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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke


🎭 That'll Be The Day: Christmas Show

📍 Princess Theatre, Torbay Road, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 5EZ

🗓 Sunday 27th November 2022



The juggernaut of touring productions That'll Be The Day is currently performing its annual Christmas production at theatres around the UK and on Sunday they brought this festive delight to Torquay's Princess Theatre.

From the moment the band starts playing the overture, which this year is I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, the party atmosphere is the theatre skyrockets and never lets up throughout. The band is made up of Mark Street on drums, Phil Hollender on keys, Ollie Gray on Lead Guitar, Jarrod Loughlin on bass and Clive Fishlock on everything else!

Led from the front by show creator and producer Trevor Payne, the frontline of Gary Anderson, Nikki Renee Hechavarria, Peter John Jackson and Beccy Brennan explode onto the stage with a rock and roll Christmas medley which would send the festive spirit straight into the heart of any Scrooge!

As with their regular show, the Christmas production is re-written every year to give audiences a fresh, new show each time. The show always starts with a Juke Box Jury piece in which the audience is asked to be the jury and vote the songs hits or misses.

This was kicked off by Anderson with his rendition of What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For and was completed by Hechavarria and Brennan giving us All Alone on Christmas, with musical chameleon Fishlock on saxophone.

Production Image: Beccy Brennan sandwiched beween Steptoe and Son!

Anderson is a master of impressions and he enters the stage as Harold Steptoe with comedy partner Payne as Albert. The two have worked together for 35 years and their comedy timing is spot-on and they are a joy to watch. Payne gives us Albert Steptoe's unique version of The Christmas Alphabet and the two are hilarious as they perform ballet as Laurel and Hardy!

Payne also gives us a very unexpected moment in Act 2! I won't mention the specifics here as the element of surprise really adds to the moment, but it had the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter!

Payne is uncanny when he performs as Cliff Richard and he sings Mistletoe and Wine as it snows on stage and the entire audience wave torches and the auditorium looks festive and magical.

Production Image: Cliff at Christmas

The backbone of That'll Be The Day is Rock 'n' Roll, and we're treated to a Cavern Christmas Party which is bookended by The Beatles. Jackson as Paul McCartney and Loughlin as John Lennon are uncannily close to the originals. Close your eyes and it could really be the Beatles up on the stage.

This section includes the entire cast with Hechavarria performing My Boy Lollipop, Brennan singing Warm This Winter and Payne giving us You Were Made for Me. This section also includes Anderson as Gerry Marsden who performs a stunning version of You'll Never Walk Alone.

Gray steps forwards and gives us a masterclass of musicianship as he plays the novelty track Sabre Dance, backed by the rest of the band, and receives huge applause.

This production is a mixture of one-off songs and small production pieces. Each year Payne tries to give the audience something different and this year we're treated to a reggae medley in which Louglin gives a superb rendition of Red Red Wine and Hechavarria closes with When a Child is Born.

Hechavarria has been a part of the production since 2008 and is a real fan favourite. Her energy and personality shines on the stage and she performs big songs with seemingly effortless ease. This Christmas we're treated to her version of Mary's Boy Child and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) and she is phenomenal performing Do You Hear What I Hear? as Whitney Houston.

Production Image: Nikki Renee Hechavarria with her trademark smile

My absolute favourite Christmas album of all time is A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector and Act 1 closes with a medley of songs from this album which involves the entire company.

You can feel the buzz in the auditorium during the interval and you can tell that the audience is having a great time and looking forward to what's to come.

Act 2 opens with a huge production piece which features The Blues Brothers who are spending Christmas behind bars. With Payne and Anderson as Jake and Elwood, they kick off with Jailhouse Rock and the audience are dancing in their seats!

This piece features some of my favourite performances of the night including Fishlock performing Minnie the Moocher and then duetting with Brennan on Fairytale of New York and Hechavarria and Jackson singing Ain't No Mountain High Enough.

Production Image: The Blues Brothers rocking the jailhouse at Christmas!

Jackson is a real vocal chameleon and changes not only his voice but his whole physicality as he portrays some of the biggest music stars throughout the production. This year we're treated to him as Elvis singing If I Can Dream, as Gene Pitney singing Backstage and as Frankie Valli in a festive Four Seasons tribute. He also gave an epic performance of Love Is All Around as Marti Pellow. He sounded so much like Pellow that at first I thought I was listening to the actual recording, it was that good.

His stand-out performance for me however was when he entered the stage as Freddie Mercury. Performing a medley of Queen hits including Thank God It's Christmas, Jackson blew the roof off the theatre and the audience reaction was insane.

Jackson will be leading sister-show McCartney: The Songbook when it tours in June 2023 alongside Loughlin, Street, Gray and Lars Pluto and we were treated to a sneak peak as they performed Silly Love Songs.

Production Image: Peter John Jackson as Elvis

The newest cast member is Brennan. She only joined the show in the summer but she has already established herself as an integral part of the company. She has a wonderful singing voice and treated us to great renditions of All I Want For Christmas Is You, Marshmallow World and Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree.

Elvis makes and appearance again in Act 2, but this time it's Anderson portraying the King in his Vegas era. This is a comedy piece with his two backing groups The Sweet Inspirations and The Jordanaires hilariously thwarting his attempts to sing! When finally able to perform, Anderson gives an utterly convincing rendition of Blue Christmas.

As well as being an accomplished comedian and impressionist, Anderson has a fantastic singing voice and his powerful velvet smooth vocals are used throughout. I especially enjoyed listening to him singing The Bells of St Mary.

Towards the end of Act 2 we're treated to the Top of the Pops countdown of the nations favourite Christmas songs which includes Street stepping out from behind his drums to perform Last Christmas and Loughlin coming forward for a fantastic rendition of Driving Home for Christmas.

Production Image: We Are The Champions!

The finale is a real Christmas party and the entire audience were up on their feet and dancing in the aisles to songs such as Winter Wonderland, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells.

One things for sure, That'll Be The Day is full of the feel-good factor and for the three hours they perform, it's like all your worries are forgotten and the audience is having the time of their lives.

This show is fun for everyone from ages 8 - 80 and it's ever-growing fan base of loyal followers keep coming back for more. Now in its 37th year of continuous touring, I highly recommend this show to everyone. It's the best tonic you could have!

That'll Be The Day continues it's Christmas tour at venues across the UK until 19th December, with two dates in Malta squeezed in too! In January they revert back to their 'normal' show which is touring until July 2024, when the production undergoes its annual re-write and hits the road again from August.

You can find all tour dates at where you can also book tickets, buy merchandise, find cast bios and leave a message on the virtual guest book!

The show returns to the Princess Theatre on 1st July 2023 and tickets are on sale now!

Neill Kovacic-Clarke

All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.


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