There’s a shouty man on the staff of the Cadogan Hall that likes to, well, shout at people. Except the Covid-secure guidelines discourage shouting, so all he could do was gesticulate wildly at me as I had to walk past the usual door I go through to nip to the toilet at the hall before a show – like many places, the hall has one-way systems in place. I managed to order a drink on my phone – without the need for yet another app, but the £46 ticket price did seem a little steep for a gig that barely lasted 85 minutes (including bows and encore). My own fault: I suppose I could have booked to sit in the gallery rather than the stalls.
“We’re in a theatre!” exclaimed Killian Donnelly, who will probably always be Huey Calhoun in Memphis to me, especially when, like tonight, he shared a stage with one of the Felicia Farrells of that show, Rachel John. We were in a concert hall, really (imagine Cadogan Hall with a safety curtain coming down at the interval!) but we’ll overlook that – after all, the line-up comprised musical theatre actors (the other singers being Oliver Tompsett and Louise Dearman), so much of the audience was made up of theatre patrons. When host Pippa Evans (she of Showstopper: The Improvised Musical fame, as well as Sunday Assembly) asked if anyone present didn’t like musicals, only one person dared to admit as much.
Altered lyrics to ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ name-dropped ‘bubbles’ and other corona-related vocabulary. Mercifully, this didn’t become a running theme. In the first half, Rachel John was handed classic Christmas tunes – hymns, if you like, blowing the roof of with sensational renderings of O Come, All Ye Faithful and O Holy Night. By contrast, Louise Dearman was allocated Frosty The Snowman and Into The Unknown (from Frozen 2). Given the running time, and Evans’ comedy routines at various intervals, the show did remarkably well to rattle through seventeen numbers.
The background vocalists (Alex Conder, Sadie Harris, Callum Henderson and Phoebe Williams) got their own number, The Christmas Song. All are 2020 graduates from the Guildford School of Acting – the theatre industry has, as far as is feasible, supported recent newcomers, with Henderson already having completed a run in October at the outdoor Garden Theatre in a production of the musical Next Thing You Know. Overall, there was quite an eclectic mix, ranging from Joni Mitchell’s River to Elton John’s Step Into Christmas. The inclusion of Fairytale of New York, with unaltered lyrics, was, Evans admitted, controversial – I personally take the view that it should be performed as it was written, or not at all.
It was, I think, the best job that could have been done in the circumstances, and with so many Christmas concerts cancelled this year, to have witnessed this one go ahead is itself a remarkable achievement.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.