Juan, Singular Sensation: A Tour of Michael Cerveris' Peronist History Archive, Backstage at Evita

By Michael T. Luongo
13 Jan 2013

A DVD with an image of Juan Peron holding up Evita during a speech.
Photo by Michael Luongo
Cerveris holds a DVD whose cover shows a famous image of Juan holding Evita as she gives her final speech. "When she does her final broadcast and rises from her chair, in the London production, the two nurses help her," Cerveris explains. He learned that on the way to her final speech, Evita, severely weakened from cancer, said, "Juan, don't let me fall."

The actor says, "I just thought that was such a meaningful gesture, that he stands behind her, that he is there literally supporting her. Yes it is an image that they want to present to the people, but it is also a husband looking after his wife. And I said to [director] Michael Grandage, 'I found this research, historically, it is accurate and I like what it adds to the story. [I'd like] for me to do that, rather than for me to just abandon her to the nurses.' At that point in the play, it is really the last physical contact I have with her, really. And that is something that came directly out of the research that I did."

The relationship between Juan and Evita evolves through the play, each defending the other. The same qualities have developed for the two actors playing them. It's a point Cerveris wants to make as the play ends.

"I think Elena is extraordinary, is one of the finest actresses, certainly one of the finest singing actresses, that I have ever worked with, and I was just surprised…that that hasn't been more celebrated and recognized. That's a disappointment to me."

"Michael Grandage's work, and the design work, is extraordinary," he says, adding, "I am really proud to have been a part of this production, and I understand that it is not a recreation in any way of the extraordinary [original] Hal Prince production. It was never meant to be. It's its own creature and I am very proud of what it is and I wish it were running longer for more people to see."

He'll miss his co-workers perhaps the most. He describes them as "this really large group of people who dedicated themselves to a musical in a way that is kind of unusual. They dedicate themselves to the acting and the storytelling of the musical — and not just singing and dancing or drawing attention to themselves. Universally from every ensemble dancer to a huge international popstar, everybody subjugated their egos to telling this story of these people and this culture, and that is unusual and remarkable."