Mousetrap Theatre Projects has achieved 21 years of introducing underprivileged children and their families to the wonder of live theatre. To celebrate, there was a hugely enjoyable and appropriately stagey gala produced by Josephine Buchan at the Prince Of Wales Theatre on Sunday. Compèred with camp panache by Christopher Biggins and Harriet Thorpe, this mix of terrific live performances and heartwarming, occasionally deeply moving testimonials, was an evening that wore its huge heart on its sleeve yet was frequently very funny.
The Joe Allen Ushers Chorus was a roof-raising triumph, and a welcome reminder that there is such a wealth of talent working in West End theatre, and not always just on stage. Current West End musicals were represented by glorious trios from Dreamgirls and Mamma Mia, then Samantha Spiro delivered a definitive "Adelaide’s Lament" from Guys And Dolls, which made me want to kick myself for missing her in the role. The crowd-pleasing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" from Opera North’s upcoming revival of Kiss Me, Kate may well have sold a lot of tickets for its summer run at the Coliseum, while Tyrone Huntley, Rachel Tucker and Michael Xavier proved again that they are among the finest theatrical singers the West End has.
Watching big names sending themselves up is always fun, and there was a rather inspired sketch which saw Patricia Hodge and David Suchet auditioning unsuccessfully for The Mousetrap itself. The combination of sardonically weary disembodied director’s voice and hilariously self-absorbed actors was reminiscent of Noises Off, and Hodge and Suchet were a winning team. This section was a delight.
Alongside all the frivolity, there were a number of touchingly heartfelt films demonstrating the excellent work that the Mousetrap Theatre Projects does, proving beyond doubt how important and life-enhancing live theatre is, and that it should be available to all, regardless of income. Mousetrap patrons Alison Steadman, Samuel West, Janie Dee and Clive Rowe read very moving testimonials from people who have benefitted from the charity’s work.
All in all, this was an evening that succeeded superbly in giving everyone a rollicking good time but also ensuring that the focus on the seriously beneficial activities of Mousetrap Theatre Projects was never lost. A joyous, thought-provoking success.