There was a time when a benefit show for any charity would guarantee a full house at a theatre and bring communities together in support of a good cause.
That is no longer the case with the traditional charity show format becoming much more difficult to pull off and theatres even more difficult to fill.
Charity shows are notoriously difficult to programme as the lineup has to appeal to as wide a cross-section of people as possible and there is little or no chance for rehearsal as everyone comes together on the afternoon of the show for the evening performance.
Creative Director Rob Reakes assembled an eclectic collection of entertainers for his Sunday Night at fundraiser at the Theatre Royal last month to give us a tradition variety show in the vein of Sunday Night at the London Palladium, to raise money for the Rockinghorse Children’s Charity.
It was a show of two halves. The first half constructed around the UK’s finest female impersonator, Ceri Dupree who introduced the audience to some of his favourite characters including the legendary Danny La Rue playing Hello Dolly, Marlena Dietrich, Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner and Dame Edna Everage. Ceri was on top form, he looked fabulous, the audience loved him and his presence gave shape and structure to the entire first half of the show.
Ceri was supported between costume changes by X Factor finalist Sam Callahan who delighted the ladies in the audience and Brighton’s Singing Barber Peter Joannou performing a specially written song for the evening with children from The School of Theatre Excellence.
Ventriloquist Max Fulham brought a ray of sunshine to the first half and the audience warmed to his smiling young face. This was his first appearance in Brighton and he is really one to watch for the future.
Jon Moses, a finalist in Superstar, Lloyd Webbers national search for Jesus Christ Superstar and Jodie Jacobs were the final singers to perform in the first half with Jodie’s renditions of Queen’s Somebody to Love and Don’t Rain on my Parade from Funny Girl raising the roof.
Although a little long for my liking the first half of the show was very good with something for everyone to enjoy. It was professionally compered by Hilary O’Neil who kept things moving along as fast as she could with musical direction by Marc McBride who brought the best out of the live band, complete with trumpet, trombone and saxophone.
The second half was a different story. The show was running late so some numbers had to be cut from the running order which made the half feel disjointed.
Old Time Music Hall with Jan Hunt and friends was very entertaining but in the context of a lineup being cut a little too long as was the contribution by the magician Mark Williams whose mentalist act took too much of the time available.
Allan Jay and the Gay Men’s Dance Company camped the proceedings up with Flying the Flag and Nicki French performed her Eurovision hit, Don’t Play That Song Again.
Eva Iglesias who featured on Britain’s Got Talent finished the show on a high with a powerful, emotional rendition of Jennifer Hudson’s And I am telling you.
The evening was directed by Carole Todd and the staging, though very simple was stylish and very effective.
These shows are all about raising money and I hope this one manages to raise loads of money for a well deserving cause.