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The Royal Variety Performance 2023

Few events on our national calendar bring the glamour quite like the Royal Variety Performance (RVP). A star-studded evening of music, comedy, and well… variety, with the Royal Albert Hall as an impressive backdrop.

The RVP has been going for more than a century, making it the ‘longest-running entertainment show in the world’, and with last year’s show reaching a global audience of over 150 million people, it is the most successful too.

This year’s show was hosted by veteran TV presenter Bradley Walsh and headlined by international pop icon Cher, who debuted her new single DJ Play a Christmas Song while bringing the festivities to an end as she closed the show.

Ticket holders were treated to an array of top-notch performances from West End extraordinaire Hannah Waddingham, British pop-rock band McFly, Swedish singer/songwriter Zara Larsson, and 80s legend Rick Astley, who has just recently released a new studio album.

With 2023 marking 100 years of Disney, five shows from the West End united, including The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Hercules, and Aladdin, bringing together an entirely unique spectacle in tribute.

A full list of the performers can be found here.

Royal Variety Charity

Each year, the performance is held in aid of the Royal Variety Charity, raising vital funds for those who have worked in the entertainment industry.

Despite the world of showbiz appearing exciting from the outside and being a prestigious career path to go down, many of its workers can find themselves in financial insecurity, often working from job to job with little thought to their future if they suddenly fall ill.

A survey commissioned in 2015 found that only 4% of those working in the industry are considered ‘above-average UK earners’.

The charity operates by paying pensions, offering grants and loans for those suffering financial hardship, maintaining a nursing home for retired performers, and paying funeral expenses.

Brinsworth House is the care home run by the charity, and it has just recently undergone a 3-year renovation. The latest additions to the home include a lift to connect all three floors, a new hair salon, and en-suite bathrooms in all bedrooms.

The refurbishment plans were designed by Mikhail Pietranek, who sought to make the place resemble a 5-star boutique hotel while also paying homage to its residents’ theatrical past.

A Century of Royal Attendees

The show traces back to 1912, when King George V and Queen Mary attended a one-off performance titled The Royal Command Performance at the Palace Theatre in London. It only became an annual event in 1921, with Their Majesties becoming Patrons of the Royal Variety Charity, cementing their unyielding support for those working in the entertainment industry.

Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was the most featured attendee, appearing at the show 39 times, with her final attendance in 2012, the year of her Diamond Jubilee and ten years before her death. The charity described the late Queen as ‘an enthusiastic supporter’ and was ‘honoured’ to have her presence across eight decades.

The Prince and Princess of Wales attended this year for the fifth time, alongside Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, who were both on an official visit to the UK.

The show has a strict dress code that all ticket holders must adhere to, with guests asked to wear either a black tie or an evening dress. Princess Catherine dazzled in a teal and diamond gown by Safiyaa, while Princess Victoria opted for a sleek Toteme dress, accessorising with black and gold jewellery.

King Charles is yet to attend the event as King, last attending in 2016 as Prince of Wales with his wife, the former Duchess of Cornwall. Last year, the now-Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh made their debut as the show paid tribute to the late Queen, its Patron of 70 years.     

Icons through the Years

Due to its longevity, the RVP has seen many an A-Lister grace its stage. During the 1960s, when ‘Beatlemania’ was sweeping the globe, The Beatles headlined the show, singing a four-song set and finishing with their upbeat bop Twist and Shout.

A news commentator at the time said: ‘Never in all my years of observing Royal Variety audiences, have I known this usually starch, on their best behaviour audience, unbend so quickly and completely.’ The band’s performance was a roaring triumph, reaching a viewership of 21.2 million.

In 1972, the Jackson 5 made an appearance, becoming a big hit with the audience and delighting Motown fans up and down the country. Michael Jackson later wrote about the group’s excitement to perform in front of the Queen, ‘I had seen photographs of other groups, like The Beatles, meeting the Queen after command performances, but I never dreamed we’d get the chance to play for her.’

From Aretha Franklin to Lady Gaga, One Direction to the Spice Girls, and Tommy Cooper to Morecambe and Wise, the RVP has been host to them all.

How to watch

The Royal Variety Performance 2023 took place on the 30th of November, and viewers in the UK can watch it on ITV on Sunday, the 17th of December, at 8 p.m. For international viewers, more information will be released in due course.

Photo credit: ITV


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