Review: A Swingin’ Christmas for Musical Theatre RevieW

December 30, 2019 in Reviews

Star rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Michael Darrell reviews for Musical Theatre Review

If there was any doubt that London could provide a really jolly Christmas show, then doubts must now be dispelled. A veteran of several years at Crazy Coqs for the festive season, singer Gary Williams has built up a following for his Swingin’ Christmas shows via years of touring and cruises and doing what comes naturally to him as a performer and entertainer. And his public keep coming back clamouring for more. His fan club were well in evidence at his recent Crazy Coqs Christmas shows and no doubt they will be back for more next year.

What is so good about Williams’ act is that he has built up an amazing rapport with his audience – he talks to them, he sends them up, he tells them rather suspect gags and he even gets them to join him on stage in an all-out effort to keep them happy. With Swingin’ Christmas he couldn’t fail because he has the audience where he wants them, in the palm of his hand, and they make willing accomplices, allowing Williams to do with them whatever he wants.

This is not only restricted to the ladies in the audience for he also has the temerity to get the male partners on his side too. It is an amazing feat and one that is so easy to achieve that it’s almost too simple to analyse. Basically it’s a question of communication and you never once get the feeling that Williams is trying to just entertain himself or show off his obvious singing talents. It’s solely a question of having an instant rapport with the customers who have come to see him. Having written a very useful guide for prospective cabaret artists called Cabaret Secrets, he lives and works by his own rules.

The Swingin’ Christmas programme comprises a mixture of his performances coupled with some community singing. Being regulars at his seasonal shows, many members of his audience will already know all the words to his list of Christmas songs, carols and old chestnuts such as ‘Sleigh Ride’, ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, ‘Let It Snow’, ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ alongside ‘Grandma We Love You’, ‘Silver Bells’, ‘Mistletoe and Wine’, ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’. And it’s the audience who can’t wait to sing the umpteenth repeat of ‘Last Christmas’, not that he doesn’t encourage them.

Accompanied by Nathan Martin on piano, Williams really does swing with the best of them: just listening to him zip through ‘Jingle Bells’ at a rate of knots in a fine jazz arrangement is really something to behold. Williams laces the novelty numbers with some religious songs such as ‘Ave Maria’ which he used to sing to his grandfather, plus ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Away in a Manger’, although he doesn’t use the tune that was familiar to me at school. Then it was a rather simple melody that most young children could manage. With the release this year of Judy, the new film about Judy Garland, Williams pays tribute with very pleasant renderings of ‘Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead’ and ‘(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow’, both songs from The Wizard of Oz which is an astonishing 80 years old this year. He also throws in another Garland favourite, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ from Meet Me in St Louis, sung in Sinatra-style.

Most of the really funny stuff is kept until last, as he drags his more than willing victims out of their seats and on to the stage to do ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ – complete with actions! This obviously brings the house down until finale time with ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ and a suitable farewell number in ‘Just in Time for Christmas’. Between them, Williams and MD Martin produce 80 minutes of sheer joy for their audience. Whatever happens to the government, the Labour party, Brexit or the Royal Family during 2020, no doubt more fun will be unleashed for another Swingin’ Christmas at Crazy Coqs next year.

Michael Darvell

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}