Perfect casting by Spalding's Act II ensured a successful performance of Evita
When Act II was preparing for this musical, it was essential that two roles were cast perfectly - that of Eva Perón herself and also whoever played narrator Che.
Luckily, they got it right and thus, on Saturday evening a packed audience at the South Holland Centre in Spalding saw great performances from Lia Feane and Bobbi Shepherd.
Charting the rise and fall of Argentina's most famous daughter was certainly a challenge for director and producer Karl and Charlotte Gernert and their talented protégés, especially as this is a sung-through musical, ie no spoken dialogue.
But there were enough good acting and singing performances to ensure an entertaining evening.
Evita follows the life of Argentine political leader Eva Perón (Evita), the second wife ofpresident Juan Perón. We see her early life, rise to power, charity work, and eventual early death to cancer at just 33. A woman who divided opinion, she was worshipped by some and detested by others.
And what a demanding stage role. Young Lia Feane was centre of attention for most of the over-two hour show yet seemed to shine brighter with every minute. She sang perfectly and even mastered an enigmatic smile befitting of the character.
Bobbi Shepherd also had a huge amount of stage time as Che, a member of the public who narrates our way through the story, singing, of course. It's been well documented that Act II do not always have enough boys to play the male roles, but testament to them and to Bobbi that this soon became irrelevant to me.
The same can be said for Koren Little who played Juan Peron. To start with I felt sorry for Lia, felt she deserved a leading man. But again, by the second half of the show, Koren was the leading man and I accepted and enjoyed her performance.
Zak Franklin also gave a steady performance as Magaldi, Eva's first lover as she sleeps her way up the social ladder, becoming a model, radio star, and actress before finally marrying Juan.
But, of course, a musical is all about the songs and the singers and there were some real star turns here. Bobbi (Che) set the bar high early on with 'Oh What A Circus', Lia (Eva) more than matched her with 'Buenos Aires'.
'Id Be Surprisingly Good for You' by Lia (Eva) and Koren (Perón) was another highlight, and then was the hairs standing up on the back of the neck moment as Lia totally nailed the evocative, beautiful 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' as her character renounces her pursuit of fame to stand for the downtrodden masses.
Act II introduced its 'Mini Musical performers' for this show and they were quite wonderful singing 'Santa Evita' with the chorus. Beth Bailey, who played Peron's mistress, also belted out 'Another Suitcase in Another Hall' with gusto.
There were too many cast members to name them all, but I thought all members of 'the Army' performed well, as did ' the Requiem Girls' and 'the Aristocrats', with Niamh Mulley particularly impressive. Standing out for me among the impressive 'Descamisados' were Liam Exton and Calin Stoleru.
And, in a musical, the orchestra is ever-more important. They were superb too.