PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Evita and Its Touch of Star Quality

By Harry Haun
06 Apr 2012

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Getting rid of Guevara is typical of the order and clarity Grandage brought aboard. It is a stately, straightforward, handsome epic that conveys the chaos without the clutter. Christopher Oram's stylish set — a wrap-around balcony — leaves a comfortably wide playing area below, with doors opening in glares of light and enabling choreographer Rob Ashford to move the dance traffic — rich in tango — with ease and energy.

Grandage, Ashford and the Olivier Award-nominated Roger all transferred from the London production. "It's different in quite a few ways," the director noted, "not least the casting changes all around mean you start a relationship with a whole lot of actors who bring something different to the room. By definition, everything that Ricky Martin and Michael Cerveris have brought has changed everything — Elena, too."

A mist hovers atmospherically over the stage, working as well in the dark as in the light, enhancing the make-believe of it all. It's there at the beginning when Che emerges from a mass of mourners and beckons to Eva, who drops her black veil and becomes Evita. And it's there at the top of the second act in a chandelier glow when she descends to the balcony to deliver her "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina." Audiences can't resist applauding the return of an icon, throwing up her arms in rapture.

Roger still had some chandelier glow when she finally reached the after-party seven flights up in the Marriott Hotel. "I was nervous, I was nervous, I was nervous," she said excitedly, "but it was okay because I could feel the audience was with us all the time, laughing, applauding. I could feel their emotions out there. That was nice."

A fraction over five feet, Roger is no stranger to pint-sized powerhouses. After her year-run as Evita, she changed accents in midstream and won an Olivier Award for Piaf. Her last Olivier nomination was for an Italian (Fosca in Passion). But Eva Peron remains her most taxing role, emotionally and vocally.

Christina DeCicco
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

"It's hard," she admitted. "Once you have it, it's fine — but then, if you're the least bit tired, your voice is difficult to do. I'm from Argentina so already I have quite an emotional investment in the show. And I have to sing this huge range. It's more difficult than Piaf. At least in Piaf, there was more real life."

Because of the demands of the role, she does only six performances a week. Her standby, Christina DeCicco, handles the Wednesday evening and Saturday matinee performances, and Roger has had the out-of-body chance to see DeCicco on stage.

"I was very excited to watch it, and I wanted to," Roger said. "I think it's very useful because, when you're doing a show, you never get a chance to see it. If you're off, you're sick and in bed. Because I can see her, I can see the whole play, and I realize how complicated it is. Sometimes we're not conscious about how pretty something could be with the lighting. You don't know what's going on upstage when you're the one on stage."

Debuting in a strange new country is a little daunting for a young actress, but her co-stars have made her feel comfortable. "Reeky is so professional — he likes working," she said in her delicious accent. "It's a pleasure to know him. His soul is beautiful, and, as a person, he is incredible."

Read more about the Broadway history of Evita in the Playbill Vault