Perhaps chief among the reasons for adding the album to the shelf are the superb new orchestrations from Lloyd Webber and David Cullen, who have drastically revised their work from the 2006 British production (also starring Roger), which gave life to this revival. Their efforts not only enhance the music's Latin flavor, but it also beautifully supports director Michael Grandage's dramatically austere vision for the piece.
Among the finest new sections is the sultry tango sequence that has been added to "I'd Be Surprisingly Good for You," when Eva and Juan Peron first meet. And, as the musical reaches its climax, their rethinking of a montage in which Eva remembers her life is chillingly discordant and surreal.
Much like the historical figure who inspired the show, Roger's turn as Eva, the common woman who became the nearly deified first lady of Argentina in the middle of the 20th Century, will stir passionate debate, and yet there is little question that she brings fierceness and passion to the role.
True, her turn is not as musically pleasing as, for instance, Patti LuPone's, but even when Roger's work becomes strident and even a little shrill, one senses (particularly while listening to the two-disc set) that it's a character choice. In these instances Roger seems to be illustrating the difference between the simple, somewhat naïve, person that audiences first meet from the controlling woman that she becomes.
Such shading is also perhaps indicative of the time that the actress has spent with the role, as is her phrasing, which is markedly more organic from the 2006 revival recording, not only in the iconic "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," but also in the Oscar-winning "You Must Love Me," (which was interpolated from the film version starring Madonna).
Martin's charming and silky-voiced turn as Che, the show's narrator, may lack the ironic bite that has been typical of previous portrayals of the character, but his vocals allow listeners to savor the melodic complexities of several almost-standards from the score, including "And the Money Kept Rolling In (and Out)" and "Waltz for Che and Eva."
Cerveris' nuanced turn as Juan Peron, the Argentine colonel who becomes the country's president, is also marvelously preserved on disc. One can hear the astute combination of hauteur and tentativeness that the actor brings to the role, along with the deep love that Peron feels for Eva. You should not at all be surprised if your breath is taken away as Peron's heart breaks over Eva's illness toward the end of the show.
In addition, Max von Essen's fine work as Migaldi, the golden-voiced tango singer who proves useful to Eva, is as gorgeous on disc as it is in the theater, and Rachel Potter, playing the woman in Peron's life supplanted by Eva, brings just the right amount of anguished passion to her one-song cameo, "Another Suitcase in Another Hall."
The album -- which includes a bonus track of Roger's searing Spanish-language rendition of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" -- comes slipcased and with a full-color booklet that features pictures and lyrics along with a brief essay from Grandage about his vision for the show, which is so superlatively preserved on this genuinely rewarding set.
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