Stars out for Royal show in capital


Tue 25 Nov 2003

The Queen arrives at Edinburgh's Festival Theatre last night.

WITH its inimitable mix of rock, pop, opera and kitsch, the Royal Variety Performance came to Edinburgh last night for the first time in 75 shows.

And although singer Rachel Stevens may have been the talk of the tabloids, it was Osmondmania that carried the day as Donny and his five singing brothers staged a retro reunion at the capital’s Festival Theatre.

The night saw the opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti hobble on to the stage with a broken knee to sing for the Queen 40 years after performing for her at Covent Garden.

The former boxer, Frank Bruno, made a cameo appearance, his first since he was hospitalised with depression in September.

The Irish boy-band Westlife, chart-toppers Busted and Daniel Bedingfield, and the jazz pianist Jamie Cullum were among those who joined the musical pot-pourri.

Stevens, lately of S Club 7 and now a top solo artist, sang her single Sweet Dreams My LA Ex. She had promised: "I will raunch it up for The Queen."

The end result fell somewhat flat, with eight male dancers dressed in black doing suggestive press-ups with spindly whips and token chains.

Danny Bhoy, the Scottish-Indian comedian, a well-known name on the Fringe, used his minutes in the royal limelight to the full with a risqué and witty act.

Donny Osmond made his British debut with his brothers at the Royal Variety Performance in 1971. Now 45, he returned yesterday with Jimmy, Wayne, Merrill, Jay and Alan. The ran a medley of 70s hits, such as Love Me For a Reason and Crazy Horses.

Many of the performers enthused yesterday about sharing the stage with the Osmonds and visiting Edinburgh.

"Everywhere I looked, there was an Osmond," said Mattie Jay, of Busted, the chart-topping group who profess to be more than a boy band. "I love Edinburgh. We looked out of our hotel room as soon as we arrived and we said, like, a castle."

The Royal Variety Performance may not have the international youth audience of the MTV Awards, but once again Edinburgh got a touch of celebrity fever.

Donny Osmond signed autographs along Princes Street. "We care about this performance," he said. "A lot of people are going to be watching it, especially Her Majesty, and we have to please the Queen."

With all proceeds going to the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund, the line-up included Latin music queen Gloria Estefan and New Zealand’s teen diva, Hayley Westenra.

Westenra, 16, had arrived in Edinburgh on the heels of performing for George Bush and the Queen at Buckingham Palace last week. She is to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone at Parkhead tonight for the Celtic versus Bayern Munich match.

Westenra, who picked up a winter coat at the Princes Street Mall, is a formidably well- spoken teen who was travelling with her mother.

"I love Edinburgh," she said. "It’s just so gorgeous, the castle, the cobbled streets. Everything is so picturesque."

But her performance proved one of the evening’s most bizarre. She opened with a traditional Maori tune, with nine tribal performers with feathers in their hair, then faded into Amazing Grace with a bagpipe accompaniment.

The idea of a Royal Command Performance was first aired in 1911, and Edinburgh was in contention to be the venue. But last night’s show, marking its 75th anniversary after interruptions for wars and royal funerals, was only the second time it has left London.

The night was heavy on Scottish flavour from the start, the ScottishPower, Strathclyde Police and Drambuie Kirkliston pipe bands bursting on stage with Flower of Scotland.

Barry Humphries arrived as Dame Edna Everage dressed as a Scottish thistle - the "national weed".

Ronnie Corbett joked about the Scottish parliament fiasco. "This is Edinburgh with the inspiring new parliament building," he said. "It has been described as a symphony of architecture. It’s a pity it’s an unfinished symphony".

There was heavy security around the Festival Theatre, from the thick-set bouncers hired by producers Granada Television to Lothian and Borders Police teams combing the building repeatedly with bomb-sniffing dogs. But organisers insisted the level of security was not unusual.

"We always have bomb-sniffing dogs, everybody’s bag has always been searched," said a spokeswoman for Granada.

The edited programme will be shown on ITV tomorrow night - 26th November @ 9.0pm



News Menu 2003

Home Page