2017, London Palladium

24th November, 2017


HRH The Duke of Cambridge
HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

Executive Producers, Royal Variety Charity: Laurie Mansfield & Giles Cooper

Director, ITV Studios: Simon Staffurth

Creative Director, ITV Studios: Lee Connolly

Executive Producer, ITV Studios: Fiona Clark

Line Producer, ITV Studios: Amanda George

The Royal Variety Performance 2017 may well be remembered most for what happened before the show, rather than for the show itself.

The Royal Performance at the London Palladium was scheduled to begin at 6.30pm on the evening of Friday 24th November 2017, with Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving at 620pm.

The West-End of London was exceptionally busy with the combined effect of both 'Black Friday'  (the discounting Christmas shopping day) and also an anti-fur protest march along Regent Street. At around 5pm, the emergency services received numerous 999 calls reporting shots fired in a number of locations on Oxford Street and at Oxford Circus underground station and a Met Police spokesman said: “Given the nature of the information received, the Met responded in line with our existing operation as if the incident was terrorism, including the deployment of armed officers."

The West-End was effectively placed on 'shut-down' with all roads closed and every person cleared from the streets. Thousands of terrified shoppers had 'run for their lives' fearing another terrorist attack (London had experienced seven major terrorist incidents during 2017). Singer Ollie Murs who was conducting a book signing in Selfridges department store on Oxford Street, tweeted, "F**k everyone get out of Selfridges now gun shots!! I’m inside,” Tweeted Murs. “Really not sure what’s happened! I’m in the back office... but people screaming and running towards exits!”

The 3 mile square district of shops and theatres, previously packed with rush-hour commuters and shoppers had experienced the bizarre 'phenomenon of panic' and within minutes had been transformed into a ghost town.

Chairman Giles Cooper and Life-President Laurie Mansfield were held behind a police-line on the north side of Oxford Street unable to reach the London Palladium on the south side, in Argyll Street. Meanwhile stranded shoppers and members of the Palladium audience had been forced into shops and restaurants, many placed under tables, into toilets and into basements.

In the London Palladium, the doors to the main entrance were securely locked shut and whilst the full Royal Variety cast remained backstage waiting for news, there were two exceptions; the cast of 42nd Street decided that the delays would surely mean the Royal Variety would be canceled and rather than lose a day's wages, decided to head back to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and relieve their understudies. Singer and ex-soldier James Blunt decided not to hang around at all - forcing his way out through Stage Door and getting to Battersea Helipad to get the first helicopter to fly him to Southampton where he was due to perform the following day.

Giles Cooper recalls, "I remember being held behind a police-line on Oxford Street whilst having the Equerry to Their Royal Highnesses on one mobile phone in one ear, seeing in front of me what looked like a platoon of Special Forces running down the centre of Oxford Street with machine guns, and having the Met Police's Chief Superintendent on another mobile phone in my other ear! It was very surreal and how we all managed to keep calm and ensure the show went on is testament to the professionalism of all involved."

It turned out there were three incidents that ignited the panic; a scuffle between two commuters in Oxford Circus Underground station had forced an 'Emergency Stop' button on an escalator to be pressed - the sound of the escalator stopping was 'like a loud bang' and resulted in a few screams as it came to an abrupt halt. This incident had coincided with a car back-firing on Regent Street, together with the anti-fur protestors letting off firecrackers. These three incidents had combined to cause wide-spread fear and ignited the contagious 'phenomenon of panic' rarely seen in City centres.

The police lifted the lock-down (after aproximately 70 minutes) at around 640pm and Giles Cooper informed all at the Palladium that the Royal Party were at last on their way from Kensington Palace. The cast of 42 Street halted their show at Drury Lane and rushed back to the Palladium, alterations were made to the running order as everyone scrambled to do what they could to rescue the show. The only artist not to return to the Palladium was James Blunt, who was already half-way to Southampton. The pre-show Royal line-up, in the foyer of the Palladium, was abandoned with the exception of a presentation of a posy of flowers and a show programme to the Royal couple by 7 year old Matthew Haines and 9 year old Heather Cooper. The show itself began at 715pm, only 45 minutes after the scheduled start!

Host Miranda Hart was the first woman for many years to host the show and in the circumstances did the best she could. She will perhaps be most remembered for persuading the Duke of Cambridge to pretend to gallop like a horse in the Royal Box!

There were understandably a few technical issues as the Running Order of artists was adjusted as the night went on, but none that delayed the show and the night will mainly be remembered for the glittering array of musical performances headlined by the absolutely fantastic, The Killers.

Louis Tomlinson, The Script, Paloma Faith, The Leading Ladies, Ball & Boe and Seal were all outstanding. Many however, recall the stunning performance of Britain's Got Talent winner, Tokio Myers and his amazing audio-visual set as being the most memorable of the night. Scottish illusionist, Colin Cloud, finalist of America's Got Talent, was a particular favourite in the Royal Box.

So the 2017 Royal Variety Show was quite a night, but the fact that the show went ahead at all and raised money for the RVC was such a relief to all involved. Their Royal Highnesses were on such 'good form' and were such 'good sports' that they transformed the atmosphere of what was otherwise quite a harrowing night.

Host and Performers

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Miranda Hart - Host

Miranda Hart is best known for her hugely successful sitcom ‘Miranda’ which ran for four series, garnered three RTS Awards, four British Comedy Awards and five BAFTA nominations. She is widely regarded as one of Britain’s top comedians, and in 2014 was the first female comic to perform a UK arena tour, ‘My, What I Call, Live Show’, which included five sell out nights at the 02 Arena. In addition to her roles as a comedy actress in shows such as ’Not Going Out’, ‘Gangsta Granny’, ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ and ’Smack the Pony’, Miranda earned a BAFTA nomination for her performance in BBC drama ‘Call the Midwife’. Her role as thoroughly decent Camilla “Chummy” Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne won her an NTA Award and two TV Choice Awards. In 2015, Miranda took to the big screen and starred in her first movie ‘Spy’. She will also be featuring in the upcoming 2018 Disney film ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’.Miranda has also proven herself an accomplished writer. Her first book ‘Is It Just Me?’ won Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the Specsavers National Book Awards in 2012, and was the biggest selling non-fiction hardback of 2013. It was followed by ‘Peggy & Me’, and she published her first children’s book ‘The Girl With The Lost Smile’ in October. “If you don’t mind me I am just going to smash a glass ceiling and be the first woman to host the Royal Variety. That felt GOOD! It’s thrilling for me because of that, and because I am hugely proud to be part of such an important event in our comedy and variety heritage. The young-wannabe-comedian me would be beyond excited to hear that grown-up me is going to be hosting - only I’ll be doing it without the 1970’s pudding bowl haircut that made me look like a young male monk!”

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42nd Street - cast of the West-End musical

42nd STREET’ opened in the West End in April 2017 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to rave reviews and standing ovations. Directed by Mark Bramble, who co-authored the book for the original production and directed the 2001 Tony Award® winning revival, the musical features iconic songs ‘42nd STREET’ and ‘We’re In The Money’. The story follows Peggy Sawyer who is fresh off the bus from small-town America and just another face in the chorus line on Broadway’s newest show. When the leading lady gets injured, Peggy gets a shot at stardom she’s always dreamed of. Tonight, all singing, all tapping cast of ‘42nd STREET’ perform alongside principles Tom Lister as Julian Marsh, Clare Halse as Peggy Sawyer and Jasna Ivir as Maggie Jones. Producers Michael Linnit & Michael Grade said “It’s an honour for us to have ‘42nd STREET’ open the Royal Variety Performance. ‘42nd STREET’ has always been a firm favourite with the Royal Family, from the Queen Mother celebrating her 84th birthday at the show in 1984 to introducing the iconic musical to the Duchess of Cambridge at our April 2017 Gala opening. It means a lot to us that our company will perform on the magnificent Palladium stage.”

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Circus Abyssinia

Ethiopian brothers Bibi and Bichu have performed across the world, thrilling audiences with their impressive juggling. This year they premiered their new show Circus Abyssinia which features the extraordinary acrobatics of the Konjowoch Troupe. Performer Zena Shmelse Tefera said “The creation of Circus Abyssinia has changed our lives and realised our dreams. We grew up dreaming of joining the circus, but (for all its rich and vibrant traditions of music and art) Ethiopia has no circus tradition, and very few acrobats make a living by their skills. When Bibi and Bichu, the original circus dreamers started sponsoring our circus school in Addis Ababa, a world of possibilities opened up for us. We’ve been incredibly lucky. Circus is a joy, not a job; to perform is to be happy and free and thrillingly alive, and we love nothing more than to share the beats and excitement of acrobatic daring and dance with an audience. And that’s what it’s really all about - although our circus is a journey through Ethiopia’s culture, and explores musical and artistic traditions, at its heart is a celebration of the dreams and joys common to all cultures and continents, and that brings us together.”

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Tom Allen

Comedian Tom Allen is well known for his acerbic wit and camp, riotous storytelling. He burst onto the comedy scene at the age of 22 and won So You Think You’re Funny in Edinburgh and the BBC New Comedy Awards in the same year. Tom is known to TV audiences for his appearances on popular shows such as ‘8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown’, ‘The Great British Bake Off: Extra Slice’ as well as ‘Live at the Apollo’, ‘Mock the Week’ and Channel 4’s ‘Comedy Gala’ at the O2. He has notched up several appearances on ‘Just a Minute’ including the 50th anniversary episode alongside Prince Charles. Tom is currently on tour with his latest show ‘Absolutely’ which has just extended its run into 2018. “I am thrilled to be included in this incredible occasion sharing the stage with so many inspiring performers for this wonderful cause.”

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Louis Tomlinson

Propelled to international success as part of One Direction in 2010, Louis Tomlinson 
co-wrote 29 songs for the band. One Direction were a global sensation racking up numerous No.1 singles and were honoured with seven Brit awards. The band were the first UK group in history to hit the No.1 spot in the US album charts with their first four albums. Since launching his solo career in 2016, Louis has released two singles ‘Just Hold On’ with Steve Aoki, which peaked at No.2 in the UK charts in 2016 and ‘Back to You’ with Bebe Rexha, which has to date had sales of over 1 million. His debut album is due to be released in 2018 and Louis joins us here tonight to sing ‘Miss You’, one of the featured tracks for his first solo Royal Variety Performance. 
It’s always an honour to be asked to perform at the Royal Variety Performance alongside so many amazing artists. The show is one of our great British traditions that I hope will continue for a very long time.

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The Script

Comprised of Danny O’Donoghue, Mark Sheehan and Glen Power, The Script are an Irish Rock Band who topped the charts with their debut album ‘The Script’ in 2008. The multi-platinum band quickly established success followed with global arena tours and record sales in excess of 29 million. Some of their most well known hits include ‘Breakeven’, ‘The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’, ‘Hall of Fame’ and ‘Superheroes’. To date, they have released five studio albums, four of which reached Number One in the UK Charts. Their latest album ‘Freedom Child’ was released in September 2017 and they are currently on a world tour until May 2018. Tonight they’re performing their hit single ‘Rain’ for their Royal Variety Performance debut. “We’re delighted and honoured to be performing in front of The Royal Family at the Royal Variety Show this year raising funds and awareness for such a worthy cause. It’s our first ever performance on the event and we can’t wait to take to the stage to perform our single Rain”.

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Colin Cloud

He’s the real-life Sherlock Holmes of entertainment, if Sherlock Holmes had a flair for comedy. Stage mentalist Colin Cloud has stunned audiences across the globe, intriguing sceptics and fans alike with his outrageous stunts and unbelievable deductions which challenge the way we all think about the world. His Edinburgh Festival show has sold out year on year, to five-star acclaim and was voted in the top three from more than 4000 acts. From London’s West End to Las Vegas, New York to New Zealand, Colin’s popularity shows no bounds. He was a finalist in ‘America’s Got Talent’ in 2017 where he performed an elaborate stunt predicting the ‘murder’ of Simon Cowell. Currently, Colin is starring in ‘The Illusionists Live from Broadway’ Tour in the US. Tonight marks his debut on the Royal Variety Performance. “I’m honoured and thrilled to be returning to the UK for this very special occasion.”

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Paloma Faith

Singer, songwriter Paloma Faith is known for her unique style, big personality and soulful vocal.  She won the Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist in 2015 and went on to be a judge on ‘The Voice UK’ the same year. Paloma is one of only two British female artists in this decade to have their last three albums go double platinum (the other being Adele). ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’ is her biggest selling single to date, with over half a million copies sold and 55 million streams on Spotify. Other smash hit singles include ‘Changing’, ‘Picking up the Pieces’ and ‘New York’. Paloma releases her much anticipated 4th album ‘The Architect’ this month which features the catchy hit single ‘Crybaby’, and the new remarkable track ‘Guilty’ which she is performing tonight. Paloma is set to embark on a UK Arena tour in 2018.

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Tokio Myers

Having previously supported the likes of Kayne West and Amy Winehouse, former session pianist rose to fame after winning this year’s series of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. The talented musician dazzled audiences with his impressive and unique style, playing piano to accompany a stunning mix of iconic songs. He was crowned the winner on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ following his beautiful rendition of Rag n Bone man’s hit track ‘Human’. Other memorable performances on the show include his version of Rhianna’s ‘Diamonds’ and Ed Sheeran’s ‘Bloodstream’. Since the show, Tokio has gone on to perform at some of the UK’s most popular festivals including the Secret Garden Party and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He is set to release his debut album titled ‘Our Generation’ in November 2017. Tonight, Tokio Myers is making his Royal Variety Performance debut. “It is an honour to be performing at the Royal Variety Performance, see you there.”

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Cirque Du Soleil - Ovo

Cirque du Soleil has dazzled audiences with a unique combination of circus and theatre with stunning visionary designs since its formation in 1984. Now regarded as one of the world’s most iconic live spectacles, Cirque du Soleil has performed in over 450 cities, more than sixty countries and across six continents. Flying in specially for tonight’s show, Cirque du Soleil will perform a captivating sequence from their new production, which makes its UK debut at the Royal Albert Hall in January 2018. ‘OVO’ is a headlong rush into a colourful ecosystem teeming with life, where insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight and look for love. ‘OVO’ is packed full of spectacular feats and awe inspiring moments which Cirque du Soleil is famed for. “OVO is really a story about inclusion, and discovering how we can all live together despite our differences. In our company we have Brits, Russians, French, Americans, Chinese, Ukrainians, and other nationalities all working together side by side and without the stain of politics or xenophobia. It is truly an honour to be here to present a part of this high level acrobatic show tonight at the Royal Variety Performance.” – Tim Bennett, Artistic Director.

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Big Fish - cast of the West-End musical

Emmy, Tony and Golden globe Award winner Kelsey Grammer is one of the most respected comic actors of his generation best-loved for his roles in ‘Cheers’ and ‘Frasier’.  In 2010 he made a seamless transition into musical theatre, starring as the lead in ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ for his Broadway debut. He also originated the roles of Charles Frohman and Captain Hook in the Broadway premiere of ‘Finding Neverland’.  In 2017 Kelsey made his London debut starring as Edward Bloom in the sensational new family musical ‘Big Fish’ written by Andrew Lippa and John August. ‘Big Fish The Musical’ is the story of a father who has told his son imaginative stories all about his life, tales that are filled with beauty and love. When confronted about what is truth and what is fiction, the pair embark on a life-affirming journey that soars and triumphs and leaves you holding on to your loved ones that little bit tighter. Adapted from the much-loved book and 2003 Tim Burton movie, ‘Big Fish’ opened this month and tonight they will premiere an exclusive performance of this new production.

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Jason Manford

Jason Manford began his career in 1999 when he stepped in to fill the gap of a missing performer whilst working at the Buzz Comedy Club. Six gigs later he was crowned The City Life North West Comedian of the Year. After winning several smaller awards, Jason won the 2006 Chortle Award for Best Breakthrough Act and has since performed at comedy clubs around the world. He has made numerous television appearances including ‘8 Out of 10 Cats’, ‘Comedy Rocks’, ‘Channel 4’s Comedy Gala’, ‘Live at the Apollo’ and ‘Sunday Night at the Palladium.’ Jason is also known for his work in musical theatre, with productions such as ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘The Producers’ and ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ under his belt. Furthering his passion for singing, Jason released his debut album, ‘A Different Stage’ earlier this year, which features songs from musicals. He is set to embark on his new ‘Muddle Class Tour’ in January 2018 which has multiple dates booked across the UK. “This is my third time performing at the Royal Variety Performance which I think means I get to keep the match ball! Absolutely thrilled to be invited again, for comedians it really is our FA Cup Final; it means the world.”

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Annie - cast of the West-End musical

With its Tony Award winning book and score, ‘Annie’ the musical returned to the West End in June 2017 featuring unforgettable songs ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ and ‘Tomorrow’. Based on the comic strip ‘Little Orphan Annie’ and set in 1930’s New York, during the Great Depression, the musical follows the journey of brave orphan Annie as her luck changes. The West End production opened in May this year with Miranda Hart playing Miss Hannigan who runs the orphanage.  Now under the watchful eye of Meera Syal as Hannigan, Annie is chosen to spend a magical Christmas with a famous billionaire. Ruby Stokes who stars as Annie is making her Royal Variety Performance debut alongside her fellow young cast members from this latest UK revival. Producers Michael Harrison and David Ian said “Annie has been loved worldwide for generations. 2017 marked 40 years since the production opened on Broadway and it has been our pleasure to bring Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin and the late Thomas Meehan’s work to a new generation of theatregoers here in the West End. Since we began we have worked with an exemplary Company including over 50 young performers, some of whom you will see tonight.”

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Leading Ladies

Musical theatre stars Beverley Knight, Amber Riley and Cassidy Janson teamed up as the ‘Leading Ladies’ and released their stunning album ‘Songs From The Stage’ this month. Known individually for their incredible vocals, the album features the trio performing hit songs from musicals including ‘Cats’, ‘Hamilton’, ‘Rent’ and ‘We Will Rock You’. Three time MOBO winner, Beverley Knight, MBE has performed in multiple West End shows including ‘The Bodyguard’, ‘Memphis’ and ‘Cats’. Cassidy Janson is likewise used to performing on stage and is well known for her role as Elphaba in ‘Wicked’ and the lead in ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’. Amber Riley, who is best known for her role in Golden Globe Award-winning musical comedy ‘Glee’, starred as Effie in her Olivier Award winning performance in ‘Dreamgirls’ at The Savoy Theatre earlier this year. The musical supergroup join us tonight to sing ‘Somebody to Love’. “We are so honoured to have been invited to perform at this year’s Royal Variety Performance. It is a proud British tradition and we look forward to sharing a fantastic evening with everyone.”

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Seal

With over 30 million records sold worldwide and a career spanning three decades, Seal is known for his international hits such as ‘Killer’, ‘Kiss From a Rose’ and ‘Crazy’. His debut album ‘Seal’ was certified double platinum in the UK and his other albums went on to achieve critical acclaim. He has won a plethora of awards throughout his career including three Brits and four Grammys. Seal has just released his latest album ‘Standards’, which boasts a series of timeless jazz classics including ‘Luck Be A Lady’, ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’. His most recent tour will continue into 2018 with various venues booked across the UK. “It’s always a wonderful experience performing for a live audience. This time made ever the more so by the presence of our Royal Family. I can’t wait to share these magical songs during this very special evening. A memory I will no doubt cherish for a very long time.”

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The Killers

The Killers formed in Las Vegas and released their debut album, ‘Hot Fuss’, in 2004 to global acclaim and success. The album contained the anthemic hit singles ‘Mr. Brightside’ and ‘Somebody Told Me’ and launched a stellar career that has seen the group go on to sell over 25 million albums and garner countless accolades for their artistic achievement, including multiple Grammy nominations, MTV Video Music Awards, Brit Awards and NME Awards. The band has recently released their new studio album, ‘Wonderful Wonderful’, which has scored them a record-breaking fifth consecutive UK Number 1, also topping the charts in the U.S and around the world. The Killers have previously headlined Glastonbury and sold out Wembley Stadium, and they join us tonight as they begin their world tour. The band’s Brandon Flowers in fact returns for a second Royal Variety Performance, having previously appeared solo at the 2015 show.

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Ball & Boe

Two of musical theatre’s biggest names, Michael Ball, OBE and Alfie Boe joined forces last year for a debut album. ‘Together’ became 2016’s biggest selling UK album, as well as the Christmas Number One. ‘Together Again’ was released in October 2017 and the duo are currently on their nationwide sell out arena tour. Individually, they have amassed a wealth of awards. Michael made his West End debut in 1985 playing Marius in ‘Les Misérables’. He has since starred in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and won the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical for ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’. Alfie’s exceptional voice has made him Britain’s biggest-selling tenor. The Tony Award winner has led the cast of ‘Les Misérables’ and stole the show at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert. Alfie recently performed in ‘Classic Quadrophenia’ for a series of sold out shows across the USA. “It has been a wonderful year, teaming up and sharing a great adventure. The Royal Variety Show is something we grew up watching and it is always such a thrill to be asked to perform. To be back there together is the icing on the cake.”