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Evita CD 2

This is a very important album for collectors. For starters, this show is overflowing with passion and tragedy as told through Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's dazzling score that includes: Don't Cry For Me Argentina, Another Suitcase, Another Town, High Flying Adored and You Must Love Me.

The revival of this production of Evita has been wrought with controversy since the very first announcement hit. To some, the show is either an iconic masterpiece or dismissed as inaccurate fodder - depending on whose opinion you ask. It is all based on actual happenings. But it has never been true to historical fact. The songs were originally released in 1976 by the composers as a concept album after years of research. The play leaves out some  important facts, such as the enactment of women's suffrage in Argentina under Perón in 1947, and the founding of the first feminist political party in Argentina. However, the movie version (with a miscast Madonna) does show this with images.

 Having seen this production soon after its opening, this observer liked it very much. I also saw the original. This is the finest staged production of the work to date. However, the whirl of controversy mainly centers around comparing Broadway legend Patti LuPone to respected and highly lauded Argentinean actress Elena Roger in the title role. Ms. LuPone, of course, will always be remembered as the fiery star who originated the role of Eva Perón in the original production on Broadway in 1979. She received many accolades and awards for her thrilling performance - including a Tony. The disagreements continue among some critics and a sometimes unforgiving theatre crowd. Just for the record, I couldn't take Madonna's inept performance in the movie version seriously and didn't even see the entire film after chalking it up to a waste of money and makeup.

 On this 2-CD set, on Masterworks Broadway, Elena Roger sings with the requisite authority and passion needed to convey the character and songs in the show. In person, after a somewhat reserved start, Roger got better as the show progressed until one realized the degree of greatness she was bringing to her interpretation of what is, arguably, one of the most demanding roles in musical theatre. Vocally, she is a strong singer in this demanding role and capable of emoting great expression. She is very credible as Perón. Obviously, much of this has to do with her own Argentinean lineage. Albeit, she is, at times, quite difficult to understand due to her heavy accent. For the record, LuPone 's somewhat sloppy American diction and Elaine Paige's overly proper British pronunciation of the Spanish-inflected role puts Roger at the top of the pack. Don't Cry For Me Argentina is well worth the price of the album and is better than her live performance. She is easier to understand with this in spite of the accent.

Hence, without deconstructing other interpretations, Roger is simply more convincing linguistically and therefore better. The lady shows a certain eminence in her legato passages when she emotes vocally and is sure to have a splendid career in musical theatre. Michael Cerveris, as always, is rock solid in his role as Juan Perón (and, hopefully, will be given the chance to create a role to make him the star he is meant to be.)

From the start, the ticket-selling star appeal of the show has been Latin pop-star Ricky Martin. While out of his usual element, he serves the role nicely, if less authoritative than others, and is also better on the recording turning in a professional performance that is well captured here. His reading of Che' is surely not in the same league as Mandy Patinkin, yet he still does a respectable job bringing his own spin to the character. Some writers have preferred his talented understudy Max von Essen's more vocally fluid performance over Martin's when he has subbed for him. This show seems laden with comparisons .

Rachel Potter effectively plays the role of the Misress. The rest of the cast shines throughout deserving considerable credit for giving one hundred percent. The show is directed by Tony and Olivier-Award winning Director Michael Grandage and choreographed by Rob Ashford.

I'm giving this 2012 version three stars (out of five) because, while never a fan of the bias and sexism contained in the story line, I am now a fan of Elena Roger's luminous representation. 

Masterworks Broadway is a label of Sony Masterworks. Www.masterworksbroadway.com