When the West End and Broadway Came Together for Christmas
This week I was thinking about a holiday special that ran on Britain’s ITV that captured the beauty and spectacle of musical theatre in the late 1980s. Save the Children was the name of the program, and the piece was created as a benefit for the Save the Children Foundation, an organization dedicated to make the lives better for children the world over. It brought together the stars and casts of the West End and Broadway musicals that were the hits of the day, and, with the performers in costume and playing on the impressive sets of their respective shows, they sang beloved Christmas carols with a splendor and glory that stuck with this Broadway enthusiast for three decades.
Yesterday, I decided to search for that Save the Children concert of 1988 on YouTube, and glory be, I actually found it. The casts of Les Misérables, Cats, Miss Saigon, Me and My Girl, Starlight Express, Aspects of Love, and Chess perform. The special is hosted by Michael Crawford and the whole thing concluded with an infectious earworm called “Save the Children” that is reminiscent of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World,” but in this case it is musical theatre stars singing the heartfelt number.
Here is the list of the performances from the Save the Children concert. The order may be incorrect as I have found at least three different edited versions. Your guess is as good as mine:
The cast of Les Miserables: “Ding Dong Merrily on High!” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”
Paul Nicholas: “Away in a Manger”
Colm Wilkinson: “The Winter Boy”
Lon Satton and the cast of Starlight Express: “Happy Christmas”
Jonathan Pryce, Lea Salonga and the cast of Miss Saigon: “Silent Night”
The cast of Aspects of Love: “Silver Bells”
The cast of Cats: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Claire Moore, Michael Ball and the cast of The Phantom of the Opera: “When a Child Is Born”
Sarah Brightman: “In the Bleak Mid-Winter”
The cast of Chess: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
David Essex: “Christmas”
Elaine Paige: “Ave Maria”
Bonnie Langford and the Cast of Me and My Girl: “White Christmas”
Stephanie Lawrence: “The Most Wonderful Birthday of All”
Frances Ruffelle: “I Watch You Sleeping”
The cast of Follies: “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Michael Crawford: “Let’s Pretend”
Stars of Broadway and the West End: “Save the Children”
I have found a few different videos for your to peruse. One of them is just a compilation of the musical numbers as they were performed for the benefit. The second video, is what aired on television, with some of the numbers inexplicably edited out. I have found very little written about this special, so if anyone knows more and would care to share details, I would be most grateful. However, I think my readers will love to see them. No, it isn’t Broadway music, but it is musical theatre performers in the costumes and on the sets of some iconic musicals, and I think what it offers in talent and visually will be enough to win you over.
Now, without further adieu, here are the two videos of which I speak.