WEW don’t generally do charity. In fact they have been registered as a distinctly uncharitable institution.
Nevertheless they were to be found at The London Palladium last night for Follies in Concert, a Charity Gala Performance in aid of the Starlight Children’s Foundation and Kingston Hospital Cancer Unit Appeal. This was a reasonably star studded line up of performers giving their time free to raise money for two very good causes.
They had been groomed into parting with £45 by the lure of Elaine Stritch who had been advertised as appearing. What Andrew didn’t realise is that in world of charity concerts “subject to availability” actually means “possibly”, “hopefully” or “probably not”.
On arriving at the Palladium the whingers were disappointed to find that a previous engagement had indeed come up for Ms Stritch.
Putting aside their decidedly uncharitable thoughts towards Ms Stritch they settled in to their Upper Circle seats (a strategy devised to ensure that WEW stalker Liliane Montevecchi didn’t spot them from the stage) and decided to try and enjoy the show anyway.
And enjoy it they did. Their first surprise was that “in concert” meant a fully staged performance with not only choreography, costumes and words, but a staircase for those beautiful girls to descend. Down they came, Liz Robertson, Maria Friedman, Kim Criswell, Meg Johnson, Wendi Peters, Imelda Staunton, Dame Josephine Barstow, Angela Rippon and – here they sank lower into their seats – Montevecchi.
Highlights? Well, hard to choose from that lot. Robertson and Friedman gave expected professionalism to the lead roles as Phyllis and Sally. Phil’s Coronation Street favourite Wendi (Cilla Battersby) Peters made a fine fist of “Rain On The Roof”.
The excellent Kim Criswell– a late replacement for Stritch – gave full throttle to “I’m Still Here”, Staunton proved she really could be a Broadway Baby and the whingers felt in very safe hands with the fabulous Meg Johnson reprising her Stella from the original London run with a belting “Who’s That Woman?”.
An interval charity appeal from Nicholas Parsons and Starlight’s chief executive had an unusually moist-eyed Phil digging deep into his pockets for the outrageously expensive brochure (containing an excellent annotation of the “I’m Still Here” lyrics) which suspiciously contained no correction slip because there was no mention of Ms Stritch in it at all. Strange.
Anyhow, the second half began with a bolero performed by Angela Rippon proving that not only can she get away with the tightest of blue dresses revealing more shoulder than the M4 but she can still get her legs behind her ears.
The whole cast were well drilled in presumably tight rehearsal times, the sound was unusually excellent considering they only have one chance to get it right. Tim Flavin and Philip Quast gave good Buddy and Ben and the quartet of younger Phyllis/Sally/Buddy/Ben were particularly good in “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow” and “Waiting For The Girls Upstairs”. The large (30-odd) onstage orchestra particularly impressed.
After two dodgy Pinter’s this week it was just what the doctor ordered for Andrew. Resolving to drop the serious dramas due to lack of musical numbers it’s now show tunes all the way for him. The Royal Court had better get a choreographer in quickly – it’s The Seagull tonight.