CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The male leads in the Charleston Light Opera Guild's production of "Evita" are veteran actors but newbies when it comes to this show.
Ted Brightwell, who plays tango singer Agustin Magaldi, was involved in the guild's first production of the Andrew Lloyd Weber-Tim Rice rock opera about 25 years ago, but he was backstage.
"I love this show. Every night when I was doing hair and makeup I just kept saying, 'I wish I'd have been in this,' " he recalled. "It's just one of my favorites."
Trying out this time around, Brightwell would have been happy with any part but is delighted with the role he landed.
And although he has a long list of shows to his credit, Brightwell said this has been a challenge.
"I'm not musically trained and I don't read music, so I really have to concentrate," he said. "Since it's all sung, it has to be conversational when you sing it, and there can be timing issues."
Vocal powerhouse Ryan Hardiman also is making his "Evita" debut with this production, playing Che, the show's narrator.
At least one thing will be familiar - Hardiman once again is on stage with Emily Barber Capece. Capece, who plays the title role, appeared opposite Hardiman in the guild's FestivAll 2012 production of "Next to Normal."
Hardiman said it's been easier falling into acting rhythm with Capece because they've worked together, although his role is quite different.
As her husband in "Next to Normal," Hardiman played a character who was restrained and aimed to please.
"This time, I'm the agitator," he said. "This role enables me to interact with the audience. I'm the only role that does that - I serve as the narrator and observer and commentator on what goes on through Evita's social climbing and fall."
The show is based on the life of Eva Peron, the radio show host who became the wife of Argentine president Juan Peron. The story follows Eva from her teenage years to her death, and Hardiman's role helps carry the timeline.
"Vocally, it's very challenging - it's on par with 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' " he said. "It's vocally challenging for everyone in the cast, but Evita and Che are especially challenging roles vocally because of the sheer amount of time we're on stage."
Bill Rainey, who also is making his "Evita" debut, said the only role he sought was that of Juan Peron, the older husband of Evita.