Jo Castle Meets Danny La Rue O.B.E

Jo Castle meets Danny La Rue O.B.E

The Best of British Cabaret comes to the Costas!

Rarely do you get the opportunity to see one of the pillars of the British cabaret circuit live on stage anywhere these days, so it was a double privilege to see the World Famous Danny La Rue perform his sell-out extravaganza at Benidorm Palace and get to interview him as well.

The show focuses on Danny's life, with the young Danny played by Jerry Lane (an outstanding performance) depicting the early years of Danny's life. The second half played by the great man himself brought back memories of his classic stage and TV shows I remember from my youth.

 The show was everything you might expect from this legendary performer - classic hits, audience participation and flawless execution. At 80, having had some serious health scares recently, Danny's still got it!!

The show is based on Danny's life in the entertainment industry over the past 60 years, from his first appearance as Dolly Levi in the "Good Old Days" - a run which lasted a staggering 18 years.
Modern day female impersonators like Matt Lucas from Little Britain and Paul O'Grady's Lily Savage owe a great debt to Danny for their careers, without whom perhaps their stars wouldn't have shone so bright.
I remember watching Danny as a young girl on the TV show "The Good Old Days" and my grandfather commenting that "Danny is all woman in every department". A similar comment was made by my husband when he first saw Boy George on Top of the Pops, which just goes to confirm my suspicion that men are basically thick!

The best bit of course was meeting Danny in the flesh. A delightfully youthful and quick-witted Danny took the time to tell me some of his stories from his years in the business. "Bob Hope called me the 'best dressed woman in the world!'" and it's easy to see why, with each outfit handmade having each sequin and feather sewn on in a painstaking, meticulous ritual by Anne, his loyal seamstress for the past 36 years and a close confidant - "the dresses cost anything up to £15,000 a piece" - far more than the average Posh Spice frock these days, and far classier too. I was pleased to hear that Danny has kept every single dress and will be auctioning off his collection early next year to raise money for various charities.

 During his 60 years in showbiz Danny has achieved worldwide sell-out performances, including over 30 Royal Variety performances forging close friendships with the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret in the process. He is best friends with Barbara Windsor ("'Peg' to her friends") and the rest of his address book reads like a who's who of the entertainment business. Not surprising considering the seven major musicals, record-breaking summer seasons and fifty-three pantomimes under his belt yet he's still going strong. "I feel like I have the stamina of a young man and I firmly believe that music keeps you young".  Not content with notching up some unbeaten records still standing today, he has also received numerous prestigious awards such as the Brinsworth award for outstanding contribution in the entertainment industry and of course his most treasured award, an OBE in 2002 - "A day that I will always remember".  
Danny's talent and generous streak has bought him fame and fortune as well as some unsavoury moments in his life, but he remains upbeat and philosophical about his relationships "It doesn't matter who you have known through your life it's who remains"
Danny has had the most dazzling career and I asked him if he could sum up his life in one short sentence  'I did my best' popular consensus is that Danny did more than his best he triumphed the world of show business and is a highly respected entertainer throughout the industry. He is without doubt British heritage!

 A dear friend of Danny's is Jerry Lane who created the show 'Hello Danny' and bought the production to the Benidorm Palace.  Months of blood, sweat and tears went behind the production and the calibre of the entertainers involved would most certainly suit the west end stage and hopefully the show will be considered for the future.  From a young age Jerry's aspirations were to be the next Danny La Rue and if truth be told Jerry is not far off this mean feat.  His uncanny resemblance and voice precedes him and his 30 yrs in the business has seen him appearing in front of the cameras on countless occasions which has led to West End theatre roles in productions such as 'Oliver' and 'Anything Goes' to name a few. His wealth of experience on the stage as well as in front of the camera is endless.  On the night he delivered an unforgettable performance with precision and professionalism and is certainly old school when it comes to his delivery and stage presence.  His poise and mannerisms were unmistakably believable and I really felt as though I had gone back in time and was actually watching Danny.  His costumes are all hand made with the same attention to detail as Danny's and with many costume changes in the show.  His most elaborate dress of the evening was a pink sequined dress with a 7 metre train of pink feathers and encrusted jewels absolutely breathtaking. It was feathers and fur galore!
It is no surprise to learn that Jerry with his professional production team will be presenting more shows throughout 2008 with repeat performances of his sell out variety show 'Palladium Nights' which presents one hundred years of variety at the London Palladium.  Jerry's choice of cast was versatile though one lady struck a chord with me and that was Wendy Manfield.  She reminded me of Liza Manelli in her hey day. Her contagious enthusiasm on the stage and powerful voice were just outstanding and truly this lady belongs in the West End theatre.

There were many people involved in this production without whom the show would not have been possible and I think I speak for everyone in saying a BIG thank you for bringing us such a spectacular show and public opinion (who were queuing down into the car park, which is a first for Benidorm Palace) was to deliver more variety to the Costas.

Congratulations Danny, Jerry and his production team for a superb show!
Jo Castle

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