Theater Review: 'Evita' -- 2.5 stars
Whoever plays Evita, perhaps the most vocally demanding role in Broadway history, must be able to sing Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's score. No excuses.
Perhaps that's why "Evita," which examines the rise of Argentine first lady Evita Perón and the crowds that either loved or hated her, hasn't been revived since its original 1979 show.
The star attraction of this long-awaited revival, based on Michael Grandage's 2006 London production, is pop star Ricky Martin as Ché, the narrator who critically reviews Evita's rise to fame and thirst for power.
Playing Evita is Elena Roger, an Argentine actress who previously played the role in London and is now making her Broadway debut. Even if she's unknown here, she lends the show prestige and authenticity. Joining Martin and Roger is Broadway regular Michael Cerveris as president Juan Perón.
Even though the ballad "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" has been overplayed to death, and the 1996 film version with Madonna wasn't too great, "Evita" is a smart, political musical with a very catchy score.
Grandage's accomplished production, which features Rob Ashford's stylish choreography, a beautiful two-story courtyard set design and truly spectacular costumes, has the potential to be a dynamic crowd-pleaser, but is seriously compromised by the casting.
Although Roger evokes Evita's fiery personality, she does not have the belting vocal power to handle the challenging role - and her singing is often strained.
Martin sings and moves well enough, but brings absolutely no personality or passion to Ché. As Perón, Cerveris convincingly brings a boyish, indecisive quality to a role usually played as broadly authoritative.
If you go: "Evita" plays an open run at the Marquis Theatre. 1535 Broadway, 800-745-3000, evitaonbroadway.com.