DIVA TALK: Chatting With Evita Star Rachel Potter

By Andrew Gans
25 May 2012

Potter in Evita.
Photo by Richard Termine

Question: How did you go about approaching the role and the song, since you have that one big moment?
Potter: Well, I wanted to do something completely different — vocally — because I thought, "If this is something I'm going to do every day, I want to be able to show what I do." I don't want to try and imitate what other people have done because historically the song has been very soprano, very light. It's the same [melody] three times around. I was like, "I want to bring something new to this role and bring a different journey." So, vocally, they were really gracious in allowing me to kind of do my own thing, so the way I do it is to start it soprano and then mix it and then, at the end, I get to belt. So that's how I approached it vocally. But it also made a lot of sense in the journey because I didn't see this Mistress as just like this poor, pathetic soul that's just going to crumble and die in the streets now… The lyrics lend itself to that she's very strong, and she's not going to give up, and she's obviously not lived a charmed life up until now either. So there's an element of scrappiness there in that she's had to fight before, and she's had heartache before. This isn't the first time this has happened, and she's going to be okay. And, it was also easier for me to relate to that because I'm not somebody who gives up… I've worked at Hooters! [Laughs.] So there's an element of like a fighter, I guess, for her. And, the way that we researched her was there was this one mistress… They nicknamed her "the piranha." She was one of Perón's mistresses… It's historically been said that Evita did kick her out, [but] she did not stop coming back… It's interesting to approach something that you really only have one number to attack. That is your rise and fall of your arc. There is nothing else. [Laughs.] And, it's lovely to walk off stage every night with Ricky Martin, I must say.

Question: And, what's it like to play opposite two Evas?
Potter: Oh, it's great. They're both so different. Christina DeCicco, who is our alternate — I can really sing her praises all day… Christina is from New York. She's an American through and through, and she brings such a different energy, but it's so, so great, and I hope that more and more people will come see her because she's fantastic. She's Wednesday nights, and she's Saturday afternoons. Her voice is stunning, and we're all very, very proud of her because obviously being an alternate is never an easy job. And, she's done such amazing work just watching. She didn't get as many runs. She got maybe a fourth of the time — not even — probably an eighth of the time that Elena got to rehearse. And, she's so great. She still professes that she's still developing the role, but she's just stunning. And, Elena is such a treat because she's so authentic. She's such a true person — on and off stage. I think she's so genuine in real life, and I think that exudes in her performance on stage as well. She's such a wonderful person. We all adore her. It's funny… I think this kind of wraps it up. Andrew Lloyd Webber came and spoke to us backstage one day and was singing Elena's praises and said, "She's the nicest Evita we've ever had." [Laughs.] And, I think that's true. She's so wonderful, and we all can't help but love her and support her in the role because, to us, she is Evita. She's from Argentina, and she knows this part inside and out. She came into our rehearsals knowing it, and there was a moment in our rehearsals where we got to see her sing "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" for the very first time. And, she was wearing black sweats, and we were in a crappy rehearsal room, and yet we all started crying. For us, she knew the show, and she'd done the show, but for us, this was our first time seeing Evita. And, it was a really, really special moment for our entire company, I have to say. We all really support and love her. I love doing that scene with her. She really pushes me hard every night, and I like that. [Laughs.]

Potter at the Evita opening night party
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Question: I know you're also working on a CD.
Potter: I've actually finished it, and it's [now available] on iTunes.

Question: Tell me about the type of songs that are on it.
Potter: Well, it's like a fusion of country and pop-rock. Pop-country with a rock edge. It's all original stuff. I wrote five of the tunes on the EP. I wrote five of them — co-wrote on five of them — and then the sixth song was written by my co-writer and his friend. It's called "Live the Dream." When I heard the song, he and I were hanging out in New York one time, and he said, "Oh, I want you to hear this song I wrote." We had already written a bunch of stuff together, and I begged him to record the song. That's sort of how the theme came about — live the dream.

Question: After all those years of trying to get to Broadway, now you're in one of the biggest hits of the season and, as you said, sharing the stage with Ricky Martin. What does that all feel like to you?
Potter: It's pretty surreal. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. It's great. There's nothing else that I can say except it's wonderful. There are so many people that are trying to get here, and I think sometimes when we're [working], it just becomes a job sometimes. Like anything else you do every single day, it just eventually becomes something you do. So I'm constantly reminding myself what I'm actually doing and what a big deal it really is and how blessed I am… Everybody in our company is just so talented… Everybody is just friends at this point. You kind of forget how talented everyone is, and you're basically in like the Olympics of musical theatre… Like the other day, we were recording the album and you just hear everyone singing together, and you're like, "Whoa! This is like what musical theatre [lovers] across the country are going to listen to, and this is the standard. And, I'm part of the standard? Really!" [Laughs.] This is what I did when I was living in Orlando listening to Thoroughly Modern Millie — the CDs — and Wicked and Legally Blonde. I can remember just studying those albums, and now I'm going to be on one? What! [Laughs.] That's crazy to me, but awesome also.

Question: How involved was Andrew Lloyd Webber? You said he spoke with you backstage. Was he at rehearsals? Was he at the recording studio?
Potter: Yeah, he stopped by a few rehearsals, but he wasn't like a part of our building. He sort of just came and saw things once we were finished, and he was very, very happy. He was very involved, I think, on the creative end with our director and our music director and everything. He was very, very tuned in with them, but as far as us seeing him, we didn't see him that often. But when I did see him, however, he walked up to me on the stage after a performance the first time he saw me, and he shook my hand, and he said, "Beautifully sung." That was pretty amazing, and I made a note in my head, "You better write that down." [Laughs.]

[Tickets can be purchased by visiting Ticketmaster.com or calling (800) 745-3000. For more information visit EvitaOnBroadway.com.]

DIVA TIDBITS: I attended a wonderful tribute to late cabaret impresario Donald Smith earlier this week. Read about it here.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.