It’d be hard for anyone to miss the abundance of Christmas-themed adverts which have been seen on TV in recent weeks, with the Big Day only a month away now. Amidst the endless campaigns for people to bestow happiness upon their family and friends with (overpriced) toys and jewellery and the latest technological gadgets though, there are one or two adverts which come a lot closer to the truth of what Christmas is actually all about. My personal favourite is Sainsburys’ seasonal offering, which has been warming people’s hearts with a touching recreation of that famous Christmas Day in 1914 when British and German soldiers called a truce and played a game of football together. The moment when British soldier Jeff gives German soldier Otto a bar of chocolate brings home the simple message that ‘Christmas is for sharing’, and it’s a message that everyone should remember. Sharing and caring are at the heart of Christmas. It’s not about getting the biggest or most expensive gift, it’s about sharing what you have with others and showing how much you care; that is a gift that carries no price tag.
Christmas is a time for family, of course, but that belief in sharing your time, your money, and your heart can be extended beyond your loved ones over the Yuletide season. Sainsburys are not the only ones spreading the message of sharing at Christmas. It can be found in many more places, including the West End.
The annual theatre event, A Merry Christmas Cabaret, is back this December to once again spread a little Christmas cheer in the name of charity. On Thursday 4th December, some of the best and brightest stars of the West End stage are coming together at the Delfont Room to perform a range of favourite festive songs in aid of Stand Up To Cancer. The cast and audience will be joining hands for an inspiring demonstration of the sharing nature of Christmas time, showing just how much they care in this one-night-only event which delivers the early Christmas treat of seeing live performances from the stars of such West End shows as Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and Made In Dagenham.
Produced by the wonderful Joel Marvin, this is the fourth consecutive year that the event has been staged. The first, taking place at the same venue in 2011, was named Jingle Balls then and featured an all-male cast that included the likes of Killian Donnelly, Liam Tamne, Jeremy Legat, Adam Pettigrew, and the West End Gospel Choir. It has become ever-more successful and popular with every passing year, and last year’s event (now going under the name of A Merry Christmas Cabaret) was no exception, featuring performances from such names as Wendy Ferguson, Norman Bowman, Joanna Riding and Nadim Naaman and raising thousands for the charity.
The 2014 cabaret is continuing the tradition and is dressed to impress with this year’s line-up. Miss Saigon star Eva Noblezada is one of the special West End guests performing on the night, along with fellow leading ladies Willemijn Verkaik, who was most recently seen starring as Elphaba in the West End production of Wicked, and Dutch actress Celinde Schoenmaker, who is currently playing Fantine in Les Miserables. Many more performers are ‘Standing Up to cancer right alongside them, including some of Schoenmaker’s fellow Les Mis-ers. Melanie Bright, Dougie Carter, Rob Houchen and Caroline Gregory are returning as part of the night’s cast, having all been involved in the 2013 event, with Emma Kingston and Tamsin Dowsett coming along with them for the ride this year. Cast members of new musical Made In Dagenham will also be joining the fundraising festivities in the form of Emma Lindar, Rachel Spurrell, Gemma Salter, Scott Garnham and Scott Paige.
All profits from the night go towards Stand Up To Cancer, funding research in the fight against a disease which affects millions of people around the world; from tackling rare but deadly cancers like eye cancer and bladder cancer to searching for new treatments for childhood brain tumours and breast cancer patients. Money raised from last year’s event has already been allocated to researchers and will fund twelve exciting clinical trials across the UK.
Christmas is for sharing. A Merry Christmas Cabaret and the other seasonal charity events being organised this December are placing this simple but true message at the heart of what they do. Everyone involved, from event organisers to the West End performers and the ticket-buying audience are sharing this Christmas: sharing their time, their compassion and their money for the benefit of those who need a touch of festive joy in their lives. This is the true spirit of Christmas. The West End does much for charity all throughout the year and truly is the gift that keeps giving.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25