Picks and Pans Review: Evita

updated 12/02/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/02/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Complete Motion Picture Soundtrack

Even though Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's 18-year-old musical about the life and times of Argentine First Lady Eva Perón is a highly regarded classic, pop music fans certainly won't be tuning in to the film version's double-disc soundtrack just for the tunes. They'll be more interested in hearing whether Madonna, as the title character, has the chops to pull it off.

She does—and she doesn't. If you can forget Madonna's racy videos, the bullet bras and the Sex book and just listen to her sing, she does an impressive job. True, she doesn't possess the range of Elaine Page or Patti LuPone, who originated the role in London's West End and on Broadway, respectively; but she stretches an octave or two, handily tackling the tricky arrangements of "Buenos Aires" and "Rainbow High." (Antonio Banderas, as the narrator Ché, makes a swashbuckling impression, and Jonathan Pryce is wonderfully expressive as President Juan Perón.)

But for all her technical accuracy, Madonna doesn't truly seem to connect with Eva Peron until her deathbed numbers late in the musical. (Perón died of cancer in 1952 at age 33.) Early on, she sounds too self-conscious and preoccupied with maintaining her poise and perfectly pronouncing every syllable to capture the charisma and resilience that were essential to Perón's personality. She plods, in particular, through "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" as if she's sucking in her tummy and balancing a stack of books on her head. (Warner Bros.)

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