‘Evita’ throws in the towel

Casting hurdles scuttle longer Broadway run

The bid to recast the Broadway revival of “Evita” hasn’t panned out after all: Producers will shutter the Ricky Martin topliner Jan. 26 despite an earlier announcement the show would go on with new stars.

Martin was always going to be a tough act to follow. Thanks to the broad global fanbase Martin has earned, the pop singer’s presence on the marquis consistently pushed weekly sales for the tuner above the $1 million mark. When the thesp took a week off from the show in July, receipts plummeted by more than half a million dollars.

Few stars have demonstrated that kind of earning power, and other than Hugh Jackman, most of them — Al Pacino (currently in “Glengarry Glen Ross”), Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts — gravitate to plays rather than musical theater. Replacing Martin or one of the other departing cast members, Elena Roger (in the title role) and Michael Cerveris, with a performer who sports the same kind of box office strength presented a major challenge.

Producers were confident they could manage the trick in late November, when they announced the show would continue in an open-ended run beyond the stars’ exit Jan. 26. Hal Luftig, who produces “Evita” with Scott Sanders, attributed the closing to the difficulty of not only finding the right performers but also of synchronizing all their schedules.

Timing was also an issue with Martin. Despite the fact that the production (with a mostly different cast) first premiered in London in 2006, producers waited for Martin to become available and didn’t pull the trigger on the Broadway transfer until spring of this year.

Although “Evita” has spent the majority of its time on the Rialto in the millionaires’ club, the show has yet to recoup its capitalization costs. Production should get an extra push toward that goal over the tourist-fueled holiday season; it’ll likely get hit with the traditional January downturn that affects all of the Main Stem after the holidays, but a scramble of last-minute biz may help keep B.O. aloft.

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