It was standing ovations all round for Thurles Musical Society's outstanding production of the hit show Evita in the Premier Hall last week.
The story of Eva Peron was portrayed magnificently by the sixty strong chorus, together with two separate childrens chorus' throughout the run. With high energy, superb acting, a visual masterpiece and a fantastic musical score manipulated so wonderfully by the full orchestra, this really was a West End production in The Cathedral Town.
From the moment patrons entered The Premier they were transported to Argentina. The foyer and side pillars were festooned with photos of Eva and Juan Peron, Argentinian flags and the country colours adorned the walls and plinths. And, that was before even setting eyes on the stage.
The Society is renowned for it's magnificent set and stage - this was no exception with balconies and terraces creating a real feeling of grandeur, while the many touches from the crew and props team helped to bring glamour in abundance. Visually, incorporating lighting, set, staging and the suberb costumes, this was a masterpiece and was befitting of a show which has taken the globe by storm.
But, you just had to remind yourself constantly that this was an amateur production - amateur that is, in everything except name. The chorus volume in the singing; the movement in the choreography; the solemnity of the funeral scene; and the energy of the New Argentina number, showed the wide range of talents on view, the ability to adapt and the wonderful direction given.
Of course Evita is all about one lady and what a performer Thurles had in Cathy Keane as Eva Peron. Her transformation from the lower class to the highest echelons of society, through her social climbing, was magnificently portrayed with wonderful acting, great movement, and flawless singing. The number of costume changes for the character was phenomenal and yet she never appeared rushed at any stage, and was in control at all times. It was one of the finest amateur portrayals of Eva Peron - a real treat for anyone who was lucky enough to witness it.
Thurles Musical Society is very fortunte to have such a talented front line and none better than Michael McLoughlin, a man who has been thrilling audiences for many years. As Che in Evita, he was in top form, racing through the scenes with ease, questioning, goading, teasing, admiring and ultimately mourning the loss of Eva Peron as he led the coffin off-stage at the finale with her husband Colonel Peron, played so well by Cathal O'Donoghue. Michael has been an award winner in the past for his roles in musical theatre and his performance in Evita was thoroughly powerful - a real tour-de-force.
Playing Colonel Peron was not a simply role, but Cathal O'Donoghue used all his experience and stagecraft to pull it off with aplomb. He managed to convey the many conflicts going on in the life of the Colonel and worked so well opposite Cathy Keane.
Magaldi played by the very versatile Barry Derby had a key role in the show - the first man to be manipulated by Eva Duarte. Barry's 'On This Night of a Thousand Stars' was a memorable scene, performed with a suave sophistication. He warned Eva to be wary of ambition - she didn't listen.
Kate Lineen as The Mistress had one of the musical highlights of the show - 'Another Suitcase in Another Hall' and she sang it so well leaving the audience wanting more. The look, the innocence, the purity of the voice and the pathos really captured the Premier Hall.
Putting a show of this magnitude together is no mean feat and Thurles Musical Society can take a collective bow for their efforts. The direction given by David Hennessy in his first visit to the town; the choreography of Debbie Kiernan; the musical direction, chorus instruction and conducting of the unique Mary Rose McNally; the coaching of Dance Captain Michelle O'Connell; and the stage direction and management of Rita Dempsey and Tommy Sweeney respectively, are to be lauded and celebrated. However, each one would deflect kudos to the collective as it is because of the collective that success such as was witnessed with Evita emerges.
And, successful it certainly was. The audiences jumped to their feet at the end to fete those on stage in the same way the chorus feted Evita when she arrived on the balcony of the Casa Rosada to sing Don't Cry for Me Argentina at the start of the second act- it was spontaneous, spectacular, sublime and thoroughly deserved.
What a show and what a reaction to it.
Already, we can't wait to see what next year will bring.