Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist/librettist Tim Rice's musical Evita has gone through several permutations since premiering as a double-LP studio cast album in 1976, with successful stage productions in the West End (1978) and on Broadway (1979), and, eventually, a movie adaptation (1996). All of those versions produced albums, and so does the 2006 London revival, which arrived on June 21 -- twenty-eight years to the day after the first London opening. (It later announced a closing date of May 26, 2007, for a run of 11 months.) The original London cast LP, unlike the original studio cast recording, the original Broadway cast recording, and the original soundtrack, was a single-disc affair, and so is this one. Lloyd Webber, who runs his own label, Really Useful Records, tends to opt for full-length treatments of his shows on record, nearly every one sprawling across two CDs, the better to reflect his sung-through scores. Here, he has trimmed the music from the usual 100 minutes to 70 by eliminating minor songs, instrumental passages, and sound effects. That is an appropriate decision for a score that also sounds scaled down otherwise, with a smaller orchestra and cast. To address the downsizing, the composer has also revised his orchestrations and given them more of an Argentine flavor; the listener may think less often of Puccini and occasionally of Astor Piazzolla. If that gives a slightly more Argentine feel to a show set in Argentina, a major casting decision accentuates this change. In the title role is Argentine singer/actress Elena Roger. The appeal of casting an actual countrywoman of Eva Peron's to play her is undeniable, but it is equally undeniable that Roger sings in English with a heavy accent. Lloyd Webber and Rice may have felt that most of those attending the show would already know the lyrics so well that it wouldn't matter. But when Philip Quast, as Juan Peron sings to Roger's Eva in "I'd Be Surprisingly Good for You," "I can understand you perfectly," the listener may be tempted to disagree. Still, this is a better treatment of the score than that heard on the original soundtrack. Roger, for all her flaws of enunciation, makes more of the part than Madonna did, and Matt Rawle is certainly a superior Che to that of Antonio Banderas (who had his own pronunciation problems). Also, even though Lloyd Webber and Rice have unnecessarily retained "You Must Love Me," the new song they wrote for the movie, they have wisely restored "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" to the minor character of the mistress played here by Lorna Want. (Against any sense, Madonna claimed the song in the film.) Still, the 2006 London Evita comes in a poor third to the original studio cast album and the original Broadway cast album.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann