In turbulent political times and worries about climate change we need escapism and that’s what true theatre achieves. Jane McDonald and her vibrant band certainly achieved that last night in New Wimbledon Theatre as they whisked away all the worries of the audience in a night of pure joy.
“NOTHING SHORT OF SHOWSTOPPING”
A seasoned entertainer, Jane commands the stage holding the audience in the palm of her hand with every anecdote, emotive ballad or disco routine. Opening with a song from arguably the biggest film of previous years “The Greatest Showman”, Jane’s rendition of “This Is Me” was nothing short of showstopping. Her voice then effortlessly punched through song after song from “I’m Coming Out” to “The Show Must Go On” with tremendous vocal control but also more importantly than that, true passion. Jane has a huge natural talent not just for singing but for making a genuine connection with the audience. Her jokes about her age, Spanx, using the microphone stand as a walking stick all were received with raucous laughter. A true star but so relatable, a ‘Yorkshire Adele’. Ending Act 1 with another film classic “Never Enough” was enough to bring the whole auditorium to a standstill with the audience in complete awe of her talent.
“SHINY, CAMP GLITZ… LIKE THE INSIDE OF JULIAN CLARY’S CHRISTMAS CRACKER”
Jane was joined on stage by a band of keys, drums, guitar, bass and percussion as well as 3 backing singers and dancers. Again the band’s genuine connection with Jane shone through with the guitarist being Steve Cooper her long term writing partner. Staging was shiny, camp glitz and looked like the inside of Julian Clary’s Christmas Cracker, though we should expect nothing less from the gay icon that is Jane McDonald. Throughout the evening we switched between being in Jane’s intimate TV set for “Jane and Friends” and a full concert arena. The backing singers who doubled as dancers added even more glitz and glamour to the evening with slickly executed routines both behind the microphones and also centre stage. The joyful punchy routines choreographed by Christopher Haley made me want to get up on stage and join them.
The BAFTA award winning Jane shows no sign of slowing down when she announced on stage she would be continuing more filming for “Jane and Friends” and “Cruising with Jane” as well as chartering her own cruise ship for a special Jane McDonald holiday. The fans are truly dedicated with huge cheers, singing along, flowers thrown at the stage and screams of “We Love You Jane”. The evening was not only a celebration of Jane’s extraordinary charisma and talent but also of an era of entertainment before the internet and social media (ironic given that she was the first reality TV star). It was pure unadulterated fun, and with a full house of happy fans at Wimbledon, may her career continue for another 20 years, I’m sure it will.