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Veteran actors embrace novelty of 'Evita' roles

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.

"He is a very bizarre, very interesting character," he said. "He and Evita have a very symbiotic relationship - if she hadn't come along, he wouldn't have been president."

Rainey said he and Capece were just talking this week about the relationship between Evita and Juan. It may have begun because Evita, as a radio show host, could help propel Juan to power.

But the couple grew to love each other.

"Emily and I were trying to decide at which point he became committed to her," Rainey said. "So it's an interesting role to play."

Rainey hasn't seen a stage production of the show, although he has seen the movie. He jokes he is perfect for the role - he is 13 years older than his wife, Caroline Chamness Rainey, who also appears in the production.

"It's kind of been old home week. Older man with a younger woman. It's an easy fit," he said, laughing.

Contact writer Monica Orosz at monica@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830. 

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If you go

What: "Evita"

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, May 10, 11, 17 and 18; 3 p.m. May 12.

Tickets: $20

Info: 304-343-2287

The cast: Emily Barber Capece in the title role, Ryan Hardiman as Che, Bill Rainey as Juan Peron, Ted Brightwell as Migaldi and Beth Winkler Bowden as Peron's Mistress. The singing and dancing ensemble includes Amelia Allen, Bryan Archer, Kennie Bass, Julia Battle, Cary Brown, Bryan Chin, Galen Crow, Kimberly Smith-Harry, Katlin Kouns, Bob McCarty, Susan McKay, Susanna Morris, Laurie Pennington, Hannah Peterson, Dennis Pauley, Toni Pilato, Caroline Chamness Rainey, Christy Roy, Katie Shaver, Julie Simon, Carl Simpkins, Nick Staples, Ashley Van Brocklin, and Tim Whitener.

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