The PR Guru

December 10, 2010

Why do performers always insist on giving one last show-shopping performance, even if they are too ill to do so?

“You can retire….” “Ah, but I’m a hoofer we don’t.” (Julie Walters, Acorn Antiques the musical)
“Isn’t it rich? Isn’t it queer? Losing my timing this late in my career.” (Send in the Clowns, A Little Night Music)

What is it that makes famous performers want to keep appearing on stage when they are approaching/over retiring age? A love for the stage, yes…. An escape from loneliness and boredom, yes…. The chance to bring joy to others, most definitely…. but if they are not capable of delivering the show-stopping moments they once were, surely it is better not to try.

That would seem to be the case with Dame Julie Andrews, who revisited the songs that made her the much-loved sensation she is, with a concert at the O2 called the Gift of Music.

Many fans were disappointed that she spent most of the evening sat on a stool or reading, whilst it was left to supporting acts to take up the challenging vocals.

Yes, she has had failed vocal cord surgery but that only makes you wonder why she would get up there and allow herself to get lots of negative reviews and disappointed customers.

The same thing now applies to her Mary Poppins’ co-star Dick Van Dyke who has been forced to cancel the entire run of his one-man show after injuring himself during a preview performance.

Just as with Julie, he thrilled fans by announcing he would embark on a month-long stint in Step in Time: A Musical Memoir, which would see him perform a collection of his most famous movie numbers.

The gigs were particularly special as the star would have turned 85 years old during the performances.

But the show got off to a bad start when he aggravated an injury to his Achilles tendon.

And a representative for Van Dyke confirmed on Thursday that he has now axed all the scheduled performances at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse.

More successfully though, acting legends Sheila Hancock and Whoopi Goldberg have managed to bring happiness to theatre-goers at the London Palladium, during their time in the musical version of Whoopi’s movie Sister Act.

Also, original Phantom of the Opera, Michael Crawford, showed he still has the same ability to tell a cracking joke when he lit up the stage at The Royal Variety Performance last night – telling theatregoers he was returning to the same stage he did Barnum at because he was such a big hit they’d asked him back. I think he’ll be amazing in The Wizard of Oz. And Take That are also showing that boybands can consist of guys in their 40s and still be a massive success.

So, it can be done, but I think a performer – of any age – should consider whether they are up to the task of putting on a show before stepping into the limelight.

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