I’m starting to feel like a cabaret groupie. It seems as though I’m at a different one every week, but let’s be honest, that’s not such a bad thing right? West End cabaret nights never fail to deliver – talented West End stars? Check. A combination of ballad bliss and laugh-til-you-pee comedy numbers? Check. A great laid back, fun atmosphere? Check. Not forgetting of course, close proximity to a bar? Big check.
Through my involvement with The Make A Difference Trust, I’ve worked many a late-night cabaret with the casts of some of the top West End shows: The Phantom of the Opera, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and, just last week, Les Miserables. These Delfont Room events have always proven popular and been extremely beneficial to MADTrust’s fundraising efforts. Last night’s one was nothing to do with us though. I went along to Jingle Balls 2011 purely for my own enjoyment and I was given a whole bagful of it.
The Jingle Balls cabaret, organised by Joel Marvin, was held in aid of Cancer Research UK, supporting testicular cancer. In keeping with the theme, it featured an all-male line-up from some of the West End’s biggest shows, including The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and Crazy For You. The West End Gospel Choir got the evening off to a rousing start with a four-song set, including a solo offering of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. I particularly enjoyed the Phantom cast’s stripped down, harmonic performance of ‘Lullaby’, complete with counter-tenor voices and Killian Donnelly’s guitar-strummed rendition of The Pogues Christmas classic, Fairytale of New York had the room singing along with gusto. The Les Mis lot had the most floor-time: the ridiculously talented Liam Tamne wowed as he led the cast in ‘Holy Night’ and Carl Mullaney was as fabulous as ever in his solo effort, as were Scott Garnham (who performed two numbers, including the hilarious ‘Holiday Secret’) and Fra Fee with his ‘The X-Mas Factor’. If you missed both the Jingle Balls and the Les Mis cabaret, then you have to look it up on YouTube – it’s pure brilliance. The boys of Crazy For You probably stole the show though with their pantomime number, which saw ‘Ruthie Henshall’, ‘Christopher Biggins’, ‘Jason Gardiner’, ‘Jodie Prenger’, ‘John Barrowman’ and ‘Louie Spence’ take to the stage in the most entertaining panto sing-and-dance I’ve ever seen.
One of the things I liked most about Jingle Balls was the platform it gave to some performers, chockful of talent, but not necessarily recognised for it. As I’ve said before, I see a lot of cabarets and I’ve found that the same faces pop up again and again. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always a pleasure to hear them sing, but with such a wide scope of great performers in our fair land I like to taste the starters and dessert too, instead of just filling myself with the main course. Josh Little, Norman Berman and Desmond Valentine were three performers I’ve never encountered in the cabaret line-up before and they were outstanding. Special mention goes to the velvety-voiced Alex Evans and Patrick Corey, whose amusingly expressed ‘I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas’ had me, along with the whole room, in stitches. Jeremy Legat delivered as usual and Adam Pettigrew ended the night with the big finish it deserved.
It truly was a wonderful night, beautifully pulled together by the performers, Joel Marvin and Alex Parker as MD. Cancer Research UK is a charity that many support and it was lovely to see people doing their bit for them, whether being involved in the night’s events or as part of the ticket-buying audience – some of them were rewarded in the raffle, the highlight of which was a guitar signed by The Phantom of the Opera cast. With Christmas just over a week away now, this was the last cabaret of the season, something that makes me feel a little sad. Still, with 2012 comes another year of cabarets in the Delfont Room and I for one, am really looking forward to seeing what’s in store.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
16th December 2011