We can all agree it has been a tough few months for theatre. Yesterday in particular was one of the more emotional days - starting with hope, excitement and optimism at the announcement of a theatre reopening next month and then crushing disappointment at the Six tour being cancelled. After an emotional rollercoaster of a day, this celebration concert could not have come at a better time.
You may not have heard of Harry Gabriel, but if you have ever set foot in the stage door at the Shaftesbury Theatre, not only have you met him, you will never forget him. It may not seem the most obvious choice to do a celebration concert for somebody behind the scenes but that is what made this so joyful to watch. Harry is one of the unsung heroes in theatre and seeing some of the biggest names in the world of theatre, television and film come together to tell stories about him and celebrate the 40 years he has worked on the stage door at the Shaftesbury theatre really was a delight to watch.
Organised by Giles Terera, the concert took us on a journey of songs from previous productions from the theatre from a wealth of stars who have tread the boards at the iconic theatre. Shows such as Hello Dolly, Hairspray. Memphis and RENT were all present, leading right up to current production &Juliet.
Right from the first performance where &Juliet star David Badella changed the lyrics to 'Hello Dolly' to make it about Harry, the smiles kept on coming. One standout performance was a dream collaboration from Tyrone Huntley and Cedric Neal singing 'I'll Cover You' from RENT. Two of the greatest talents, their voices together on such a brilliant song was an amazing choice and musical perfection.
As well as music, the show features stories and well wishes from some legends who have played the Shaftesbury Theatre at some time in their career and have fond memories of Harry. Stars such as Anthony Hopkins, Dame Judi Dench and Chita Rivera were on hand to offer well wishes and congratulations for four decades of putting smiles on everyones faces.
Other standout performances on the night included Jason Pennycooke with a dance performance to 'Mr Bojangles', Rachel John delivering a powerful rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone', Alexia Khadime making her third appearance in an online show in less than a week (I don't see anybody complaining, who can ever get enough of her?) teaming up with Jon Robyns for 'Seasons Of Love' and a cast reunion of &Juliet singing 'Show Me Love' (If you weren't missing that sghow enough already, you were after that).
Two of the most emotional performances form last weekends 'Turn Up' concerts were present in different iterations, packing as powerful a punch as they did last week with Beverley Knight's take on 'Colored Woman' from Memphis and Brenda Edwards delivering a flawless 'I Know Where I've Been' from Hairspray.
This was a show that didn't put a foot wrong in terms of the setlist. A mix of joyful numbers and emotional moments that still conveyed a message of hope for a more positive future, this was a concert that made sure to put a smile on your face and keep it there throughout.
If you have never met Harry yourself (I was lucky enough to meet him several times in the past, always dancing at the stage door while the cast came off stage after the show... every single time!) watching this made you feel like you knew him personally or at the very least that your life would be better if you did know him. It made a refreshing change to put on a celebration for somebody who may not usually receive the praise or attention he deserves. After what was a trying day for many a theatre fan, this celebration was just what the doctor ordered
While the show was free to watch, viewers are encouraged to donate to three charities chosen by Giles and Harry - Cancer Research UK, Black Lives Matter and The Black Curriculum. The show is still available to watch - direct link below. If you are looking for an hour of pure joy, give this a go and you won't be disappointed. A big congratulations to Giles Terera, the Shaftesbury Theatre, everybody who had a hand in organising this fantastic concert and of course the man himself Harry Gabriel. This was a much needed dose of positivity and I for one would love to see more celebrations like this in the future.