Axminster audiences pack the Guildhall for Evita

  Posted: 22.11.21 at 13:35 by Philip Evans

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Axminster Musical Theatre returned to the stage after a year in limbo caused by the epidemic to present one of the most challenging productions for an amateur society – 'Evita'.

The rags-to-riches story of Eva Peron, the poor girl who became a prominent political power in Argentina in the early 1950s, provided Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber with one of their most successful musicals with a film version in 1996 starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas taking the role of Che Guevara.

With a name change from Axminster Operatic Society to Axminster Musical Theatre, Axminster audiences have been treated to some of the West End’s greatest hits in recent years and as I sat in a packed auditorium at the Guildhall last week, I could not help thinking how far the society had travelled since I covered my first show, 'No No Nanette', in 1965.

With a new vibrant creative team, an abundance of talent on stage and a slick operation behind the scenes, Evita will undoubtedly go down as one of the society’s most enjoyable and successful productions from a long list of popular operettas and musicals going back to 1926.

In short, it was stunning and has been the talk of the town since the final curtain came down on Saturday evening.

When the society started rehearsals they had no idea whether the show would make it to the stage because of the lockdown restrictions. But they stuck to it and are to be congratulated for delivering such a fantastic production during these difficult days.

Eva Peron (Silvey Webber) acknowledges her people

Appointing Kelly Apps (nee Street) as director was a master stroke. Kelly has been one of the most popular stage performers on the local stage for many years. No one knows the role of Evita better than Kelly who took the part when the show was performed by Lyme Regis Musical Theatre in 2015 to rave reviews.

Musical director Joe Binmore’s ensemble did credit to Lloyd-Webber’s brilliant score capturing all the excitement of Argentinian life, and new choreographer Jodie Glover created rousing routines that kept the action flowing.

The part of Eva Peron was entrusted to the talented Silvey Webber, no stranger to local audiences, who has played many leading roles in recent times and is a firm favourite with local audiences.

She portrayed this most challenging role with great energy and her natural acting and vocal skills combined to produce an unforgettable performance.

Playing the role of Che, the Marxist revolutionary guerrilla, was Paul Matterface, a newcomer to Axminster Musical Society. He narrated the action with the perfect combination of authority and empathy and will undoubtedly be a great asset to the society in the future.

Magaldi (Daniel Wilde) confronts Eva (Silvey Webber)

The versatile Mike Hamilton, a seasoned performer throughout the South West, took the role of Juan Peron.

His experience was put to good effect as the authoritarian political leader who was heart broken when Eva died of cancer, a particularly sensitive scene which moved the audience.

I was particularly enjoyed the portrayal of the fading tango singer Magaldi played by Daniel Wilde, another ATM stalwart, especially his rendition of 'On This Night of a Thousands Stars', the man responsible for taking Eva Duarte to Buenos Aires, played with just the right degree of pathos.

The role of Peron’s mistress before he met Eva Duarte was played by Lauren Good whose rendition of 'Another Suitcase In Another Hall', was one of the musical highlights of the production.

Assisting with the production


Eva’s family: Tracey Wakeling, Greg Horton, Jasmine Hussey, Emily Smith.

Tango dancers: Greg Horton, Carly Poole.

Choir girls: Robyn Moss, Daisy Broome.

Mother with child: Robin Brakstad.

Generals: Greg Horton, Richard Fereday, Mike Harvey, Ryan Tozer.

Aristocrats, Descomisados, Dressers and Nurses: Robin Brakstad, Daisy Broome, Val Cullimore, Jasmine Hussey, Caitlin Jackson, Vanessa Loder, Hannah McGown, Robyn Moss, Carly Poole, Emily Smith, Tracey Wakeling, Tina Woodhall, Anette Wraxall, Richard Fereday, Mike Harvey, Greg Horton, Ryan Tozer.

Orchestra: Jenny Campbell (woodwin), Shirley Screetch (woodwind), Josie Denning (trumpet), Josh Westrip (trumpet), Christopher Holland (trombone), Glyn Rattenbury (kit), Steve Douglass (percussion), Pete Manfield (bass), Frazer Morgan (guitar), Cathy Binmore (keyboard), Ian Crew (keyboard), Tina Pavely (keyboard).

Production: Jack Price (production manager); Jack Price assisted by Martin Webber (stage manager); Ian Styles (front of house); Ian Styles with Kelly Apps and Jack Price (set design and construction); Axminster Property and Axminster Drama Club (set materials); Seventh Wave Audio and Lighting (lighting and sound); Brian Curlsey and Barry Marshall (properties); Annette Burrough, Kelly Apps and Carrie Webber (wardrobe); Jasmine Hussey and Greg Horton (hair/wigs); Susie Gamby and Carrie Webber (dressers); Lily Cauldwell and Jasmine Hussey (make-up); Lewislaw.co.uk (photography); Kelly Apps, Jack Price and Rose Harvey (publicity); Rose Harvey and Anette Wraxall (programme); The Community Waffle House (ticket sales and box office); Footprints, Bridport (printing); Pam Cridge (floral arrangements for the foyer); Diane Bruce (raffle organiser); Pauline Marshall and Coral Rowe (ice-cream sellers); Sue Close assisted by friends of Axminster Musical Theatre (stewards, programmes and raffle sellers).

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