Where Do We Go From Here? Evita Star Elena Roger Reflects on Her Broadway Debut
The star talks #SIPs, her backstage black eye, and the most convincing "Argentine" in her cast.
Every show ends sometime (unless you're Phantom), so before the cast takes their final bow, there are a few things we want to know.
In 2012, Argentine theater star Elena Roger--an Olivier Award winner for her portrayal of chanteause Edith Piaf in London's Piaf--made her Broadway debut in the mammoth title role of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's much-loved Evita. A relative unknown to the New York theater community, Roger previously played the part in the 2006 West End production upon which the current Broadway staging is based. As the Tony Award nominated revival, costarring Grammy Award winning pop star Ricky Martin and Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris, runs to its close on January 26 at the Marquis Theatre, Roger reflects the most meaningful gifts her "lovely" fans, castmate Max Von Essen's "Saturday Intermission Pictures," and how a single earring accidentally landed her a black eye that will last through final curtain.
Name: Elena Roger
Role: Eva Peron/Evita
1. What is your favorite line that you deliver in the show?
All of the lines in "You Must Love Me" and "Lament"— it's so hard to choose one when they work together, you know—move me very much. They are lyrics to me, but also personal to everyone, I think, easy for someone connect to. That whole singing "Where do we go from here?" trails off But that doesn't answer your question! One girl told me at the stage door that she loved the moment at the end when I say, "Let me just go on as the woman who brings her people to the heart of Peron." She said it broke her heart. So it is not my favorite line, but because it has that story attached to it I think of it now, and care for it.
2. Everyone loves inside jokes. So tell us, what's the best one from your show?
It's not funny to anyone else, but one night when I was throwing the Mistress out [of Peron's bedroom] I sang, "You can go back to sleep!" instead of, "You can go back to school!" The whole cast kept laughing at me. Max [Von Essen, who plays Magaldi]'s photos [#SIP, aka Saturday Intermission Photos] are special to us. His most recent one, this week, where we were like Les Miz was so funny. I was even in my dress, you know, the big, white dress from the top of act two? We had to bring the gown [which is lowered onto Rogers' body from rigging above the set, due to its size] down the stairs from the balcony so I could put it on for this big "One Week More" moment, then carry it back up again. I love that.
3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty to be experienced during your show and how was it handled?
I got a black eye last week! I had just sung "You Must Love Me" and was very emotional, and came offstage for the quick change. As I did, I dropped an earring. Jeanie, my dresser, bent over to pick up the earring, and then Ricky passed by saying hello, so I moved forward to go say hello back and bam, Jeanie stood up with the earring and smacked into my eye with her head. We got ice, but I was squinting my eye shut for the last 20 minutes of the show. I've never been punched in the face, so I didn't know it would hurt so much! It hurt all night. I still have it a little, you can see.
4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
There were these three lovely fans—two girls and a boy. They gave me a big picture, one that I took with each of them alone, and then one that I took with all of us altogether. They framed all the photos in one big picture and put their names underneath, maybe so I would remember their names? It was very sweet. There is also a group from Peru that follows Ricky [Martin] everywhere, and they brought me a scarf knitted by Peruvian people, which meant a lot. And there is a girl that wants to be a musical theater actress who came to the stage door. She's an artist. She painted me a picture of Evita's face, and it was so perfectly done, wonderful, I told her she will be a very good performer because she is a real artist. I keep everything fans give me, if I can, but I do worry about when I run out of room in my house!
5. Who is the coolest person that came to see you in the show? You can't say your family.
Kenneth Branagh! I was so excited, I love his work. He is a great, great Shakespearean actor, and director. It was back in the beginning of the run, before we even opened, and he just came backstage to say the kindest things to us. I was like, "Oh my god!"
6. You've played two historical figures so far, Edith Piaf and Eva Peron. What male historical figure would you like to take on?
I'm dying to create someone new next, a new role, but a boy, that is different…I think Federico Garcia Lorca. He was a beautiful poet in Spain who was killed. He was gay, controversial, and the government killed him in a terrible way. The people of Spain mourned him. The things he wrote were beautiful, and it was a tragedy.
7. What Evita cast member was the most convincingly Argentine by the end of the run?
Michael [Cerveris]. I think he was the only one in the cast who did that much research—he bought a lot of stuff [from or about Argentina]! His dressing room is like a museum. Instead of going to Evita's museum in Buenos Aires, or Peron's museum, you should just go to Michael's dressing room. He even has the tango music he plays on old records. He connected with what it is to be Latin, maybe because his family is from Italy? Maybe he just understood something, but he connects with Argentine people. Ricky [Martin] loves Argentina and Buenos Aires, and tours there. I live there, so Michael had to catch up to be Peron! And he did. He even sang with the accent.
8. What will you miss about living in New York City?
The feeling of being safe while walking around. Sometimes Buenos Aires is not so safe. You are scared to have someone behind you at night. And I'll miss my bubble here, the people I met, the neighborhood of Chelsea where I stayed. Little things, like shops, downtown, faces. Definitely my people.
9. What will you not miss about Broadway?
Times Square! I hate, hate Times Square! Trying to walk two blocks to get to the theater and not being able to move because there are so many people. When the city gets busy I want to run away. And I'm happy to not have the opportunity to buy so many things. There's so much shopping, you can't help it.
10. This was not the easiest Broadway debut for you. Would you want to come back to Broadway?
Let's start with the positive things! I would like to come back, one day. Broadway is a tough place. This run wasn't what everyone was expecting, but I learned a lot. It reminded me, as a person, that I like to make art, and that I do this to make art. I like to perform, be onstage, play, dance, work with my partners — and that is it. The other stuff, like critics or whether people like what I'm doing, is actually "whatever." This experience reminded me that if I like what I'm doing and the people I work with every night, I will be happy. If I do theater, and tell a story, I will be happy. So this was a wonderful experience in that way. I would like to come back.
10.5 Would you come back for Piaf?
It's possible. Coming to Broadway is different now, the debut is done. It's about the project now. What would my life be like here, and who I would work with? I am putting together my concert and tour in Argentina, and filming a movie for two months this spring. I am recording a new album as well. So I have plans until 2015! And I live far away. Buenos Aires is my home, you know, not New York— whatever is next will have to be just right to take me away from home again.