With her prominent nose, petite frame and accented English, Argentine-born Elena Roger would hardly be an odds-on favorite for Broadway stardom. But watch out. New York is about to get "just a little touch of star quality" when the 37-year-old actress reprises the title role of Evita Peron in the Michael Grandage revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which played the West End in 2006. The New York production will costar Ricky Martin as Che.
But all eyes will be on Roger in the part of Argentina's legendary and controversial first lady, which made a Broadway star out of Patti LuPone and became a vehicle for Madonna in the film version. Roger was an established musical star in her native country but barely spoke English and was a total unknown in the U.K. when Grandage tapped her. The risky bet paid off. Echoing his peers, critic Paul Taylor in the Independent wrote that Roger was "simply sensational" as she charted her anti-heroine's canny moves from trashy opportunist to folk saint. After that triumph, Roger proved her bona fides in both farce ("Boeing Boeing") and tragedy (winning an Olivier for "Piaf" and receiving more raves in a revival of Sondheim's "Passion"). "I love playing awful women," she once told an interviewer. But don't cry for her. She's wonderful doing so.