19th November, 2018
HRH The Duke of Sussex
HRH The Duchess of Sussex
Executive Producers, Royal Variety Charity: Laurie Mansfield & Giles Cooper
Director, ITV Studios: Richard Valentine
Executive Producers, ITV Studios: Lee Connolly & Fiona Clark
Line-Producer, ITV Studios: Amanda George
The Royal Variety Performance 2018 was 'a first' on many fronts and in many respects felt like the beginning of a new era.
The show was staged at the London Palladium exactly six months (to the day) following the marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended their first Royal Variety Performance together on 19th November 2018. Her Royal Highness was pregnant with the Royal couple's first child and huge crowds gathered outside the Palladium, on a wet and windy November night to catch a glimpse of the Royal arrival.
On entry to the Palladium, Chairman Giles Cooper, explained to Her Royal Highness that the posy of flowers presented by 7 year old Darcie-Rae Moyse, were handpicked from the gardens of the Royal Variety's care home for elderly entertainers, Brinsworth House. He explained that this was the first time this had been done at the annual event and would be done each year going forward in memory of the Duchess' first visit to the Royal Variety Show.
Comedian Greg Davies presented his first Royal Variety Performance as host and for many was a highlight of the show. He began the evening with a comic routine highlighting the differences between his Nan and the Nan of HRH The Duke of Sussex (The Queen!), culminating in an hysterical song, 'the Nan Song', which included a troupe of elderly lady 'Nans' singing and dancing with him, much to the delight of the Royal couple.
A huge effort had been made to tailor the artists to the Duke and Duchess, including the Invictus Games Choir signing the national anthem, the original West-End cast of Hamilton, where the original stage set had been flown in from New York's Broadway the previous week, the cellist from the Royal Wedding Sheku Kanneh-Mason, and the cast of Tina! The Musical.
The performance by Sheku was absolutely mesmerizing - a pin could have been heard drop in one of the most stunning classical performances to have ever graced the Royal Variety stage, and the performance by Adrienne Warren, the lead in Tina!, who sang 'River Deep, Mountain High' has to be one of the most astounding vocal performances ever seen on the Royal Variety Performance.
Other music highlights included Take That (celebrating their 30th year together) who performed in both halves of the show, Andrea Bocelli with his son Matteo, George Ezra and Clean Bandit.
Simon Cowell introduced the winner of Britain's Got Talent, Lost Voice Boy (aka Lee Ridley), who had been the first ever comedian to win the annual talent contest.
Many said that the show will be remembered most for returning to its roots of being a true variety show, with stunning 'speciality act' performances by Circus 1903 and Cirque Du Soleil's new show Totem. The West-End's Christmas show, Circus 1903, included the puppeteers from War Horse controlling an enormous elephant, and the best of acrobats, jugglers and contortionists from all over Europe.
Stand-Up Comedy suffered a loss with the last minute cancellation of Gad Elmaleh, the French/ Moroccan comedian due to personal issues and was replaced by new comic Ed Gamble. Welsh comic Rhod Gilbert and Kiwi star Rose Matafeo both went down well, but the star of stand-up for the night had to go to Welsh comedian Rod Woodward who had the royal couple laughing ecstatically.
The biggest laughs of the night however went to the hilarious TV impressionists The Imitation Game, hosted by Alexander Armstrong and starring Rory Bremner, Debra Stephenson, Jan Ravens and Luke Kempner. Their hilarious take on the news stories that captured the imaginations in 2018, including President Trump meeting Putin and the Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit negotiations, will be remembered for many years to come.
Another 'first' was the playing of a pre-recorded video showing the work of the Royal Variety Charity, in particular, a tour of its care home, Brinsworth House. The video was hosted by comedy and Royal Variety legend Jimmy Tarbuck (who later made a cameo guest appearance in the show with Greg Davies) and carried interviews with both Laurie Mansfield and Giles Cooper. The video was also included in the TV broadcast of the show, generating huge additional interest and support in the work of the charity.
Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex was so interested in what she learnt of the charity on the night, that Chairman Giles Cooper received a phone call from Kensington Palace shortly afterwards, asking if Her Royal Highness could visit Brinsworth House before Christmas and meet with its staff and residents. The visit, four weeks after the show on 18th December, was a huge success, generating publicity for the charity in every major newspaper and TV broadcaster throughout the world and providing an early Christmas treat for Brinsworth's many residents and hard working staff. Pictures from her visit can be seen by clicking here.
Greg Davies first came to prominence as the infamously psychotic Head of Sixth Form, Mr Gilbert, in The Inbetweeners (Channel 4). His performance as Ken in Cuckoo (BBC3) alongside Andy Samberg and Taylor Lautner earned him a BAFTA nomination for Best Male Performance. He made a guest star appearance as King Hydroflax in the 2015 Doctor Who Christmas Special, and will voice ‘Balloon Man’ in the upcoming Warner Bros feature film Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. Greg has written and starred in four series of his hit sitcom Man Down for Channel 4; his comedy hero Rik Mayall played the role of his father in one of his last on-screen performances. The show featured star guest appearances from Bond villain Steven Berkoff, Star Wars’ Mark Hamill and 1985 world snooker champion Dennis Taylor. Greg first appeared on The Royal Variety Performance in 2011 and is honoured to return tonight to host this special event. “I am delighted to host the Royal Variety. It is a role that I am wildly unsuited to and I will no doubt offend a great many people, but my Mum has a voracious appetite for meeting members of the Royal family and this seems a reasonable price to pay for the gift of life.”
The Olivier, Tony and Grammy award-winning production of Hamilton originally opened at the Public Theater in New York in 2015. Later that year, the production transferred to Broadway and, in December 2017, the London production opened at the newly re-built and restored Victoria Palace Theatre. With Book, Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton is the story of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and helped shape the very foundations of the America we know today. The score blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway – the story of America then, as told by America now. This evening the original London company of Hamilton will be performing the musical’s opening number Alexander Hamilton.
Award-winning comedian Alex Horne is the creator of the hit BAFTA and Emmy-nominated show Taskmaster, which he co-hosts alongside Greg Davies.
Alex produces and voices the character of The Button in BBC1’s show of the same name. Alex fronts The Horne Section, a band of multitalented musicians who put a stupidly unique twist on musical comedy, consisting of Joe Auckland (trumpet), Mark Brown (guitar & saxophone), Will Collier (bass), Ben Reynolds (drums) and Ed Sheldrake (keyboard). Following five consecutive years of sold out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, the band’s hit show Alex Horne Presents: The Horne Section aired for three series on BBC Radio 4. They continue to tour nationwide, selling out venues across the country. The band starred in their own two-hour special for Dave entitled The Horne Section Television Programme. They are regular Dictionary Corner guests on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and have recently released their first album ‘Three Great Songs and Eight More Songs’.
Welsh sensation Rhod Gilbert is one of the UK’s leading stand-up comedy talents, and has enjoyed many successful years as a star of television and radio. He has amassed eight series of his hugely popular ‘Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience’ and is the current host of BBC2’s ‘The Apprentice: You’re Fired’. Last year, he starred in and produced ‘Rhod Gilbert: Stand Up To Shyness’, a BBC documentary exploring shyness and the huge impact it has had upon his life. He has regularly hosted ‘Have I Got News for You?’ and made countless appearances on ‘Qi’, ‘Would I Lie to You?’ and ‘8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown’. He has hosted ‘Live at The Apollo’ on multiple occasions and appears in the latest series of ‘Taskmaster’. Following a six-year break from stand-up, Rhod is embarking upon a UK tour in 2019, with a highly-anticipated new show entitled ‘The Book of John’.
Since their first tour in 1984, Cirque du Soleil have amazed audiences across the world, with their innovative performances that test the limits of human imagination and capabilities. The international performance company is now a giant of the entertainment industry with twenty spectacles currently playing around the world and more than 1,400 artists from seventy different countries in the company. Tonight for the first time on UK television, Cirque Du Soleil, a Royal Variety favourite, are presenting an extract from their enormously successful show ‘Totem’ which opens at London’s Royal Albert Hall in January. The show explores the fascinating journey of human species from its original amphibious state through to its ultimate desire to fly. The selected scenes from the story of evolution explore the ties that bind Man to other species, his dreams and infinite potential. “Cirque du Soleil are honoured to be part of the Royal Variety Performance 2019. An iconic and globally renowned event. Our Royal Variety Performance is always the advent of our return to the UK and we’re privileged to have been invited back as part of the Variety family.”
Global hitmakers Clean Bandit - comprising of musicians Jack Patterson, Luke Patterson and Grace Chatto - have continually proved themselves to be one of the most successful and in-demand British acts of this century with their matchless blend of pop, classical and electronica. Breaking through in 2014 with their Grammy-winning single “Rather Be”, Clean Bandit have gone on to land four No.1 singles in their native UK. From 6 x BRIT Award nominations to 2 x Ivor Novello wins, they have now sold over 40 million singles worldwide and accumulated over 10 billion streams to date. Tonight, Clean Bandit will perform a very special medley of hits taken from their forthcoming second studio album ‘What Is Love?’, set for release on 30 November. “We are beyond excited to perform at this year’s Royal Variety Performance. To be involved in such a special event, with performers and creatives from all of the performing arts (not just music!) - it’s truly magical. It will definitely be a night we won’t ever forget!!”
The Imitation Game is ITV’s new impressions-based panel show hosted by Alexander Armstrong. Two teams captained by impressionists Rory Bremner and Debra Stephenson go head to head in a series of fast paced games and challenges that put their imitation skills to the test. Star mimics such as Jon Culshaw, Alistair McGowan, Jess Robinson, Christina Bianco and many more bring over 250 voices to life across the series, from celebs to royalty to politics.
Tonight, especially for the Royal Variety, Rory and Debra are joined by Jan Ravens and Luke Kempner to deliver their own inimitable take on the news stories that have captured our imaginations in 2018.
George Ezra shot to fame in 2014 when his debut album Wanted On Voyage went to the top of the UK charts. It sold over three million copies, earned multi-platinum status and became the third best UK selling album of that year. Following this success he was nominated for four BRIT awards, an Ivor Novello and a BBC Music Award. George leapt back to the top of the album chart in 2018 with his million selling album Staying at Tamara’s. Well known for being a singer and song-writer inspired by his world travels, George picked up his guitar, removed himself from his plush comforts of stardom and settled into a ragged Airbnb in Barcelona. Here he was hosted by Tamara, who became the inspiration behind his latest album title. Staying at Tamara’s became the fastest selling album of the year and includes big summer hits Paradise and Shotgun which has gone on to sell over two million copies worldwide. Adding to his repertoire, George also hosts a chart-topping podcast George Ezra & Friends where he enters conversation with well-known contemporaries such as Elton John, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. Tonight George Ezra will be performing his number one hit Shotgun for his Royal Variety Performance debut.
Ed Gamble is known for co-presenting The Peacock and Gamble Podcast and his regular appearances on Mock the Week. Educated at Durham University, he began his comedy career performing with the Durham Revue, and was a finalist in the 2007 Chortle Student Comedy Awards. He is a regular performer at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; he appeared there in 2011, 2012 and 2013 with Peacock. His stand-up performances contain much observational comedy, often aimed at himself, but he also discusses his diabetes, which he was diagnosed with as a teenager. Gamble also appeared in 2015, with Amy Hoggart, in Almost Royal, a faux-reality show on BBC America. They played a brother and sister, Georgie and Poppy Carlton. The show was shown on E4 in the UK and was followed by a second series in 2016.
Tina - The Tina Turner Musical received its world premiere at the Aldwych Theatre, London in March 2018 starring Adrienne Warren in the title role. Since the official opening, attended by Tina Turner herself, the musical has enjoyed record-breaking popularity and outstanding success. The critically acclaimed show featuring Tina’s biggest hits, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, written by Katori Hall, choreographed by Anthony Van Laast, the Royal Variety’s Stage Director, is presented in association with Tina Turner and produced by Stage Entertainment. It follows the transformation of Tina from her stark beginnings in Tennessee through to her undeniable superstardom, breaking though the barriers of age, gender, race and an abusive relationship. “It is a particular honour for me to have been invited to perform at such an iconic event and I am truly grateful to be part of this wonderful tradition. To be playing Tina Turner on the same stage almost 30 years after she too performed at the Royal Variety Performance is a real privilege and one I will always treasure.” Adrienne Warren, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical
Fresh from wowing the America’s Got Talent audience, Circus 1903 puts audiences on the edge of their seats with classic circus skills, jaw-dropping stunts and extraordinary animal puppetry. This enchanting and multi act performance demonstrates spectator circus at its very best - transporting its audience to the turn of the twentieth century. Featuring many performers from across the globe, from hypnotising contortionists, gifted jugglers, aerialists, fire-eaters and tricksters - Circus 1903’s collection of talented artists is unrivalled. However, the real scene stealers are the beautiful ‘Queenie and Peanut’ - two elephant puppets made by members of the team behind the phenomenally successful show ‘Warhorse.’ After a successful run at The Paris Theatre in Las Vegas, Circus 1903 will perform its European premiere with a three-week run this Christmas at London’s Royal Festival Hall. With a range of acts that will take your breath away, their performance on The Royal Variety this evening promises to be a spectacle like no other!
Britain’s Got Talent 2018 winner Lee Ridley, from Newcastle upon Tyne, won the nation’s hearts and emerged victorious in Series twelve of the award-winning ITV show. Lee, better known as ‘Lost Voice Guy’ is the first comedian to win the series and is the first ever stand-up comedian to use a communication aid. Since his 2018 BGT victory, Lee’s popularity has seen him sign his first book deal, film a Sky comedy short and announce a massive sixty date UK tour. Having performed on some of the top comedy stages across the country and at numerous comedy festivals including the Edinburgh Fringe, Lee recently achieved one of his dreams by appearing on the long-running BBC series ‘Live At The Apollo’. “I’m really looking forward to the Royal Variety Performance. We used to watch it together as a family when I was younger, so it’s amazing for me to get this opportunity to walk out onto that stage in front of the Royal Family myself. It really is a dream come true.”
22-year-old Norwegian singer and songwriter Sigrid is a rising star in the global music industry, renowned for her poignant autobiographical music, striking videos and energetic live performances. Having entered the UK music charts in 2017, with her breakout EP Don’t Kill My Vibe, her follow up single Strangers, received a gold certification for its sales.
With successful record sales, sold-out performances and an effortlessly cool image, Sigrid was announced as BBC Sound of 2018. Over the last year, Sigrid and her band have performed live at Glastonbury, Coachella and the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. Tonight, Sigrid will be performing her hit Strangers from her forthcoming album. On making her Royal Variety debut, Sigrid said; “I’m incredibly excited to play at the Royal Variety! What an honour. Looking forward to seeing you all there.”
Welsh comedian Rod Woodward began his career as an audience warm-up act for ITV Wales. His appearance as a finalist in the Edinburgh Fringe competition So You Think You’re Funny in 1997 propelled his career as he began to gather accolade from stars such as Peter Kay and Barry Cryer. Rod’s further career defining moments include being named Best Newcomer to Variety, hosting his own BBC Radio Wales show Doing It For A Laugh and performing on ITV’s Tonight At The London Palladium. These successes culminated in a popular debut UK tour. Tonight, Rod Woodward is returning for his second Royal Variety Performance and third appearance on the London Palladium stage. “For any performer, appearing on this legendary show is like playing in the FA Cup Final and I am so honoured to be invited back. I can now say I have appeared for The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex…And they are definitely three of the roughest pubs in Cardiff!”
Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason took the classical music scene by storm when he won BBC Young Musician 2016. He is studying at the Royal Academy of Music whilst enjoying an international performance career. Sheku has been named one of TIME Magazine’s Next Generation Leaders.
Following the release of his debut album ‘Inspiration’ in January, Sheku quickly caught the public’s attention. The album landed at No.1 in the Classical Chart and No.18 in the Official UK Album chart, making him the youngest ever cello player to enter that chart.
In May 2018, Sheku gave a spellbinding performance at the Royal Wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. This evening Sheku makes his Royal Variety Performance debut. “I’m very excited to be performing at the Royal Variety Performance this year – I’ll be playing one of my favourite pieces of music and I’m looking forward to sharing it with the audience and all of the viewers at home. I’m also honoured to be performing in front of Duke and Duchess of Sussex again.”
Rose Matafeo is a comedian, writer and actor from New Zealand.
In 2018 Rose’s critically acclaimed show “Horndog” won the best comedy show award at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was nominated for the best show at Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Rose is a regular face on TV having featured on Have I Got News For You (BBC One), W1A (BBC One), Unspun with Matt Forde (Dave), Jon Richardson’s Ultimate Worrier (Dave) and The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice (Channel 4) in the UK, while in New Zealand Rose is the lead writer and star of the sketch show Funny Girls (TV3) which is in its third series, and a regular on panel show 7 Days (Three Now NZ). Rose has also performed at Just For Laughs in Montreal and has opened for Reggie Watts and Rob Delaney in both New Zealand and the UK. “I’m so privileged to be representing my country Aotearoa (New Zealand as you call it) at the Royal Variety. I’m most looking forward to the javelin and high jump”
Rick Astley was 19 when he rose to global fame in 1987 working with producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman on his debut single Never Gonna Give You Up which went to the top of the charts in 25 countries and won a BRIT Award for Best British Single. Throughout his extremely successful career Rick has sold millions of records worldwide but in 1993 he walked away from music in pursuit of a family life. Nevertheless in 2016, Rick went back on tour and in June of that year released a new album 50, which sold more than 400,000 copies and reached Number One in the UK album charts. Firmly back in the limelight, Rick’s career continues to grow with his latest album Beautiful Life, seeing him produce every element of the album himself, including vocals and instrumentals. Tonight, Rick is returning to the Royal Variety Performance for the first time in thirty years. “I’m incredibly excited to play at the Royal Variety! It’s been thirty years-it was an honour then and even more so now! Looking forward to seeing you all there.”
Throughout his career world renowned singer, Andrea Bocelli has achieved record sales of over 80 million, has been awarded seven Classical BRITs, seven World Music Awards and a Golden Globe whilst also having the privilege of performing for Popes, Presidents and Royalty. In his latest album Sì, Andrea duets with his son Matteo who has an equally enchanting vocal talent. After collaborating with A-list artists such as Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez and Ed Sheeran, Andrea’s decision to record with Matteo gives the record a personal touch never heard before. Sì is Andrea Bocelli’s first album in 14 years to comprise of entirely new material. It is an album with songs in both Italian and English, incorporating positive messages about love, spirituality and family. Tonight Andrea and Matteo will perform their rousing duet Fall On Me. “My father and I are proud to perform “Fall On Me” together for an amazing audience and the Royal Family at such an important event. It is sure to be a memorable night!” - Matteo Bocelli
Celebrating their 30th anniversary, Take That have become a leading powerhouse of the British music industry and one of our most loved bands. Featuring Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald, the band began its thirty-year journey as a five-piece alongside Robbie Williams and Jason Orange. Their incredible career has seen the group score six UK No.1 albums, sell over 45 million records, win six BRIT Awards as well as holding the record for the fastest selling tour in UK history. To mark the forthcoming 30th anniversary, Take That released Odyssey, a greatest hits album that features a mix of their all-time biggest hits and some brilliantly ‘reimagined’ versions of their classics. They also hit the road next year for a massive UK arena and stadium tour performing all their much loved greatest hits live. Take That are delighted to be opening and closing tonight’s Royal Variety Performance.