Well here we are into the last few months of the year – where has 2015 gone?? It seems like only yesterday it was the New Year and I was getting ready for some concerts in Ireland. What great fun we had there as always – it must be the Guinness! So lovely to see so many familiar faces – all so very loyal of you, I really appreciate it.
After I’d packed away all the tour clothes I was invited to spend a week at La Manga Club Resort in Spain. This wonderful tennis centre has recently been re-appointed as the official winter training base of Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association. Located in the heart of La Manga Club, there are 28 courts in a choice of clay, AstroTurf or hard surfaces, so as you can imagine I was a little excited to say the least and spent a week playing tennis!
Then on April 23rd the film of my 50th Anniversary, I’m Still Here, was shown to cinemas across the UK, Ireland and Europe. What an exciting night that was! Not only was the film screened, but following we went ‘live’ from Hedsor House in Hertfordshire. My pal Richard E Grant interviewed me and I also sang three songs I love, but sadly couldn’t include in the concert due to running time so I thought it an ideal time to add them in at the end of the interview. The film then went on to be screened across the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to name but a few! Keep an eye for an announcement regarding the DVD coming out soon!!
And staying with my favourite pastime I then took myself over to Florida at Easter to watch the Miami Masters Tennis and try as he might Andy Murray just couldn’t quite beat Djokovic in the final. It was a spectacular match with Murray giving as good as he got in the first two sets only to see Djokovic take command in the latter stages. Thrilling!
On the way back home I stopped off in New York to catch Finding Neverland, the Broadway musical adaption of the film of the same name starring Glee’s Matthew Morrison and I also saw my pal Kristen Chenoweth in On The 20th Century – which I have to say was one of my favourite performances of the year along with our very own Imelda Staunton in Gypsy! What a tour de force – I was exhausted at the end of the performance so goodness knows how she feels. It was extraordinary!
Gypsy of course was written by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim and I was thrilled to be invited by the Stephen Sondheim Society to be one of judges for the Student Performer of the Year and The Stiles & Drewe Best New Song Award at the Garrick Theatre on Sunday 17th May. It was great to see so much new talent both performers and writers. Erin Doherty, a 22-year-old from Crawley, Sussex, who was in her final term at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School took the £1,000 top prize with ‘Broadway Baby’ and Darren Clark’s new-song entry ‘The Angel at the Top of the Tree’.
Then on 9th May I was so privileged to be part of the VE Day Concert celebration at Horse Guards Parade on The Mall. A truly patriotic and emotional event, which gave me the opportunity to sing that great Vera Lynn classic ‘White Cliffs of Dover.’ And with all the flags waving, the Armed Forces present and of course an enthusiastic audience there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen!
The month of May also saw me being lucky enough to attend another two outings, which I loved. One took me back to my youth, the other is one of my favourite events of the year! On 8th May I went to the Royal Albert Hall to see Genesis founding member Mike Rutherford join forces with Andrew Roachford, and Tim Howar, for a new generation of Mike & The Mechanics. What a great night and so many memories!!
Then ten days later I was at the Chelsea Flower Show. I love going each year and have such a wonderful time. This year my favourite garden was the Laurent Perrier Chatsworth Garden designed by Dan Pearson. A breathtakingly natural and delicately planted show garden with a trout stream, a rockery and interestingly angled walkways. It won my heart and guess what? It won Best Show Garden! The Gold! Glad I have good taste!
It was then time to get myself ready and fly to New York for The 69th Tony Awards on June 7th, which this year for the first time was being broadcast on BBC Radio 2 with yours truly as host. What an exciting and thrilling experience to be there backstage as the awards were actually taking place and grabbing the winners as they came off stage at Radio City Music Hall. In the days leading up to the ceremony I managed to catch up with Helen Mirren, Kristen Chenoweth, and Sting among others and see two new musicals ‘Fun Home’ and ‘An American In Paris’ which I absolutely loved and could have seen again and again!
But before I knew I was back in London helping to put the finishing touches to the Tony programme together with my producer Jessica Rickson which was then aired on Friday 10th June and had fantastic feedback from you all and achieved great listening figures … so hopefully we’ll be doing it all again next year!
Back in the UK I performed at Charterhouse in London at a very special event in aid of Canine Partners, the charity that helps disabled people enjoy greater independence and a better quality of life through the help of specially trained dogs. An incredible evening to be part of and see the wonderful work that is carried out, and I’m thrilled to say that night a new puppy who was about to embark on its training was named ‘Paige’ in my honour!
Before my biggest event of the year (you know what’s coming!!) I saw a great new British musical which opened in London on 24th June – ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ written by Howard Goodall & Charles Hart which is colourful, exciting and romantic with a great cast. Then it was off to the arena at Wembley to see my pal Idina Menzel in concert. What a show and what a voice. Opening with Defying Gravity and ending with Let It Go we certainly didn’t want her to go! A great night.
Then it was …… Wimbledon!! What can I say that you don’t already know. My favourite fortnight every year. I was so lucky to be invited once again to the Royal Box (on 9th June) and I also hosted two lunches for the Dan Maskell Trust, which I am President of, which were a great success. But aside from those special days I managed to get myself there almost every other day! Aside from my weekly BBC radio show everything else is put on hold for Wimbledon Fortnight – I love it! So much so I had to make sure I was on the early train following my concert at the Scarborough Open Air Theatre to make sure I got back before the start of the Men’s Final – an exciting match but sadly my Federer didn’t quite do it but congratulations to Djokovic as he played an outstanding game.
I just mentioned Scarborough and that was one of three out door concerts I did over the summer – the other two being Glamis Castle in Scotland and Lytham St Annes on the North West coast of England. It was an amazing experience and of course so many of you came along – I really do appreciate your support and it always amazes me to see you at every show. And you were all so brave in Scarborough because although we had lovely weather during the day – I know as I spent some time along the sea front visiting the shops, the beach and the arcades – by evening the rain started and half way through my set it was a downpour. But, not only did you all sit there in your rainwear, when I asked if you wanted me to skip the encores so you could leave I was greeted with a resounding “NO!!!”
Luckily the weather in Glamis and Lytham were kinder to us and a fun time was had by all including Susan Boyle who joined me on stage at Glamis Castle for a duet of ‘I Know Him So Well’ and she agreed to sing a solo for us as well. Lovely to see her and sing with her again.
Following my concert in Glamis I was back on a plane to London to see the Divine Miss M in concert at the O2 – yes my dear friend Bette Midler! She is such a hoot! And what a show she put on! I have no idea where she gets all that energy. A whirlwind! Just marvellous!
August also brought with it some incredibly sad news – the sudden death of Cilla Black. What a shock that was and taken from us so early. I had worked with Cilla way back in 1971 when the BBC filmed a version of Aladdin for Christmas Day – I played the Princess to her Aladdin along with Alfred Marks and Roy Castle. We remained friends and I have happy memories of spending time with her in Barbados a couple of Christmases ago, celebrating her 50 years in show business in 2013 at London club ‘Tramps’ and of course bumping into her at numerous theatre first nights. She will be missed.
And the other loss was to the dance world – Jonathan Ollivier who was killed in a motorbike accident just hours before he was about to perform in Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man at Sadler’s Wells theatre. He was only 38 – tragic.
Not wanting to leave you on such sad words I also spent a lot of time out and about this year seeing some really great things:
At the cinema this year I have seen some really fine films which I urge you all to see on dvd if you didn’t get to the cinema to see them – films such as ‘Twenty Feet From Stardom’ a wonderful movie about the career of backing singers some who have become famous others who have not but continue to work; ‘Birdman’ a fantastic film with Michael Keeton in the lead for which he was nominated for an Oscar; ‘Into The Woods’ the screen adaption of Stephen Sondheim’s great musical and a fascinating documentary of the 50’s matinee idol Tab Hunter entitled ‘Tab Hunter Confidential’ which I saw at the National Film Theatre and was lucky to meet the man himself following the screening.
At the theatre: ‘My Night With Reg’ starring the very handsome Julian Ovenden who, along with the rest of the cast gave a great performance; my pal Belinda Lang was in a rip-roaring production of Rogers & Hammerstein’s ‘Oklahoma!’ which I caught in Northampton; the pop up ‘Sweeney Todd’ at the Pie Shop on Shaftsbury Avenue, starring Siobhan McCarthy, which ranks in my top three shows of the year so far, ‘Stevie’ starring Zoe Wannamaker in an extraordinary telling of the life of the poet Stevie Hughes ‘Memphis’ the musical which again was brilliant and finally ‘Bugsy Malone’ which was a wonderful evening of fun and entertainment at the Lyric Hammersmith.
Finally I also went to see ‘The Great Gatsby’ ballet at Sadler’s Wells, ‘Carmina Burana’ at the Royal Ballet and for my birthday I saw ‘Madame Butterfly’ in the round at the Royal Albert Hall all of which were thrilling.
So this last year does to seem to have been extremely full! And its not stopping there … as I write this to you all I am learning my lines for a very exciting project for BBC1 TV – Russell T Davis’ adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night Dream.’ But you’ll have to wait for my next ‘Postcard From Paige’ to hear all about that otherwise I’ll never learn my lines, which will be “such pity my lord.”