John Inman Tribute Show, 30 Sept. 2007

When we first heard there was to be a charity tribute show for John, we knew we should go.  After struggling with the financial implications for about five minutes, we came to the conclusion that there would be no better way for us to directly pay our respects to John and the charities he loved so well. 

Upon arriving at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, we were directed to the 3rd row of the stalls.  We bumped our way past Tif, a British ex-pat now residing in Virginia.  The stage was bare but for musicians' equipment and a large hanging portrait of John in his King Rat regalia from 1993.  We chatted with Tif while waiting for the show to begin and discovered he was a big fan.  (Don't be surprised if he shows up in internet fan circles soon). 

We gave a donation and received a beautiful program, which Evey has scanned to the AYBS? message board.  Please check them out!
 

Act One opened with Wendy Richard, sporting a new short 'do and simple black dress, as she welcomed us all and introduced the first comic of the evening, Mr. Johnnie Casson.  His routine was themed mainly on his married life and quick one-liners.  Our Wendy then returned to offer a bit o' culture in the form of Mr. Lee Bradley, a talented young man from Preston, John's birthplace.  Lee wowed the audience with his powerful renditions of "Funiculi Funicula" and Puccini's immortal "Nessun Dorma."  There wasn't a dry eye in the house when he then turned and bowed to John's portrait. 

Enter Trevor Bannister, greeted with thunderous applause.  He introduced Mr. Johnny More, a veteran performer who, sporting a gray hairpiece, gave a spirited Frank Sinatra impersonation with "The Lady is a Tramp," and "New York."  The next performer was Ms. Rose-Marie.  She entered wearing a black miniskirt and denim vest.  Rhinestones on her belt proclaimed, "I'm sexy."  She rocked out to two tunes, then introduced "that nice Mr. Walpole from Sports," Jess Conrad., who entered to the strains of the 20th Century Fox fanfare, complete with searchlights.  Mr. Conrad

sang more than one song and was picked on mercilessly by the other performers all night!

The finale of the first act was Mr. Danny LaRue, who appeared on stage not in makeup and a frock, but in a tuxedo with a gilded vest.  He reminisced of his great friendship with John and mentioned how much Judy Garland admired John's work.  He also spoke of how great a friend Liberace was to them both.  He told a story at Ron's request, of how at a function one evening, he was pressed to sing one of his favourites from "Hello, Dolly."  John leaned over to Ron and said, "Blimey, he's going to sing the entire score."  Danny then closed the first act by singing, "The Best of Times is Now," and "Over the Rainbow," then finished with a salute to John's portrait by saying, "Love and miss you, John."

 

Act Two opened with the entrance of the current King Rat of the Grand Order of Water Rats, Mr. Kaplan Kaye, who described the mission of the Water Rats and how John became involved with the group. 

After his exit, Frank Thornton entered, strolling slowly to center stage, all the while giving the audience his best Captain Peacock "You're all in big trouble" look.  He received quite an ovation for just that, without even saying a single word.  He wasn't even wearing his red carnation!  He introduced us to a quartet called, "The Four Fivers," who sang Barry Manilow's "One Voice."  They were followed immediately by Mr. Craig Douglas, who sang his 1959 hit, "Only Sixteen." 

Jean Ferguson then took the stage to recite a poem she had composed for the occasion.  She described how John always had a witty remark or unflattering comment about her wardrobe, which became a merry game between the two of them.  She introduced Adrian Walsh, a side-splittingly funny Irish comedian who poked fun at everything from Bluetooth users to body piercing. 

Then Sir Henry Cooper, OBE, KSG entered and introduced Julie Rogers, who sang, "I Am What I Am," in a strapless, white, sequined gown with a slit up to THERE. 

Frank then returned to introduce the longest set of the evening for actor/comic Bobby Davro, who stole Johnny More's toupee to perform his own Frank Sinatra impression, even singing along with a badly damaged record.  The act is difficult to describe but was very funny.  Jess Conrad was the butt of several of his jokes. 

The cast returned to the stage for a final bow, featuring Maurice Merry and his orchestra, reprising "The Best of Times is Now," to which the cast succumbed to a kickline. 

Dinner at the New Mayflower Chinese Restaurant after the show:  41.

Taxi Ride back to the Best Western on Belgrave Road:  9.50.

Seeing nine British legends on-stage dedicating their talent for the evening to the remembrance of another: Priceless.

Good thing we had a Visa card.

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