THERE is nothing like a bit of a musical challenge to mark Christchurch Theatre Club’s 100th show – and they certainly rose to the occasion and succeeded by bringing Evita to the Loughborough Town Hall stage.
This is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s toughest musicals, it relies heavily on the leading lady and there isn’t a second where song isn’t used to move the story along. Moving, charming, with outstanding vocals that the club has clearly built its reputation on, this is musical theatre at its very best.
Evita tells the story of the first lady of Argentina, Eva, who unashamedly sleeps her way up the social ladder until she meets Colonel Juan Perón. When he is elected as president following a crooked vote, she becomes the voice of the people, and one that the public respects.
It is only later in her life, following the influence of Che Guevara, that she begins to question the path she has taken.
Lucy Maden (Eva), David Burton (Juan Perón) and James Nelson (Che) have not worked alongside each other since Christchurch’s production of Ghost in 2015. And while Ghost didn’t work for me, their chemistry in this production was close to perfection.Nelson’s portrayal of Che was captivating, acting as the show’s narrator, his lingering in the wings or lurking in the background as the action unfolded was mesmerising to watch.
Burton was also well cast as Perón, his cold and vacant scowls to the audience as a power hungry man torn between his soldiers discontent at Eva’s rise to popularity and his love for the woman that gave him meaning and purpose was well established.
But this was Maden’s show and she certainly delivered. There is no better example than her outstanding ability to stun an audience than in one of the final numbers of the show Lament.
This is a musical where you grow to love the leading lady – dropping your perception of a woman hellbent on success to someone who deeply cares about the country and people she adores, especially as she reaches the final years of her life.
James Highton was also back on remarkable form after stepping into the title role of Kipp in LAOS’s Half a Sixpence in March this year. There is no stronger male voice in the amateur dramatic circle and he relished the small yet meaningful role of Agustin Magaldi.
Laura Barker was also given a small yet significant role as The Mistress and her mighty voice soared on Another Suitcase in Another Hall.
But Evita would not have worked without the work of the talented ensemble, the candle lit vigil was especially moving and on number And The Money Kept Rolling In.
This is testament to director John Lewin and musical director Vicki Hing. The finale, an Il Divo-inspired male rendition of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina with Burton, Nelson, Highton and George Stackhouse, brought the audience to its feet. Impressive stuff!
• Evita is at the Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday, May 7.