It’s a dark time for theatre, that cannot be denied, but even in times of great trouble and darkness, the theatre industry remains a beacon of light and finds reason to celebrate. After 40 years of working at the stage door, Harry Gabriel is as much a part of the Shaftesbury Theatre as the stage itself. Affectionally known as Uncle Harry to the many who have passed through the door of the theatre, Harry was the centre of attention for this wonderfully put together celebratory concert, full of songs from many of the shows Harry has seen pass through the theatre over the years.
Directed by Giles Terera and produced by Saskia Baylis, Hello Harry! brought together many talented performers including Brenda Edwards, Rachel John, Cedric Neal, Tyrone Huntley, Beverley Knight and Clive Rowe. All of the performances were filmed in isolation, with Giles Terera taking to the stage at the empty Shaftesbury to present the concert, with Fred Atkinson and Vera productions helping with the filming and editing. There were also a number of messages for Harry from many a famous face who have performed at the theatre over the years including Dame Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Eddie Izzard and Chita Rivera.
The performances throughout were brilliant and a joy to experience. Beverley Knight’s vocals never fail to amaze and her performance of ‘Coloured Women’ from Memphis just took me right back to seeing the show in 2014. The cast of the theatre’s current show & Juliet were virtually reunited in a performance of ‘Show Me Love’ and Brenda Edwards blew us away with her powerful rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’, virtually joined by the West End Gospel Choir who provided back up on a number of the performances.
‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ has become a popular song choice during everything that is happening in the world right now and performed by Rachel John here, it was simply beautiful. But, for me, the highlight was Tyrone Huntley and Cedric Neal’s performance of ‘I’ll Cover You’, wonderfully joyful and full of energy. It was also a treat to see Jason Pennycooke dance to ‘Mr Bojangles’.
With the performances and messages brought together, with a number of stories from Harry himself, the entire feel of this well put together was celebratory and fun. It is a true message of love and thanks to Harry who has devoted so much of his life to the theatre and to the many casts who have passed through its doors. You won’t be able to watch this concert without ending up with a big smile on your face, and I have to thank Giles Terera for putting such a great show together, not only marking and celebrating Harry’s anniversary with the theatre, but bring great joy to many a theatre fan.
You can watch the concert here, and if you can please donate to the crowdfunder, raising money for the Black curriculum, Black Lives Matter and Cancer Research