gigs: Julie Atherton’s All I Want For Christmas Is An Audience

On the morning of the 8th of December I decided last minute to go and see one of Julie Atherton’s All I Want for Christmas Is An Audience shows that afternoon, and I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made on a Sunday morning.

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of seeing Julie originate the fleshed out character of The French Teacher in Craig Adams’ show Lift, and I was certainly captivated by her performance then, so immediately I knew that she couldn’t disappoint. Really I’m not sure why I didn’t have a ticket already to see one of these shows that she held at the St. James Theatre on the weekend of the 7th/8th of December, a ridiculous move on my part!

TheatreBench producer Jim Zalles introduced the show, briefly talking about how he first came across Julie while she was performing in Avenue Q and how he immediately loved her. Julie was then welcomed onto the stage with great applause, to which she then sang Jason Robert Brown’s Someone To Fall Back On with backing vocalists Susanna Squires and Tegan Edwards. Hilariously after singing this heartfelt song Julie picked out her mum from the audience to let her know that she had the herbs and spices for Christmas in her bag, commenting that “this was a better time than any!” to remind her, easy humour to set a comfortable mood.

Straight from the comedy Julie then mentioned that she’d “been on the dating scene… Cringe.” before singing a song that I’ve never heard before and frustratingly can’t find online (hopefully a video of it is posted!). I’m assuming it’s entitled Leave and talks of a woman wanting a man to leave after the night they’ve spent together, listing all the reasons he needs to leave because there’s washing to do, people to call etc, before he then wants to leave and then she decides she wants him to stay. Acted out by Julie with her brilliant facial expressions was fantastic! After this she discussed how she’d been asked what Christmas songs would be in her show, to which she realised there were none. With many crazy excuses and trying to make irrelevant links to Christmas and her songs she finally admitted that actually, there wasn’t anything Christmas-related in the gig, but I’m sure we were all fine with that as long as she was singing!

Pulling back from the comedy, Julie sang Wait a Bit from the musical Just So which is based on the Rudyard Kipling stories. It was a really beautiful song and proved the versatility Julie has. Following this she invited her ‘stage husband’ Paul Spicer up onto the stage to join her in singing Company by Benedict which was simply stunning. Shaking it up again and drifting away from the ballad-style, Julie sang the hilarious His Name from the musical Piece, where a girl completely forgets a lover’s name.

A project Julie’s recently been working on is a musical called Mrs Gucci, so she treated us to a gorgeous song from the show called My Place while also divulging some information about the show before singing it. I’m thoroughly intrigued by the concept for this show so shall be keeping an eye out on the progress of it! She followed this with a song from the show I first saw her in, Lift’s Lost in Translations. Ten months after the show finished it’s month long run at the Soho Theatre and she still completely nails it, I admit I had tears.

Closing the act on a high note, Julie brilliantly sang My Simple Christmas Wish, all comments of no Christmas songs before were apparently a trick! However as this song is alternatively titled Rich, Famous and Powerful, you might be able to guess that this song isn’t exactly about Christmas… However it’s still a hilarious song that on this afternoon was sung very much with an air of diva that I loved. It left us laughing into the interval with the lyrics firmly stuck in our heads.

To start the second act Tori Amos’ Winter was hauntingly performed smoothly fitting with the theme you may have thought the afternoon would hold. Julie then introduced Hayley Sanderson onto the stage to perform a song with her, from Dougal Irvine’s show The Busker’s Opera which is currently being penned. The duet I’m guessing is titled I’m Sad and is a quirky comedic number of two girls comparing the troubles in their life and arguing who is ‘more sad’, a fantastic duet to lighten the mood. Julie then kept with the hilarity to sing Irvine’s Do You Want a Baby Baby? which I’ve heard before at a cabaret and it was still as laughter-inducing as before. I think it also brought the total number of different accents Julie had used in song up to 4? Impressive.

Going back to another show she’s been in, Julie sang Fine Fine Line from Avenue Q, and despite a lack of puppet to tell the story through it was a gorgeous rendition that I’ve never actually heard before! So I’m grateful to have heard it first from Julie.

She then introduced onto the stage her niece and the band she’s part of who are The Vanquish Girls to the stage where they then sang Damn, their new single that’ll be out next February. They’re certainly not the generic girl band, mixing four very different voices together and making it really work. I thought their performance was great, I’ve got a feeling they’ll do well for themselves which is fantastic to see young people making their stead in the industry.

Julie then returned to the stage to sing I’ll Be Here from Ordinary Days, and soon had my heart feeling like it was split in two with this emotion-tugging song. It talks of a woman whose husband died and therefore she struggles with being proposed to later on in life, but gradually towards the end shows her being able to accept that her deceased partner will be ok with her moving on. Impacting lyrics and Julie’s beautiful vocals certainly made it difficult to not be emotionally moved.

Picking up the mood and preventing us from feeling incredibly sad for too long, she then sang her own song Portrait of a Princess which I loved.  The brilliance of it cannot be put into words properly. Just watch it. After having pretended to finish the concert, Julie returned for an encore of The Life I Never Led from Sister Act, leaving us all thoroughly impressed.

I’m absolutely thrilled I went to this concert, not only were some fantastic songs performed but Julie is just such a likeable and humble person it’s a pleasure to see her perform. She has an incredible voice and truly captivates an audience’s attention, and I’m glad her Christmas wish of definitely having an audience came true.

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