As it is every year, Christmas is happening on December 25th, whether we are ready for it or not. It hits November and the time just seems to disappear. It’s hardly a surprise when Christmas is here, yet somehow, here it is next week and I am totally not ready and thoroughly unfestive.
So it was feeling rather flustered that I left for the Christmas with…Friends gig. Held on Battersea Barge, I didn’t really know what to expect other than that it was on a boat moored somewhere near the famous Battersea Power Station. It was a longer walk than I expected from the tube but eventually I saw it signposted and followed a small path where at the end I saw a boat adorned with Christmas trees and lights.
Battersea Barge was as it said on the tin. But it was the perfect setting for the evening. Despite being narrow, there was a permanent stage at one end and a bar at the other, and in-between were several tables. Every one of the beams was decorated with a pine, fairy lit garland and even the stage was dressed with a further garland and Christmas tree. It looked stunning and with the festive tunes being played as we entered it was difficult not to get into the Christmas spirit.
Every table had crackers and menus (it was possible to order a full three course Christmas dinner) and the bar was serving all sorts including mulled wine and warm mince pies, which it would frankly have been rude not to sample! Simon Greiff, producer of the evening and MD of SimG Productions was in charge of admissions which meant everyone got the chance to have a chat with him.
Simon Grieff introduced the four ‘cast’ members who appeared wearing the most fetching Christmas jumpers and with sparkles on their eyes and ears (the ladies, anyway). Immediately the cabaret kicked off with all four singing ‘We Need A Little Xmas’ a catchy and most Christmassy number. Annalene Beechey was the main compere, and she began by introducing the musicians who consisted of a pianist (Inga the MD) and a cellist (Liv). This was followed by Annalene singing ‘Xmas Cliches’ which I had not heard before, but the title certainly summed it up.
Two of the other ‘Friends’ were up next – The gorgeous Simon Bailey (who did not look in the least bit self-conscious in his Christmas jumper *ahem*) and handsome Simon Thomas in a super reindeer one. Simon B was introduced – Ms Beechey had googled the names of each guest to see what other professions and lifestyles they had (a priest and a Police Constable were among them). A nice touch, this was an unusual introduction followed by a little about the ‘actual’ performer’s history and career. The two Simons sang ‘I Believe’ and made a marvellous boy band effort as they stood from their stools for the final chorus. This went down very well following the discussion about Teatro (a musical theatre ‘boy band’) which Simon B had previously been in.
Here are the above ‘boyband’ pros performing ‘I Believe’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-YsfeiR57w
Rebecca Lock then came forward after her introduction to sing ‘Something about December’. Ms Lock (childminder in Leicester and technology consultant in Toronto among her namesakes) has many years of theatrical experience having performed in Martin Guerre at the age of just three and been in a huge variety of roles since, from Kate Munster in Avenue Q to Carlotta in ‘Phantom’. She is soon to be found performing in ‘Dear World’ at the Charing Cross theatre.
Simon T joined her for ‘As Long As There’s Christmas’ and after plenty of banter (and a microphone adjustment, due to Simon T being about a foot taller than Annalene) this was followed by a beautiful song called ‘Flight’ a duet which the two girls sang together. A non-Christmassy song, I’m so glad they included it as it really was lovely and they sounded stunning.
Simon T (who when Googled is a British TV presenter whose fanmail often goes to ‘our’ Simon T) returned to the spotlight with a version of ‘Santa Baby’, a song I’d only ever heard sung by females but the words were adjusted accordingly and it worked well. He and Annalene met during a production of ‘Marguerite’, though all four performers have been in Phantom at one time or another.
Simon B then took a turn and performed his own ‘Goodbye’. I have written about this song a few times and it never fails to move me. This was a particularly emotional rendition for Mr Bailey as his sister was present but he got through it incredibly well, though I always have to bite back the tears, as I think quite a few others were.
The first half closed with a ‘Boogie Woogie’ style version of ‘Jingle Bells’ – Sung mainly by Simon T, with the girls backing made this great fun, really catchy and fantastically harmonised. A special mention must go to Simon B for his marvellous accompaniment of the hand-held jingle bells!
Great fun – hope you enjoy this. ‘Jingle Bells’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5wLv7oA9Hs
During the interval we were all treated to some baked goods, hand made by Rebecca and Annalene earlier in the day. Little gingerbread men and biscuit angels came complete with some traditional candy canes and a party popper. As well as the pot of goodies being delicious, I thought this was a really lovely touch.
Once again we had the Christmas songs throughout the intermission to keep up the spirit of the evening but everyone was feeling most entertained and I know I had found the first half to fly by. I cannot fault the singing, every one of the voices on that stage were pure and true and despite the banter (which I know the folks sitting around my table – myself included – thoroughly enjoyed) making it all so light-hearted, they sounded fantastic.
Act two began with ‘Mistletoe and Wine’. We were told we could join in, so by the second chorus, a few rather tentative folk were joining in. Simon T again took the lead but the other three backed him, complete with instruments (a triangle, sleigh bells and a maraca) to put a not entirely sincere twist on this Cliff Richard classic.
Mistletoe and Wine as you’ve not heard it before!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iipUhLRvCoM
Beautiful Annalene then sang ‘Scarlet Ribbons’, a song which I had forgotten all about and have not heard for many years. I almost felt moved as it was so lovely and brought back some memories. Just lovely. A favourite of mine has long been ‘O Holy Night’ and I was not disappointed when both girls harmonised their way through it. It sounded stunning and despite the evening being full of laughs, this was performed in a very calm and choral way.
A gorgeous song sung by two very gorgeous girls – ‘O Holy Night’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H9T-j8g3xs
Simon B, who does, occasionally, like to make rather flippant comments, found himself playing the guitar and singing along to ‘White Christmas’ after one such remark. Despite his joke that ‘it could go one of two ways’ it actually sounded great and I really enjoyed his slightly upbeat take on this famous number.
Next was quite possibly the funniest version of ‘Fairytale of New York’ I have seen and am ever likely to see. Aside from the fact that Simon B and Annalene were struggling to sing through the laughter, the accents left rather a lot to be desired and ranged from Irish to farmer to pirate (not sure if it was the influence of the gig being held on a boat!). Absolutely hysterical from start to finish, this made my night!
The stunning and also very funny Rebecca came back on to sing ‘Christmas Dreams’ and then she was joined by the other three to sing ‘Snow Song’. The finale was ’12 Days of Christmas’. Except it was re-written to become ’12 Days of Phantom’. As I mentioned earlier, all four have been in Phantom at one time or another, the two Simon’s both playing Raoul at the moment (Thomas on the West End and Bailey on the UK tour), Beechey was previously Christine; Lock, Carlotta. Another very amusing song, this talented bunch pulled off a brilliant end to the evening, just slowing it down a little with ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’.
After the final number the performers came to mingle with everyone, so we had a chance to chat and to purchase the CD’s (both produced by SimGProductions) which were on sale (‘Looking Up’ by Simon Bailey and ‘Close Your Eyes’ by Annalene Beechey). See my previous post for a review of ‘Looking Up’. Sadly I have not yet got a copy of ‘Close Your Eyes’ but I fully intend to get one after the singing I heard last night. Also Rebecca appears on one of the tracks so the quality of the vocals, as with ‘Looking Up’ will be top notch.
I left feeling thoroughly festive. I thought the venue was superb, I wouldn’t hesitate to go to further events there and the entertainment was most enjoyable. Simon Greiff is a brilliant producer, if you see anything by him I recommend you book it or buy it as he sees talent and gives people a chance. He’s also a top bloke! All the performers had super voices and an excellent bond meaning that banter was plentiful. I love intimate and more ‘casual’ gigs such as this one, so it was the perfect way to kickstart my Christmas.
Myself and my friends Holly and Ali with Simon B, post gig and post removal of Christmas jumper! : https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/v/702065_10151289843722649_279019980_n.jpg?oh=d8b8082d2710dc1b0bcd74941b950b06&oe=50D17E34&__gda__=1355929798_256ecfdad9a4f345dda45b09f0242338
If you would like more information about the people involved, then here is how to find out:
Simon Greiff/ SimG Productions – http://www.SimGProductions.com to purchase albums and learn more about their background.
Follow him on Twitter @SimGProductions
Simon Bailey – buy ‘Looking Up’ at http://www.simonbaileyonline.com
Follow him @SimonBailey1210
Annalene Beechey @AnnaleneBeechey
Rebecca Lock @RebeccaLock22
Simon Thomas @TheStingo
SimGProductions albums can also be bought at Dress Circle Shop in London (@DressCircleShop)
YouTube videos are all my own, you can subscribe if you wish to MusicalsMad1. There will be new videos added wherever possible and there will also be one for White Christmas, Fairytale of New York, Snow Song and ’12 Days of Christmas/Phantom’ as soon as they load (next couple of days). Apologies for the video/sound quallity on some, not sure what was going on with my phone during the recordings.
Now, here’s to Christmas (and to my 22nd visit of the Phantom tour next Saturday).
If I do not post before I hope it is a FABULOUS and happy one for you all.