Harris Faulkner: In ‘Evita,’ Ricky Martin Reminds Us of Why He Is a Star

Preface: It’s shameful but true. I only attend one Broadway Show a year. This mommy of a pair of toddler girls just doesn’t get out like she used to.

But, after taking in Broadway’s newest celebrity-driven revival "Evita," starring Ricky Martin, it quickly dawned on me —this Mama Bird needs to fly more!

Girls night! Holla! Rolling with my friend, affectionately known as Dr. Lori. Our husbands watching all our tots for the night.We started with something that is completely underrated—a dinner not cooked by either Lori or myself.  We dined at Lattanzi and then took the short walk  to Broadway’s Marquis Theatre on 46th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue.

The crush of taxi cabs and theater goers outside the Marquis was electric. The faint sound of cell phone ring tones lingering in the air...  chiming almost in unison the unmistakable “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”

Hearing that vintage pop music hit quickly brought back memories of the bon bon shaking and Ricky Martin fan worship of my teenage years. What was a total surprise came after we ventured inside the theatre to find our seats.Talk about your degrees of separation!

Turns out my friend of more than decade had a Ricky Martin story to tell. Dr. Lori and the Prince of Bon Bon with a personal connection? More on that later.

First, the show.

You might be under the impression that you have to purchase your tickets far advance to get the best seats. We found just the opposite. By buying just a couple of days ahead of the show online, you can scoop up row seven center premium seats for about $200.

Sounds like a lot of cash but, we had kind of seats that family members of the cast usually sit in. And we clicked on the "print at home" option to save on some of the ticket delivery fees.

And be sure to open up the free playbill…don’t just use it to protect your purse from sitting directly on the floor. Ricky Martin’s now bearded facade is on page 26. Does this dude ever age? Ah, no he doesn’t.

To let the huge audience settle in, the show was delayed a bit so, we flipped through the program reading all the cast biographies, checked out ad pages for other shows and made our beverage plans for intermission.

We snapped photos of the rather odd, giant faces glued to drawn curtains on stage. They were depictions of the lead characters, President Juan Perón and First Lady Eva. Did I mention they were enormous?

We made quick buddies with our seat neighbors. They bragged about seeing two to three Broadway shows a week. Wow, I’d have to get a second national anchor gig to pay for the child care, LOL! Not to mention that Dr. Lori’s patients would revolt at her absence from the hospital.

Okay, enough of this filler—show’s starting. It’s 8:15 p.m.and Ricky Martin singing the opening narrative for the stage story of Eva Perón. It opens on the funeral day for the Argentine icon.

Martin’s voice is familiar. Not strong. Not particularly Broadway sounding to my untrained ear, but on key and energetic. Not particularly Broadway sounding to my untrained ear but, on key and energetic. The supporting and ensemble cast of Argentine citizens emerges right away as a highlight for this night.

Within moments, we meet Eva herself, played by Argentine sensation Elena Rogers. Her tiny, powerful frame will later become a metaphor for the limitations an aging woman with grandiose accomplishments eventually succumbs to. But, at the start, the thing that stands out most about the actress playing a young Eva Perón is her voice. It’s big, bold, high-pitched with an Argentine accent that is delicious.

You may have seen the movie “Evita,” starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas. But, the Broadway show was made famous by Patti LuPone (in New York) and Elaine Paige (in London) playing the role of Eva.

Martin plays the play's singing and dancing narrator --Ché Guevara. Honestly, Martin’s performance early on is overshadowed by Rogers and the actor who plays her husband, Argentina’s President Juan Perón, Michael Cerveris. Maybe that’s to be expected since the story is about the Peróns.

I would imagine there’s a lot of pressure on a pop star to transform fame on Billboard lists, to appearing successfully under brightest stage lights in the world. A look around the packed, no-seating-left theatre, revealed people, many women of a certain age, who were transfixed on his chiseled jaw-line accented by the partial beard.

During intermission we headed to the lobby and discovered something new to me… sippy cups, mama style. My cup had something called “Ches Limon Bebidas”. Dr. Lori tried a “Don’t Cry for Me Apple-tini”and then proceeded to expound on a headline you got in an earlier paragraph. Years ago --please stop counting-- it was in the 1980’s and Dr. Lori is just gently over “29.”

She sneaked backstage at a boy band concert. I can picture now, a young, wide eyed Lori, carrying her concert program in one hand and a Le Sportsac fanny pack around her waste!

There was Ricky Martin and his fellow band members enjoying  life in what became the most popular Latin American teenage musical group of the era. Let me just jump to the kiss. Oh boy, that’s going to get me in trouble.

Maybe I’ll get a pass for trying too hard to impress the readers!  Nah, she’s going to kick my bon bon.

Back to the show.

As the curtain raised on the second act, Ricky Martin did what hundreds of millions of fans around the world have seen him do for years. He reminded us of why he’s a star. He catches up to the talented lead players and ensemble cast by doing none other than shaking his…  you know by now what he’s shaking. In fact, late in the second act, the best scene showcases Martin in the song and dance “When money keeps rolling in.”  Wow.  Doc Lori and I didn’t want it to end. He was rolling all over the place.  His voice was stellar.

So what does it take for a pop icon to be successful on Broadway? Maybe, in my humble opinion, you have to be well —humble. Martin appears to have humility in droves. His heart, passion and even nervousness at time were palpable and appreciated.

The audience stood in recognition of some of the main actors. Elena Rogers, Michael Cerveris and Max von Essen got an ovation each. But, it was so noticeable that the response from the men and women in the red velvet seats was floor-shakingly different for Martin. And, just when I thought as a hardened news anchor I’d seen it all… tears. Yup, Martin blushed and teared up as the audience showed him love.

His playbill biography doesn’t mention his days in the late 1980’s as a young pop kid with the Puerto Rican boy band Menudo. But, clearly there were some of us who just can’t forget. Hope he’s okay with that.

I’m thinking by his repeated bows and slow, cheeky walk off stage Ricky Martin is okay with a lot of things these days. And, now I’m going to get back to YouTubing him.

An oldie but, goodie playing on my iPad now, “She Bangs.” You know he had bangs back then. We all did. And, yes, I do know what the song was about.