Review: The Royal Variety Performance was middle-of-the-road, but there was still enough star power to entertain

The roll call of stars with their names in lights at the beginning of The Royal Variety Performance 2020 (ITV, Tues, 8pm) might have been enough to strike fear in your heart.

By Phil Cunnington
Friday, 11th December 2020, 5:00 pm

Gary Barlow! Stephen Mulhern!! Steps!!!

Then the Prince of Wales gave a short speech through his starched jaw, welcoming us to “a unique British tradition”, and it all seemed so yesterday.

Running since 1912, but only on its third visit to the UK’s home of light entertainment, Blackpool, you do wonder how long the Royal Variety Performance can last. Variety was supposed to be dead when I was a lad in the late 70s, so it must be positively decomposing now.

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The wonderful Celeste starred in The Royal Variety Performance this week

It’s the ultimate shiny floor show – complete with dancing girls, dinner-jacketed trombonists and middle of the road music acts.

Opening star Gary Barlow, for example, is the very definition of a white line – not the rock’n’roll kind, the middle of the A6 kind. It makes you wonder what alchemy occurs when he’s in the studio with Howard and Mark, because the Take That magic vanishes when he’s left to his own devices.

And yet, just as you were about to switch over, along came Celeste and her wonderful voice, or the effervescent acrobats, the Black Blues Brothers, even Steps entertained, dressed as disco pirates from outer space.

They say the show must go on, and it was a remarkable achievement just to get this up and running safely, a reminder how hard this industry has been hit by the Covid pandemic, and heaven knows it’s an industry that needs our support. Because a life without laughter, music, drama and dance is a life without variety – and that’s no life at all.

So let’s hope the RVP returns in all its glory in 2021.

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