But as Che, the angry spokesman of the Argentine masses, the charm feels utterly misapplied. Combined with the uneven vocal performance of Argentine actress Elena Roger as iron-willed Eva Peron, this new London-born incarnation of the 1979 pop opera proves to be a dull and second-rate offering.
Lacking much in the way of drama, or, for that matter, historical insight into the mesmerizing power Peron wielded over the nation’s so-called descamisados (shirtless ones), the musical can boast only of its array of swooning anthems--the sort that become soldered to your brain cells. Though she’s pleasing in her chestier notes in Lloyd Webber’s notoriously mountainous melodies, Roger encounters problems in her upper register, so that you cringe a bit as she tries to scale the passages that range beyond her comfort zone. (The sterling record of Patti LuPone as unstoppable force in the Broadway original remains unchallenged.)
The vocal issues further weaken the character’s hold on us. And though director Michael Grandage’s production receives admirable support from Michael Cerveris as a Juan Peron passionately devoted to his wife and her mythmaking power, the show never escapes the impression that it’s essentially a stolid diorama with songs.
“Evita,” music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice. Directed by Michael Grandage. Sets and costumes, Christopher Oram; choreography, Rob Ashford. At Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway, New York. Visit www.ticketmaster.com or call 877-250-2929.