The world always seems to be in so much of a rush; especially the world of commercialism. Christmas has barely passed us by and already I’ve seen shops putting out their Easter supplies. Can we not have a little time to put one holiday behind us before we start planning for the next one? I know that some people like to be way ahead of schedule for events such as these, but I’m more of a live-in-the-moment kind of girl, so if I’m going to be looking months ahead, it’s going to be for something more substantial than Cadbury eggs. As the wonderful months of spring herald in warmer days (fingers crossed!), the chocolate bunnies can keep on hopping as I’d much rather be listening to the birdsong of a very special breed.
The West End has always actively sought to support and aid various charity organisations and causes, most commonly doing so by means of live performance events such as cabarets, concerts and show gala nights. Some money-making efforts have been one-off gigs for a particular charity or cause close to the heart of someone involved, while others have been long-standing relationships: such is the case with Comic Relief and their annual fundraising event, Red Nose Day.
The West End continues to support the charity in 2015, and will do so in a variety of ways, no doubt. If anyone has heard about Playing Our Part, then you’ll know that a group of musical theatre performers from the West End stage have already declared their intention of doing just this.
In December, it was announced that a charity concert featuring a line-up of West End stars would be staged at the prestigious Cadogan Hall on Sunday 1st March 2015, with all proceeds from the event going to Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day. A top cast of performers will come together in an entertaining evening of musical theatre, pop and comedy, to benefit the charity. This is actually the second of the Playing Our Part concerts. The Comic Relief musical fundraiser follows the success of last year’s charity concert, which was in support of Target Ovarian Cancer and raised in excess of £62,000. The May 2014 concert was such a success in fact, that it was nominated for Theatrical Event of the Year in the BroadwayWorld West End Awards. The audience were treated to renditions of musical theatre songs by West End stage stars, along with covers of contemporary material from such artists as Coldplay, and even a few Disney numbers thrown in there for an added bonus. Included in the line-up were such names as Olivia Brereton, Shona White, Gillian Budd and Siubhan Harrison, as well as many more who have returned to take part in the 2015 follow-up concert. Familiar faces confirmed to be performing again at Cadogan Hall in March are:
- Memphis star Killian Donnelly, who has previously starred in such West End shows as The Commitments, Billy Elliot, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
- Wendy Ferguson, currently playing the lead role of Madame Thernadier in Les Miserables and whose previous theatre credits include The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty’s Theatre and 25th Anniversary production at the Royal Albert Hall).
- Laura Pitt Pulford, who previously starred in The Light Princess at The National and can currently be seen in the lead role of Maria in Leicester Curve’s The Sound of Music.
- Jeremy Secombe, who has compiled an extensive list of West End theatre credits that includes Evita, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Lend Me A Tenor, The Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd.
- Made In Dagenham cast member Christopher Howell, who has also starred in musicals Stephen Ward and Wicked in the West End.
Completing this year’s cast for Playing Our Part are Simon Bailey (Batboy, I Can’t Sing!, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables), Adam Linstead (Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera), Gina Beck (The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Les Miserables) and Stephanie Parry (Mamma Mia, Billy Elliot).
They’ll be joined on stage by Nadim Naadam, who in addition to performing at both events, is the producer of both events. This year, he has teamed up with London-based company Unique & Innovative Events and Hospitality. Naaman is one of the brightest talents in the West End, having appeared in an array of shows both in and out of London. Most recently seen playing Prince Charming in Cinderella at The Harlington, he also starred as Anthony in The Tooting Arts Club’s site-specific production of Sweeney Todd at Harrington’s Pie and Mash shop. His other credits include One Man Two Guvnors, Titanic, Chess, Marguerite and The Phantom of the Opera.
The West End cast will be joined on stage by a live orchestra conducted by MD Alex Parker, who was also involved in the first concert.
The main aim of any charity is to give a helping hand to those who are in need of help, whether through illness, abuse, natural disasters or any one of the many other causes of ruin and unhappiness that exist in this world. Charity is, by nature, a sombre and frankly depressing hole that is all too easy to wallow in, but ever heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine? When faced with such solemness, people can do just as much good with a smile on their lips as they can with tears wetting their eyes. Comic Relief’s aim is to help improve the lives of poor and disadvantaged people, both at home and internationally, and Red Nose Day is the charity’s main means of raising money. It’s become a huge British tradition wherein people everywhere are encouraged to take part in funny fundraising events at home, work or school, culminating in a fun-filled night of comedy and entertainment in the televised fundraiser on the BBC.
When spring comes around, it’s not the Easter eggs on the supermarket shelves that will be peeking my interest, but events like Comic Relief and its musical buddy, Playing Our Part. Entertainment and charity go nicely hand-in-hand, and why not team the two together? Those who go along to Playing Our Part are getting a memorable evening of laugher and song, and can enjoy it safe in the knowledge that they are also supporting a well-deserving cause, as too are all the industry professional involved in the concert. Now that’s something to look forward to.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Thursday 8th January 2015