A MERRY CHRISTMAS CABARET: Festive cabaret for cancer charity

Christmas seems to be sneaking up on us earlier and earlier each year (judging by the supermarket shelves anyway), but for me, it’s not really until December hits that I feel the festive spirit start to stir. That being said, the Christmas tree is still hiding in the loft and if I start to think about how many presents I have yet to buy then I’m probably going to have a nervous breakdown!

It’s all too easy to get so swept up in the mad shopping dashes and last minute preparations though, that it can be equally easy to forget that not everyone will be in the celebratory mood. Amidst everything else that comes with the Christmas package, what it most represents for me is family, and the best part of my Christmas is the quality time I get to spend with my loved ones laughing, being merry and just enjoying being together.  The Christmas period can be bittersweet for those out there though who have either lost someone to cancer or have a loved one suffering from it.

This year alone, too many people that I know have found themselves in the disease’s unrelenting grip, and sadly not all of them managed to break free. All over the world, there are people whose Christmas joy will be lost in the shadow of cancer this year, and just as there is no cure for cancer (yet), nor is there a magical cure to take away all the pain and suffering that comes with it. Christmas tis’ the season to be jolly however. There is always a way to take something bad and turn it into something good, and that is just what the West End is doing with A Merry Christmas Cabaret!

The West End is standing up to cancer and creating a little joy with a one-night –only festive themed cabaret event. Set to take place on Thursday 12th December 2013, this time next week will see the Prince of Wales Theatre play host to some of the best and brightest performers in the West End as they take to the stage of the downstairs venue of the Delfont Room to entertain in the name of charity. The evening’s line-up are all bringing along their favourite festive songs as they join forces to raise funds for the charitable organisation, Stand Up To Cancer.

Stand Up To Cancer aims to bring the UK together to accelerate cancer research and speed breakthroughs from labs to patients. Funds from last year’s campaign have already been allocated to researchers and will fund 12 exciting clinical trials across the UK. From tackling rare but deadly cancers like eye cancer and bladder cancer, to new treatments for the most common childhood brain tumour and bringing hope to high-risk breast cancer patients, all of the Stand Up To Cancer-funded research aims to bring breakthroughs in labs to patients sooner.

So just who will be there on the night singing for A Merry Christmas Cabaret? Organiser Joel Marvin has pulled together a talented bunch of performers, all of whom were more than willing to lend their support to such a worthy and important cause. The West End’s longest-running musical Les Miserables will have a huge presence at the event, with 19 cast members taking part in the event; including the show’s very own Fantine, Na-Young Jeon. The audience will be treated to performances from a whole host of Les Mis stars. Rob Houchen and Samantha Dorsey, who play the show’s young lovers Marius and Cossette, will be in attendance on the night, alongside fellow cast-members Jenny O’Leary, Nicky Swift, Carolina Gregory, Katy Hanna, Dayle Hodge, Rosanna Bates, Ethan Bradshaw, Melanie Bright, Josie Brightwell, Dougie Carter, Sarah Lark, Jonny Purchase and more. Wendy Ferguson, who is best known for playing Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera but currently appears as Madame Thernadier in Les Miserables, will also be making an appearance as she teams up with Tamsin Carroll (Barnum, Ragtime, Oliver!) for a very special duet.

It isn’t just the Les Mis cast who are standing up to cancer though. Also set to perform at the cabaret night are the likes of Sophie Linder-Lee, who was a regular face at the Prince of Wales Theatre when she was an ensemble member in Mamma Mia, but can now be found at the Apollo Victoria where she is stand-by Glinda in Wicked. She will be joined by Shonagh Daly (The Beautiful Game, Les Miserables), Norman Bowman (Mamma Mia, Mack & Mabel), Nadim Naaman (One Man, Two Guvnors, Phantom) and Giles Terera (Avenue Q, RENT), with the most recent casting news announcing that two-time Oliver Award-winning actress Joanna Riding would be making a special guest appearance as well. In addition, singer/songwriter John Galea will also be stepping onto the Delfont Room’s stage, as will the West End Gospel Choir, and there are more performances to be expected on the night.

Long-standing Les Miserables cast member, Carl Mullaney, will be adding his own unique flavour to the evening as cabaret host. Mullaney has undertaken the role at many previous events, with his warm and fabulously funny personality making him the perfect host. Alex Parker also returns as the cabaret’s musical director.

A Merry Christmas Cabaret is the latest event from Joel Marvin, whose annual festive cabarets have already done wonderful things for various cancer-based charities and proven time and again to be delightful evenings for musical theatre fans and others alike. I went along to the cabaret he produced in December of 2011, Jingle Balls, which was being held in aid of Cancer Research to support testicular cancer. The all-male line-up featured such West End names as Killian Donnelly, Liam Tamne, Scott Garnham, Patrick Corey, Jeremy Legat, Adam Pettigrew, Josh Little and so many more, including a few who are making repeat appearances at this year’s cabaret. It was a fantastic night which was seeping with Christmas cheer and ultimately raised a lot of funds for the charity. A win-win situation if ever I saw one.

These cabarets are now a highly anticipated annual event, and A Merry Christmas Cabaret is already shaping up to be just as good this year as it has in previous. Christmas is a time of good-will, and the upcoming cabaret is an opportunity to show some good-will by supporting Stand Up To Cancer. The festive spirit is here (and if you head on down to the Delfont Room next Thursday, you’ll also find some festive spirit there…behind the bar!) so  why not join the West End performers in putting the ‘Merry’ into ‘Christmas’ at A Merry Christmas Cabaret.

By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)

A Merry Christmas Cabaret takes place at the Delfont Room on Thursday 12th December 2013, 11pm (doors open at 10:30pm).

For further news and updates, follow @Charity_gigs) on twitter.

Thursday 5th December 2013

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