Royal Variety Performance
- For a general description of performances for the monarch, see Royal Command Performance.
|Royal Variety Performance|
|Also known as||Royal Command Performance|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||84 (List of episodes)|
|Original channel||BBC One
|Original run||1912, 1919, 1921–23, 1925–28, 1930–38, 1945–55, 1957 – present|
The Royal Variety Performance is a gala evening held annually in the United Kingdom, which is attended by senior members of the British Royal Family, usually the reigning monarch. The reigning monarch either attends in person or is represented by another member of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales have alternately attended the performance for the last few years. The evening's performance is a variety show consisting of family entertainment, including comedy, singing, dancing, magic and other speciality acts, and many of the performers and hosts are celebrities. The event is organised on behalf of the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund of which Queen Elizabeth II is patron. All proceeds are donated to the fund.
The performance is broadcast on television and is considered by many to be a tradition of the Christmas season, as it is held in late November or early December each year. ITV is now the sole broadcaster, having shared that responsibility with the BBC from 1986 to 2010.
The first performance, on 1 July 1912, was called the Royal Command Performance, and this name has persisted informally for the event. This was held in the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, in the presence of King George V and Queen Mary. After correspondence with Sir Edward Moss the King said he would command a Royal Variety show in his Coronation Year 1911, provided the profits went to the Variety Artistes' Benevolent Fund, as the EABF was then known. It was planned to be in the Empire Theatre, Edinburgh, part of the vast Moss Empires group, but the building went on fire a month before the show. After the death of Sir Edward Moss, Alfred Butt was chosen as the impresario and it was staged in 1912. This was a lavish occasion, and his London Palace Theatre was lavishly decorated, complete with some 3 million rose petals.
Top performers included Vesta Tilley, George Robey, David Devant, Anna Pavlova (ballerina), Harry Lauder and Cecilia Loftus. The organisers did not invite Marie Lloyd, because of a professional dispute. Her act was deemed too risqué and her three public, unsuccessful marriages made her unfit to perform in front of royalty. She held a rival performance in a nearby theatre, which she advertised was "by command of the British public". The name of the event was changed to prevent possible royal embarrassment. The Royal Variety became an annual event at the suggestion of King George V from 1921 and the British Broadcasting Corporation began to broadcast it on radio.[when?]
From 1928 through to 1938, the impresario/producer and manager of the London Palladium, George Black, took over the presentation of the Royal Variety Performance. He would also facilitate as compere at the shows. His first production was held on 1 March 1928 at the London Coliseum and from 1930 to 1937 he held the shows at the London Palladium. His 1938 show returned to the London Coliseum. Throughout WW2 from 1939 - 1944 no shows were presented. The show resumed in 1945 after WW2 ended.
From 1960 to 1975, ITV broadcast a recorded version of the show, switching to live broadcasts in 1976. From 1986 until 2010, production and broadcast of the show alternated each year between the BBC and ITV, with the BBC usually staging the show in a West End theatre, and ITV in regional theatres outside London. From 2011, ITV have exclusive rights to televise the show. The show has been frequently staged in the London Palladium theatre, and in the 1950s and 1960s a television show based on the same idea, called Sunday Night at the London Palladium and hosted by many entertainers, including Bruce Forsyth, ran for over 20 years.
Almost every conceivable sort of act has at one time or another been presented to the monarch at the Royal Command Performance, including Laurel and Hardy in 1947, the Beatles in 1963, the Supremes in 1968 and the Blue Man Group in 2005. At the Beatles' show on 4 November 1963, John Lennon delivered a line to the well-heeled audience which has passed into legend: "For our last number I'd like to ask your help: Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewellery ..."
The money raised by the Royal Variety Performance provides most of the funding for Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund and its home, Brinsworth House, a home for retired members of the entertainment profession and their dependants.
After the first Royal Variety Performance on 1 July 1912 presented by Sir Alfred Butt, it was seven years before the next show, on 28 July 1919 held at the Coliseum Theatre presented this time by Sir Oswald Stoll. The orchestra was conducted by Edward Elgar. In 1921 it moved to the Hippodrome, and was held in November. It was the first time that the Royal Variety Performance became an annual event. In 1923 it moved to the Coliseum Theatre. Then after a gap in 1924, moved to the Alhambra Theatre in February 1925, where it remained in 1926, held on 27 May. It was the first Royal Variety Performance to be broadcast, with the BBC providing live radio coverage.
In 1927 there was another move, this time to the Victoria Palace Theatre, with J. A. Webb the compère. The 1928 show, on 13 December, was held at the Coliseum Theatre. The next show, on 22 May 1930, moved to the London Palladium with George Black and Val Parnell compèring. It was the start of seven successive years at the venue.
In 1935 the Royal Variety Performance was held in the Silver Jubilee year of King George V and Queen Mary. This was the last time King George V attended – he died three months later, in January 1936.
There have been two Royal Scottish Variety Performances, both attended by Queen Elizabeth, and presented by Howard & Wyndham Ltd in Glasgow's Alhambra Theatre, which Sir Alfred Butt had opened, in 1958 and 1963.
Britain's Got Talent
A public telephone vote decides the most popular act in each semi-final, which then progresses to the final, along with a second act chosen by the judges. The grand final is then broadcast live and all the acts perform again for the public vote.
- 2007: Paul Potts – pop opera tenor
- 2008: George Sampson – street dancer
- 2009: Diversity – street dance group
- 2010: Spelbound – gymnastics squad
- 2011: Jai McDowall – singer
- 2012: Ashleigh and Pudsey – musical canine freestyle
- 2013: Attraction – shadow theatre group
- 2014: Collabro — singing group
There have been a total of 17 theatres that have staged the 81 Royal Variety Performances, and the 1912 Royal Command Performance. Out of the total of 82 shows, 75 have been in London theatres and seven in other cities and towns.
Note: Where no town or city is noted in the theatre column in the following table, the venue is situated in London.
|London Palladium||40||1930–1937, 1946–1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1957, 1962, 1964–1978, 1980, 1987–1990, 2008, 2010, 2013–14|
|London Coliseum||10||1919, 1923, 1928, 1938, 1945, 1949, 1953, 1958, 2004, 2006|
|Theatre Royal, Drury Lane||7||1979, 1981–1983, 1985–1986, 1991|
|Dominion Theatre||7||1992–1996, 2000–2001|
|Victoria Palace Theatre||6||1927, 1951, 1955, 1960, 1984, 1997|
|Opera House Theatre, Blackpool||2||1955, 2009|
|Prince of Wales Theatre||2||1961, 1963|
|Palace Theatre, London||1||1912|
|Palace Theatre, Manchester||1||1959|
|Edinburgh Festival Theatre||1||2003|
|Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff||1||2005|
|Liverpool Empire Theatre||1||2007|
|The Lowry, Salford Quays, Salford||1||2011|
|Royal Albert Hall||1||2012||100th Anniversary|
Royal Family attendance
A total of 15 members of the Royal Family have attended the 86 Royal Variety Performances, and the 1912 Royal Command Performance.
|Queen Elizabeth II||37||1949, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955 (Blackpool), 1955 (London), 1957, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964–65, 1967, 1969–71, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989–90, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012|||
|Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother||26||1937–38, 1945–51, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991|||
|The Duke of Edinburgh||25||1953–55 (Blackpool & London), 1957–58, 1960, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1985, 1987, 1989–90, 1993, 1997, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012|
|King George V||15||1912, 1919, 1921–23, 1925–28, 1930–35|
|Queen Mary||15||1912, 1919, 1921–23, 1925–28, 1930–35|
|Charles, Prince of Wales||12||1968, 1977, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013|
|King George VI||8||1937–38, 1945–50|
|Princess Margaret||4||1949, 1951, 1968, 1990|
|Duchess of Cornwall||3||2006, 2008, 2010, 2013|
|Anne, Princess Royal||2||1968, 2011|||
|Prince William, Duke of Cambridge||1||2014|
|Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge||1||2014|
|Diana, Princess of Wales||1||1992|
|Earl of Snowdon||1||1968|
|Queen Maud of Norway||1||1922|
Ratings sourced from BARB.
|20 December 1998||11.24||BBC1||N/A|
|4 December 1999||10.60||ITV||41.0%|
|17 December 2000||7.92||BBC1||N/A|
|28 November 2001||11.55||ITV||47.0%|
|15 December 2002||8.19||BBC1||30.9%|
|26 November 2003||8.56||ITV||36.8%|
|15 December 2004||6.60||BBC1||31.0%|
|11 December 2005||9.82||ITV||36.8%|
|12 December 2006||7.98||BBC1||33.7%|
|9 December 2007||7.78||ITV||27.2%|
|17 December 2008||7.75||BBC1||31.7%|
|16 December 2009||9.56||ITV||37.4%|
|16 December 2010||8.90||BBC1||33.0%|
|14 December 2011||7.61^1||ITV||29.2%|
|3 December 2012||9.24^2||ITV||33.7%|
|9 December 2013||8.30^3||ITV||31.3%|
|8 December 2014||7.64^4||ITV||28.7%|
- 1 6.75 million on ITV, 564,000 on ITV HD and 293,000 on ITV +1.
- 2 8.05 million on ITV, 767,000 on ITV HD and 422,000 on ITV +1.
- 3 7.07 million on ITV, 832,000 on ITV HD and 398,000 on ITV +1.
- 4 6.31 million on ITV, 919,000 on ITV HD and 413,000 on ITV +1
- Delfont, Bernard (November 1989). Curtain Up!: Story of the Royal Variety Performance. Robson Books Ltd. ISBN 0-86051-629-6.
- Woodward, Christopher (3 April 2009). The London Palladium: The Story of the Theatre and Its Stars. Jeremy Mills Publishing. ISBN 1-906600-39-2.
- Graeme Smith (2011) Alhambra Glasgow ISBN 978-0955942-01-3
- "1912, London Palace Theatre". Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
- Attended in 1949 as Princess Elizabeth.
- Attended as Queen Elizabeth between 1937 and 1951 and as The Queen Mother from 1959 onward
- Originally Her Majesty The Queen was due to attend the 2011 show, but plans were altered.