New Wimbledon Theatre, London – until 25 February 2017
“I’m their product it’s vital you sell me, so Machiavell me…” and my word did Emma Hatton sell herself as leading lady, Eva Peron. I was previously unfamiliar with Hatton’s work, but I can honestly say that she is my favourite actress so far to play the legendary role. Eva Peron was an icon in her time and deserves to be played by the best.
Evita is one of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s classic musicals and ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ is widely known. This particular incarnation of the production was fast, furious and had a distinct Argentinian flavour running through it. From the choreography which was slick, commanding and dazzling in equal measure to the powerful sound of the orchestra who played every musical number so beautifully, it’s undoubtedly an Argentine rose of a piece.
In previous productions I have been disappointed with the actor playing the role of Che, which has affected by enjoyment as he is the Narrator and therefore a pivotal role. In Gian Marco Schiaretti the perfect Che, fiery, brooding and with diction that was so abundantly clear that had I not have been familiar with the musical, it wouldn’t have taken long to have gotten the gist of it. I’d go so far as to say that a shining star has been discovered in this triple threat performer. Kevin Stephen-Jones was a good choice for the role of Peron, I thought, imposing and with a notable light and shade to his performance.
Natalie Langston was the presence I was drawn to in the ensemble, whether she was playing an upper class ‘snob’ or a peasant, she was making the most of her part. It was unsurprising to discover that she is the alternate Eva, and although I cannot speak personally, I suspect that she would be rather brilliant in the role, too. The ensemble as a whole failed to capture my interest, they appeared to blend into the background a little too much at times.
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina should be the highlight and Hatton did justice to a song that has been sung by so many. Rainbow High was my personal favourite though, the determination of Eva’s character shone through in this number. You Must Love Me was highly emotive too and the pinnacle moment of the musical.
Based on a true story, there’s no shortage of ups, down, trials, tribulations and it is a theatrical experience that as a rule, renders me emotionally drained if I connect with the show fully. That was certainly the case last night, I was moved to tears by the heart-felt performances from the lead actors and the spirit of Argentina was alive at New Wimbledon Theatre. It’s a history lesson and creative master-piece rolled into one.