By Harry Haun
21 May 2012
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
A couple of short and, sadly, short-lived divas arrived on Broadway three days apart amid the April showers this year - the 5-foot-5-inch Eva Perón of Evita at the Marquis Theatre, and the 4-foot-11-inch Judy Garland of End Of The Rainbow at the Belasco — both of them in Broadway-debuting, Olivier Award–nominated performances from London.
Elena Roger (at 5.02 inches) and Tracie Bennett (at 5 feet 6 inches) — the latter now a 2012 Tony Award nominee as Best Actress in a Play — do some of the heaviest emotional lifting of the theatrical season as the power-propelled Perón and the drug-ravaged Garland, respectively. Musically, it's "Don't cry for me Argentina…" vs. "Weep no more, my lady…"
María Eva Duarte married Colonel Juan Perón in 1945 — a year before he was elected Argentina's president — and was first lady until cervical cancer claimed her, at 33, on July 26, 1952. After lo these 60 years, the melody lingers on — along with that glorious, Tony-winning batch of songs Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote in 1979; now, 33 years later, they're back on Broadway with a stronger Argentinean flavor.
|photo by Richard Termine|
So is Eva herself. Unlike Elaine Paige, Patti LuPone and Madonna, who have preceded her in the part, the Olivier-winning Roger has an authentic Argentine accent, being born, raised and discovered in Buenos Aires. "Oh, the accent was easy to do," she lightly allows.
What was hard was making herself understood in English, but three coaches have brought her up to intelligible speed (as long as she steers clear of words like "bureaucracy" and "Madonna"). "We keep some of my accent, but it must be understood. That's what we want, so all the time I'm conscious of what I'm doing."
With the accent comes a history with her character. Roger grew up in a family always debating Perón pros and cons. "Actually, I'm picking her side. She doesn't always do the right thing, but because it's me doing her, I kinda understand. All the things she did for poor people, I feel, she did with her heart because she came from poverty."Continued...