song written for a movie in 1997.) In addition, the recording has a bonus track of Roger singing her big number, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” in Spanish – “No Llores Por Mi Argentina.”
With so many recordings of the score, any new release has to have something special about it in order to stand out from the crowd. This one is complete and competent, but there’s isn’t a great deal that makes it an important addition to your collection.