The reviews are in for the Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita," and it feels like everyone went to a different show. The AP is swooning over Ricky Martin and no one else, the Wall Street Journal says it's Michael Cerveris who steals the show as Juan Peron, and the New York Times isn't really into any of it. The only thing anyone seems to agree on is that Evita's voice needs some work. Yikes. With all this dissension in the air, it seems the only way to pull a meaningful assessment out is by starting, as they say, a dialogue. To make it happen, we're launching a new structure we'd like to call "E-Chatting With The Critics," in which we, your humble moderators, make our way through the reviews from the biggest dailies and fashion a conversation out of the standout lines. Like with any worthwhile game, it gets less confusing once you start to play. Shall we?
Hello Mark Kennedy, theater critic for the AP. It seems like you have something to say about Ricky Martin, who plays Che. Oh there you go talking already!
Well! Sounds like you loved Ricky Martin! Any other thoughts?
"Ricky Martin is easily the best thing about this revival. In fact, maybe it's time for Broadway to have a new rule: Put Ricky Martin in everything. He would fit in happily at "Newsies." He would definitely enliven "Death of a Salesman." Heck, put him in "Mary Poppins" and watch the roof really lift off."
Ok! Think we've got it then. Ricky Martin...totally 100 percent good. What about the other people though? Say, Elena Roger, the acclaimed Argentinian stage actress who plays, you know, Evita? Or Michael Cerveris as the fiery Juan Peron?
"Roger's 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' is good without being brilliant, and her 'You Must Love Me' is lovely, though a tad angry. Tony Award-winner Cerveris is typically solid, able to add a neediness and tenderness to a Juan Peron who is thinly written. But Martin, whose repertoire of pop songs includes 'Shake Your Bon-Bon' and 'Livin' La Vida Loca,' outshines them both with a youthful vigor that escaped Antonio Banderas in the film. Martin seems to catch the eye whatever he does: prowling the stage, mocking the Perons or just leaning against a wall."
You...are a focused man, Mark Kennedy, and we're going to have to cut you off. Ben Brantley, from the New York Times, how's it looking from your vantage point? Bonus points if you talk about someone other than Ricky Martin.
There’s little variety or seductiveness in Ms. Roger’s singing voice, which is sharp and nasal, especially in the upper registers of the vocally punishing part. (You can see how she would have been good as Édith Piaf, whom she portrayed to acclaim in London.)
It looks like the uncredited reviewer at the New York Daily News is nodding. Yep, yes, he or she is. Daily News Reviewer: you also felt Ms. Roger's singing failed to meet expectations?
Ouch. Howard Shapiro, at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Is that your raised hand? Go right ahead sir, and congrats on the prestigious new editorial management.
"Roger’s Evita, when she’s singing like an operatic butterfly, can be sweet and moving, but she continues to sing that way as the passion grows in the lyrics, and when she’s finally at full force — don’t cry for me! — she’s shrill or tinny, a problem that could be hers, or Mick Potter’s sound design, or both."
Mr. Teachout at the Wall Street Journal -- what do you think was the issue?
Oh my. Business Week's Jeremy Gerard is violently shaking his head right now.
Melissa Rose Bernardo from Entertainment Weekly, you seem to have a charming counter-argument/pop cultural reference on the tip of your tongue.
"She's a fierce dancer. But more often than not, she's shrill and — as an American Idol judge would say — pitchy. Not every Evita needs to produce aural pyrotechnics like original Broadway star Patti LuPone. She does, however, need to hit every note with laserlike precision, and Roger misses too many."
It sounds like that's how most of you felt (but kudos to you, Gerard! Way to take the road less traveled). Unfortunately though, we're going to have to leave things slightly unresolved. Time is running out, or as it were, the post is getting too long. Can we get closing thoughts all around? Melissa, let's start with you since you spoke last.
I'm sure Mark Kennedy would agree with you. Jeremy Gerard is indicating that he didn't write one of those statements that encapsulates all his thoughts on the show in a few well-chosen words, so we'll move back on down the line to Howard in Philly.
"The 1979 Broadway debut of Evita catapulted the careers of Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, and the 1996 movie version gave pop singer Madonna a boost in respect. I’m not sure this revival will do much for anyone, except for the people who would come see Ricky Martin whether he were performing in Evita or a one-man concert."
Real talk. NY Times writer Ben Brantley?
"Despite the hard work of its spirited leading lady, the Argentine actress Elena Roger — supported by a barely there Ricky Martin and a sterling Michael Cerveris — this musical combination of history pageant and requiem Mass feels about as warmblooded as a gilded mummy."
"A barely there Ricky Martin?" Surely Mark Kennedy, you will address this in your closing remark.