AS a musical theatre lover I have experienced some truly incredible moments involving understudies and La Bamba at the Wyvern Theatre presented another one. 

It was press night for the new musical show at the Swindon theatre and its leading lady, Inês Fernandez was indisposed, meaning that one of the ensemble dancers, Gabriella Rose Marchant had to step in and take the reigns. 

Marchant played Sofia, a young musically gifted latino woman with aspirations of following in the footsteps of Ritchie Valens and making it big, and the trials of tribulations of her attempt to do just that. 

She was accompanied by Strictly Come Dancing star Pasha Kovalev as her late dad, spectrally dancing his way through key moments of her life, The Wanted's Siva Kaneswaran as her next-door neighbour, best friend, and almost-sort-of love interest Matteo and Stefani Ariza as her mother. 

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La Bamba is a jukebox musical, but a rather strange one. It has some of Ritchie Valens greatest hits, a few Spanish-language songs and then more modern pop hits from Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and Rickey Martin. 

And this mishmash of ideas and styles is what I think epitomises La Bamba. 

It's a show that has a lot to say and tries to say it all but sometimes ends up coming across as confusing, particularly with modern real-life elements weaved in like Donald Trump's insults towards Mexican people (which were played in a recording) and the Covid pandemic, which adversely affected latino people. 

Add to this Sofia's struggle with stardom, her angst over her lost dad, the will-they/won't they with Matteo, her sometimes strained relationship with her mother, the presence of Ritchie Valens and you get a show that doesn't quite come together narratively. 

Thankfully, the performances from everyone involved were all superb, including the surprise leading lady Marchant who had to sing, dance and narrate throughout the entire thing with barely a moment to pause for breath.

Credit must also go to the young girl (sadly not credited on the show's website) who plays young Sofia, who stepped in to fill the gap left behind by Marchant in the ensemble, and absolutely smashed it. 

La Bamba may have been jumbled at times but it was impossible not to get caught up in the dancing the moment and the songs. 

And by the time the curtain had fallen, the cheers of delight from backstage that could be heard by the audience were certainly well earned!