Emma Hatton is best known for her exceptional performance as Elphaba in Wicked for nineteen months in the West End. Taking on the role of another powerful woman with stellar solos, she has embarked on a UK tour playing Eva Perón in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s highly acclaimed musical Evita.
Emma’s love for musical theatre spurred from a very young age, as she grew up in a very musical family. Growing up in Bristol, she explained: “From where I’m from there weren’t a lot of opportunities for performers so the ones that were there I absolutely grabbed on to with both hands.” Taking part in local amateur dramatic groups and dance classes, she began to get recognised for her talent and after covering many lead roles in the West End, she landed the ultimate role for a leading lady in the West End – Elphaba in Wicked.
Emma fell in love with Wicked 7 years before she started working there, she explained: “It was a real educational experience for me, as it was the first leading role I ever had that was my own, and I wasn’t covering. It is such a phenomenon as a musical, and I was embraced by their fanbase which felt so special. It was a wonderful experience, and it gave me a great footing for Evita.”
Eva is a role that originated many years before Elphaba, but Emma notices the significant similarities between the characters. “Eva is a strong character, she isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and that is a direct comparison with Elphaba,” she said. “She wasn’t afraid to make herself unpopular by being true to herself. I think in this day and age, people just want to go along and be in the crowd, everyone wants to be accepted. With things like social media, everybody wants to be well liked and there aren’t many people who go out on a limb. They are both such strong independent women, and Eva is a really gritty role for me to get my teeth into.”
Prior to auditioning and getting the part, Emma had never seen the production. “I was obviously familiar with some of the music,” she said. “I was happy I hadn’t seen the production because I felt that I was coming into it with fresh eyes.” Although Emma had seen the film when it came out in 1996, she decided not to watch it again before starting the production. She explained: “I was basically just trying to get my head around the character and find my understanding of what she was about, and put my own take on it really. I feel that she is such a unique personality and it is really important that I don’t get too hung up on how she was portrayed before.”
Although Emma has played what is probably regarded as the most demanding female role on stage, she still faces many challenges with playing Eva Perón. “She is a real life character, so I feel that I have a very different responsibility with that, because I am telling a true story,” she said. “From a vocal perspective, it is a very different challenge for me because although Wicked was a very challenging role vocally, it was a very different side of singing. Whereas this goes across a lot of different styles of singing, so it challenges me in different ways. It is helping me to explore parts of my voice that I have never explored before. So it is a real challenge and one that I am really relishing.”
Eva Perón was a political leader and the second wife of Argentine president Juan Perón. The musical spans Eva’s life and it is told through the iconic score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. “It is such a diverse soundtrack which I think is so great, it is very powerful and lyrically it is just spectacular,” Emma said. “It feels very contemporary and fresh, despite the fact it was written 30 years ago.”
Eva is an incredibly strong female character, who is an honour for any actress to play. “She is very complex,” Emma explained. “She has many layers, which I think is so intriguing about her as a person, I think she is very strong and knows exactly what she wants. As a person she was very headstrong, very stubborn and very philanthropic.” Playing such a huge figure in history requires a lot of research and she is a character that many people are unsure about. Emma explained: “I think when people come and watch the show, they are challenged with their preconceptions of what she is about as a person. She has good and has evil in her, but I think it is unfair to describe her as good or bad, because I think that the reason she did a lot of the bad stuff was for good intent.”
Political theatre is huge in conversation at the moment because of the huge political issues in the world today. When asking Emma about the relevance of Evita and the story of Eva Perón in today’s world, she said: “I think that it does strike a chord with everything going on, people are much more politically aware because of social media. It resonates very closely with what is going on in current affairs at the moment definitely.”
Alongside her triumphant career in musical theatre, Emma is a huge jazz lover and creates her own music. Whilse performing in Evita she is keeping her voice well limbered working on her new jazz EP. Although she explained how much she is really enjoying the element of surprise, and taking everything one day at a time, she told me that she is loving all the new writing in theatre at the moment. “I would love to have a go at Carole King in Beautiful, because I was raised on that music and I just think Carole King was one of the greatest singer songwriters of all time. I also hear that Waitress is coming over to the UK and I am a massive Sara Bareilles fan so I’d love that too.”
***Evita is currently at the Wolverhampton Grand theatre until Saturday the 13th of May and tickets can be found here.
Catch Emma Hatton in Evita when it arrives at the Lowry in Manchester on the 14th of March, and tickets can be found here.