Some Enchanted Christmas Evening
"Some Enchanted Christmas Evening"
Garrick Theatre, London.
6th December 2015 - by Jane W
c. Phill Cowndley Photography
The text came through on Friday morning. It was news I'd been expecting, but I was still terribly sad to read it. I would be going to Lee’s Christmas concert alone. My good friend KK, who has been so excited about this concert, would not be able to come. I knew how gutted she would be.
I reached Kings Cross at 2pm, having got a lift from a friend taking me down south. Sad that I would not be meeting KK there as originally planned, I hurried off to the TL, determined to meet the others as quickly as possible.
By 2.40pm I had booked in, washed and changed, and was about to leave the TL when a familiar voice shouted 'Jane!'. F and I! I was so relieved that I was not the only one staying at the TL. F told me SX and L would be joining us too. Lovely! They arrived a few minutes later just as vivacious as ever.
The others were already ensconced when we arrived. There was great deal of happy bustle; greetings, hugs, exchanges of cards, lovely pressies from J (Thank you J, for little purple Llama-Loppy. I’m not sure what breed she is but she’s adorable!) J had bought toberlones too and some one had brought Baileys chocolate. Thanks whoever that was!
I sat down next to C and N, and chatted happily to them (thank you so much for sharing your wine with me!), and S and D and J and the Giggle sisters and K2 and A... mind you, as so often happens sitting at big tables, I didn't get much of a chance to chat to those at the far end - C, P, R, another J, E and M. (but thank you everyone that paid me their cheques for the Pheasantry). Oh yes and thanks to E and J for all their help with meal organisation and collecting payments. (This is getting to be like an Oscar’s speech – spin on Jane!)
Another J arrived just after we had eaten, to a very warm welcome. She really is one of the gang. Show time!
We expected front row seats so were disappointed to see that row A was third row (AA and BB having been added since S booked). However once we'd settled in we realised that AA would have given us a very poor view because the stage was too high. I think S got us the best seats in the house! (Thank you S - no I mustn’t start the thank yous again!) We later found out that the front rows had been taken by friends of Amanda Henderson.
The theatre filled up - lots of exciting people chattering and laughing; a wonderfully buoyant atmosphere! I felt like I was surrounded by friends.
The stage was suitably bedecked for the season with a large Christmas tree and an oh so innocent looking inflatable snowman.
On came the band to cheers and applause which escalated as the man himself appeared on stage, wearing a Christmas jumper and posing with a pipe. I don't know how he managed to make a pipe and a jumper sexy, but he did. He opened with a joyful version of ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’. A perfect way to begin.
He joked about with the pipe, the tree and the snowman. I could just imagine him in daddy mode on Christmas day. It was as sweet as a mince pie smothered with brandy butter.
The usual openers followed – ‘Where or When’ and ‘Foggy Day’; again Lee showed off several dance moves in ‘Singing in the Rain’. Though he mumbled something about “Dad dancing”, he's saying less and less about not being able to dance and showing more and more confidence when he does.
He admitted to being nervous. From time to time it showed – and I suspect his recent illness was still hanging around for there were times he had a discreet cough. I wondered whether his voice would last for the whole concert. It did. Admirably!
Of course I love Lee’s humorous chit-chat as much as his beautiful vocals. And he gave us much to laugh at. At one point he talked about his concerts this year and after mentioning a couple of venues he floundered. Various voices shouted names of towns he'd visited. He grinned. “The regulars are in,” he said and then (and I loved this ) “My ladies,” which he said with such affection. He mentioned his fans from Norway, Holland and New York. Aww! Mind you, later in the show he managed to ruffle a few feathers by saying we're over sixty. Excuse me, Mr Mead. Some of us haven't turned 50 yet. (OK not many of us!)
Editor’s note (Lin): Hey! Quit your bragging, youngster! lol
We've always been told that performers can't see anything beyond the front row while on stage. Lee proved that wrong at least for the Garrick because he spotted that SX was wearing a Christmas jumper. SX pointed out that it had a bell on it. That had Lee mimicking her and pointing to his own nipple. How we tittered!
We've heard his story about his first snog so often now I'm surprised it's still funny. It is though. I think it's the expressions he pulls as he tells it. The story lead into 'I Fall in Love Too Easily' as usual and he also gave us ‘Almost Like Being in Love’, which has become a favourite of mine.
But for showing off his range and vocal power, few songs beat ‘Feeling Good.’ ‘Feeling Good’ has been a highlight of every show this tour. Thanks to fan pressure, he's including in his album. (Hurrah!)
I must compliment Amanda Henderson. We've watched her blossom from a a talented but somewhat timid songstress into a confident professional. It been a pleasure to watch her..argh I am going to say journey (what a cliche!). I loved her ‘I Got Rhythm’. As she sang, Frosty the inflatable Snowman (had you forgotten about the snowman? I had!) breathed out a flurry of snow onto the first few rows of the audience. (Note to any Americans reading this (Lin) I'm using flurry in the British English sense of short wind-blown burst of snow rather than the American sense of “Arrgh I've been caught in a major blizzard!”)
Editor’s Note (Lin): Being from Southern California, I hardly know what you mean. ;)
We had a good giggle but no one got caught out by it this time.
Stephen was a little more restrained than last year. He didn't trick Lee with any daft surprises. He did however tell a very funny story about performing for Obama. He was in fine form and gave us a very suave version of ... now I was going to say ‘The Christmas Song’ but it might have been ‘Oh Holy Night’ that he sang at this point. (Sang beautifully I might add).
Talking of suave - Lee lost the Christmas jumper at the first opportunity and returned to the stage dressed in a tux. Have I mentioned how gorgeous he looked? Pretty damn gorgeous!
He sang ‘I'll Be Home for Christmas’ - and of course ‘Some Enchanted Evening’. He ended the first half with ‘Luck Be a Lady’ which he always seems to enjoy so much.
The second half started with ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree’. Oh dear. Lee just seamed to go completely blank. He forgot the words and totally failed to cover it and caused Mason a fit of hysterical laughter. We all laughed. But I think he was a bit embarrassed. He was apologetic afterwards - bless him - and relied more heavily on the lyric sheet for the later songs.
In the second half Lee sang a series of duets with his guests.
With Amanda he sang ‘Baby it's Cold Outside’ (cue more snow). It was a lovely rendition. If I was Amanda I'd have succumbed far too easily to Lee in seductive mode.
Another Casualty veteran made an appearance. Tracie Bennett has done several guest roles on Casualty. Her last was as a tramp. She didn't look like a tramp last night. She looked elegant and sophisticated - well up until the point she stuck a hair roller to her frock. She looked less so then. I liked her - she was full of fun and did a great job with the the ‘Get Happy/ Happy Days’ duet. (Apparently they both wanted to be Judy Garland. Lee won.)
That reminds me. Lee says Casualty are letting him take a break to do CCBB so Lofty will be back.
Then Lee's duet with SRH – ‘Don't Rain On My Parade’. I was really pleased to hear them sing this together. It's still a bit rough around the edges but I think once they have performed it a few more times it'll be as slick as their duet version of ‘Luck Be a Lady’.
Lee put so much into it that he struggled with his next song and had a false start. (It was one of the mellower Christmas songs but I've forgotten which!) Probably just as well he got a rest while Amanda sang ‘Over the Rainbow’.
Ooo another funny moment: at one point Lee started talking about Joseph. He said 'I miss it. Not the loin cloth though'. Cue totally predictable shouts of 'We do!' from the usual suspects.
On to more serious matters. Lee talked about the terrorism in Paris and dedicated ‘Bring Him Home’ to those who had suffered. It was quite simply outstanding. I was so moved particularly when Lee sang ‘bring them home’ rather than ‘bring him home’. Stunning. The cheers and applause the audience gave him filled the theatre.
He finished with ‘See You in My Dreams.’ Having thoroughly charmed the audience, we all went wild with cries of ‘More!’ He returned to the stage for ‘White Christmas’ and a sing-a-long ‘Any Dream Will Do’, as the snow floated down on us.
Lovely to see the whole theatre rise in a Standing Ovation - awwww!
c. Phill Cowndley Photography