A Very Musical Evening, at Wilton’s Music Hall was an event in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, compered by Aled Jones and a really rather lovely way to spend a Sunday evening (and it had to be, given that Dame Maggie Smith was on offer on TV!) A star studded cast worked their way through an entertaining programme stuffed full of Stiles & Drewe’s witty and powerful songs but also featuring a wide range of other musical theatre and pop offerings in the world’s oldest working music hall and one of London’s most atmospheric venues.
We learned a lot: Hannah Waddingham was announced as the Wicked Witch of the West in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s forthcoming Wizard of Oz; the way to get ahead in musical theatre is to live in the same building as a composer, the UK is a world leader in looking after teenagers with cancer, Joanthan Groff visited Brighton for the first time last week and loved it (quelle surprise!) and Cameron Mackintosh is the most excited he has been since Les Mis about upcoming Stiles & Drewe musical Betty Blue Eyes, based on Alan Bennett’s A Private Function.
I don’t know who programmed the event, but the opening sequence of the second half was near perfection for me: Aled Jones singing (he is one of my guilty pleasures, his voice is just gorgeous and album-wise I totally recommend both his Reason To Believe CD and his Christmas collection which is probably the best festive album ever!); Hannah Waddingham giving a most tear-jerking rendition of ‘Send In The Clowns’ (I know Judi Dench does an excellent interpretation but for my money, this is the ultimate. There’s something about such an amazing singer doing a lyrical version which is just perfect and one day, she will look at me as she sings ‘there ought to be clowns’ and I will die a happy man). And then Gareth Gates doing a lovely rendition of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ to a simple piano accompaniment and then blowing my mind with ‘They Don’t Make Glass Slippers’, a beautiful song with which I am obsessed and I can’t wait for Soho Cinders, the Stiles & Drewe show from which it is taken, to finally emerge (or if you can’t wait, you can buy their CD which features the song). Absolute bliss.
There’s a putative attempt at a set list below but some of my other highlights were the Priscilla Divas’ vocally fabulous soul medley, starting off with a jazzy You’re All I Need To Get By, Waddingham’s other number ‘Diva’, a fantastically executed exercise in bad pitch and Stiles & Drewe creating a song using words volunteered from the audience including onomatopoeia, locksmith, mushrooms and Pythagoras which gave the song its last ingenious rhyming couplet. Their wordplay is brilliant to behold and perfectly suited to the music hall, they should definitely do more gigs here.
It was interesting to see Jonathan Groff, famous for his musical roles but currently in straight play Deathtrap. There was a touching moment where he sang a song from Honk! which was his first featured role in a musical as a 17 year old in Pennsylvania which clearly meant a lot to him, being accompanied by the song’s composer George Stiles, but I was less keen on his other numbers, sorry Gleeks. There were also elements of the more random: Derren Brown-a-like Lawrence Leyton freaked me out a bit with his trickery which wasn’t always smooth-sailing and whilst the Casablanca Steps, a 20s cabaret quartet were obviously very talented, the acoustics meant that a lot of their verbiage was lost which was a shame. Don Black hosted an auction to raise money for TCT with some fun prizes but all ending up out of my impoverished reach.
With events of these sorts, the disclaimer is always there that the line-up is subject to change and when performers are giving so generously of their spare time, it is hard to begrudge them for no-shows, no matter how frustrating it is if you’ve booked especially to see them. So all credit is due to the producers (including Ellie Collyer-Bristow) for managing to secure the appearance of every single announced artist, no mean feat considering one of them was in LA in the morning and another was performing on the same night in Wimbledon.
But of course there’s the more serious side to matters in that we were coming together in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust. There are so many charities and good causes that one can support and it is often the personal connection that helps make the decision, but an enlightening and passionate speech from Dr Adrian Whiteson OBE, Life President of TCT with his wife Myrna, about the importance of the work of this charity, in providing specialist units for teenagers and young people with cancer and support networks for those around them really made clear what an vital and trailblazing cause this is. To read more and to find out how you too can support them, please do visit their website at www.teenagecancertrust.org
So a very musical, very special and very fabulous evening for a truly worthy cause. One of those nights that make me glad I live in London and a perfect way to restore the flagging spirits of a tired theatre-goer
Jonathan Groff – You Haven’t Got Nothing(?)
Aled Jones – What’s A Choirboy To Do (from a Stiles & Drewe revue)