Although best known for her leading roles in the West End, Emma Hatton started her musical journey as a jazz singer and it’s with jazz and blues music that she admits to being most at home performing.
And in her latest solo show – at the new Pizza Express live in Holborn – the songstress performed a wonderfully mixed programme of jazz, blues and even some rock, but with the odd show tune also mixed in to ensure her musical theatre fans were content.
Emma Hatton has just finished playing the iconic role of Eva Peron in the West End production of Evita, but is perhaps best known for portraying the green witch Elphaba in the musical phenomenon Wicked.
But despite being an acclaimed leading lady, you’ll be struck by how grounded and humble Emma is, something which came across as she talked about the songs she was singing and the reasons for choosing them.
The new Pizza Express Live has a much better set up than the other two I have visited in Chelsea and Soho, with the staging area much more central, allowing for a better view for those in attendance. The four-piece band – led by MD Sean Green – comfortably filled the performance area and provided an extremely good quality sound throughout, taking their moments to shine, but never overpowering Emma’s vocals.
After starting with a rousing version of James Bay’s “If You Ever Wanna Be in Love”, followed by a gorgeous interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet”, Emma performed a truly magnificent rendition of Imelda May’s “Black Tears”; her powerful vocals fitting the soaring melody to perfection.
Other act one highlights included a tribute to the late Glen Campbell – with a wonderful version of the country classic “Wichita Lineman” – and a couple by Sara Bareilles, with “City” (and some amazing riffs!) and “I Didn’t Plan It” from the musical Waitress.
Act two had a much more chilled vibe going on and after the James Bond theme “License to Kill” – originally performed by Gladys Knight – the audience was treated to a great version of “Hey Laura” by one of Emma’s more modern influences, Gregory Porter.
The singer really showed her versatility by seamlessly switching from one style to another and with her slight West Country twang, chatted about her teenage obsession with Macaulay Culkin before performing The Temptations classic “My Girl”.
Heading back into musical theatre, Emma then performed an emotive and extremely potent rendition of “Burn” from the new American musical Hamilton, before finishing the show with the upbeat crowd-pleaser “You Got It” by Roy Orbison.
The real highlight was left for the encore however, when the band whipped up a storm and Emma belted out the Prince anthem “Purple Rain”, leaving the audience in raptures.
Emma Hatton is a real star of the stage, but with her solo cabaret performances is also fast becoming a renowned jazz virtuoso.
After the huge success of the number 1 Christmas collaboration with Anthony Strong Merry Christmas Darling, the pair will join forces again to release a new EP later this year and you’ll be able to see them perform together at Christmas in Leicester Square on 14 December.
Photo by Troy David Johnston