A Swingin’ Christmas reviewed by Barrie Jerram, Musical Theatre Review
Reviewed 21st December 2018
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It just would not be Christmas without Gary Williams kicking off the festivities at the Crazy Coqs.
The opening number ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ contains the line “Have a party tonight” and a party is exactly what Williams, the consummate performer, conjures up.
His smooth style and witty patter immediately puts people at ease and, with a pantomime style of whipping up audience participation, he soon has the room joining in and singing along. The ghost of Pantoland hovers throughout the evening as groan-inducing jokes and one-liners are interspersed with the songs.
The choice of songs is a mixture of the traditional, commercial favourites, along with the more sacred ‘Oh Holy Night’, an old carol that he performed recently with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and several non-Christmas ones.
‘Let’s Talk About Me’ is a send-up of an egoist and its clever wit would not have disgraced the pen of Noel Coward. Williams also takes the opportunity to include two of the self-penned songs from his recent CD Treasure Seeker. ‘Next Best Thing‘ and ‘Never Say I Love You’ are two of the best romantic songs on the disc.
He makes reference to the kind words that he has received from Leslie Bricusse about the album before returning the compliment by singing three Bricusse compositions – ‘Candy Man’, ‘Somewhere in My Memory’, a wistful number of Christmases past and the exquisitely delivered ‘Pure Imagination’.
Guest singer, Glen Macnamara, joined Williams on stage in a lively version of ‘Side By Side’. Macnamara returns to the venue in June 2019 to perform an evening of Sinatra songs.
Williams’ previous cabaret featured numbers from 1968, a great year for songwriting and from that repertoire ‘Ob La Di’ and ‘Those Were the Days’ have the audience clapping along and joining in.
Nathan Martin provides excellent piano accompaniment as well as helping out with the vocals. His playing compliments Williams’ singing well.
The finale includes the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ and, as is now customary, it involves the whole room leaping to its feet as each fifth day is reached – confusion and hilarity abound.
The encore song ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ is started with glasses being raised to absent friends.