Daniela Parkes portrayed Argentina’s First Lady with a passion
This past January, art students from the Exeter University in South West England, staged Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Time Rice’s dynamic musical masterpiece “Evita” at the Northcott Theatre in the Streatham Campus. It was 21 years-old Monaco resident Daniela Parkes, originally from Uruguay, who was selected among hundreds of candidates to play the title role of Eva Duarte better known as Evita, who became Eva Peron when she married Argentine President Juan Peron in 1945.
The story follows the life of Argentine’s controversial First Lady from a young age, her rise to power, vast charity work, until her premature death at 32 years old. Evita was idolatrized by the working class, censured by the aristocracy and mistrusted by the military, and was predestined to leave a captivating political legacy in the 20th century.
Daniela Parkes put all her passion in this demanding role coming to grips with Evita’s transformation through the years until becoming a daunting political character. Parkes, who has had 15 years of jazz and 4 years of ballet training, plus 6 years of singing and 5 years of theatre, acted with conviction and sang beautifully in her mezzo vocal range. Apart from being fluent in English and French, with Spanish being her mother tongue came in handy to portray Evita.
Peron married Evita in 1945 and it was this relationship that helped him win the support of the people and with it the presidential election in 1946. She stood by him until her death in 1952 at the age of 32, after playing an important role helping the working class by supporting higher wages and better social welfare benefits, and improving health policy. Furthermore, she actively campaigned for female suffrage that was enacted in 1947. Parkes succeeded in portraying the strength and resolve of this remarkable woman, and there was a nice spark between her and Will Beynon playing Juan Peron. All 36 artists in this rather large cast were highly professional, performing the Latin American rhythms both dancing and singing with fervor, energy and precision. The play was directed by Aaron McCrossan’s and Caitlin McNerney’s was in charge of the spectacular choreography, with live music by the Nic Craig’s band. Exeter University students should be praised for staging a first-rate production of the famous musical. Bravo!