Eva Baldi of Beechgrove is only 16 years-old but her eyes are already fixed on the bright stage lights of the future. The grade 10 student recently performed a major role in the Broadway musical play In the Heights at Philemon Wright High School (PWHS) in Hull. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the story is set in a Hispanic community in New York City that is facing familial change and economic challenges. Eva played the role of Camilla Rosario.
Above, Eva at home with best friend Jetty.
Naturally ebullient and open, Eva did admit to a small attack of stage fright on opening night. “The first show, I felt like I would mess up, I was really nervous,” she said. “The first performance, my hands were really shaking. I have to do a bunch of hand gestures for that part and when I looked down, my hands were shaking! I had to grab them to hold them still.”
Eva, with co-star Joe Evenson playing Kevin Rosario, in the opening number, "In the Heights".
By that point, the 50-person cast had been rehearsing solidly for four months, including every Saturday and every PD day.
At the first audition, all of the hopeful actors sang a specific song from the play.
“It’s a really difficult show, so the first auditions are to see if you have the vocal [strength],” Eva explained. “From that, [the director] would pick call-backs, where you had to sing the songs for the certain characters.”
Eva won the part of Camilla, the mother of the lead female character and the co-owner of a business in Washington Heights, where the play is set. At first overjoyed at her daughter’s return from university, Camilla is devastated to learn that she has actually dropped out. The role required Eva to take on a wide range of complicated emotions.
Camilla demonstrates her strength and grace at a critical point in the story.
“Some characters, like with Daniela, you get to be fun, to be crazy and have a crazy accent,” said Eva, referring to another, more flamboyant part. “But my character, she has to go in and change the mood, it has to get serious; it’s not like you get to be the likeable character. It’s not like someone will come out of the show and say, “I really liked the mom”.”
Kevin and Camilla Rosario, key business owners in Washington Heights, tackle a major change in their fortunes.
This is the first big production Eva has been in, having previously taken part in Music Makers and short plays written by class mates.
In fact, her move to Philemon Wright from Pontiac High School in Shawville was prompted by meeting well-known local actor and singer, Bristol’s Phil Holmes. Holmes runs the drama department at PWHS and directed and conducted In the Heights.
“He did A Christmas Carol with the Pontiac Community Players last year,” said Eva. “I was in that and met him there. Then my friend April took me to see last years’ show American Idiot at PWHS. I said, “I want to be in that,” and I said, “Mom, I want to switch schools”!”
Eva wants to continue with acting and singing, considering the drama program at CEGEP John Abbott College in St Anne de Bellevue after high school and possibly continuing to Sheridan College in Oshawa to study musical theatre. But for now she must wait until the next PWHS show is chosen for 2018 before she can walk the boards again.
She related how, on closing night for In the Heights, the entire cast cried on stage, following five intense performances over four days.
“At the last night, there were a bunch of speeches and a lot of people got flowers,” Eva recalls. “At the last bows, it was so sad but it was so good. You spend so much time with these people and you work so hard. It’s a lot of work, but I wish we did more shows.”
Final bows with the full In the Heights cast and chorus.