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For a general description of performances for the monarch, see Royal Command Performance.

The Royal Variety Performance is a gala evening held annually in the United Kingdommarker, which is attended by senior members of the British Royal Family, usually the reigning monarch. In more recent years Queen Elizabeth II and The Prince of Wales have alternately attended the performance. The performance showcases a variety of family entertainment, including comedy, singing, dance, magic and other speciality acts, with many of the performers and hosts being popular celebrities—a variety show. The event is organised on behalf of the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund of which Queen Elizabeth is patron. All proceeds are donated to the fund.

The performance is televised to the public and is considered by many to be a tradition of the Christmas season, being held late in November, or early in December. The responsibility of producing and broadcasting the performance is shared alternately between the BBC and ITV and it is becoming a tradition for the BBC to stage the performance in Londonmarker's West Endmarker and for ITV to stage it in regional theatres outside of London.

The performance is a New Year's tradition in Norway, where it is broadcast at 00:00 on 1 January. Several other European countries also broadcast the show.

First show

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 Theatremarker, Shaftesbury Avenuemarker, London, in the presence of King George V and Queen Mary. The king said he would attend a once-yearly variety show, provided the profits went to the Variety Artistes' Benevolent Fund, as the EABF was then known. This first staging was a lavish occasion, and the theatre was decorated with 3 million roses draped around the auditorium and over the boxes.

The organisers did not invite Marie Lloyd, one of the most famous music hall artists of the time, because of a professional dispute. Her act was considered too risque and her three public, unsuccessful marriages deemed 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.

Further performances

The show was frequently staged in the London Palladiummarker 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. Television coverage of the royal show itself traditionally alternates each year between the BBC and ITV.

Almost every conceivable sort of act has at one time or another been presented to the monarch at the Royal Command Performance, including 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 Housemarker, a home for retired members of the entertainment profession and their dependants.

List of performances

Where no town or city is noted in the venue column in the following table, it means that the venue is situated in London.

Date Venue Compère Acts Other
13 April 1955 Opera House, Blackpoolmarker Jack Hylton Held in the presence of the HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The first Royal Variety Performance to be held outside of London.
3 November 1958 The Coliseum Theatremarker Not Known Tony Hancock, Frankie Vaughan, Bruce Forsyth, Bernard Bresslaw, Antonio and his Spanish Ballet Company, Roy Castle, Harry Secombe, Hattie Jacques, Victor Silvester and his Ballroom Orchestra, David Nixon, Charlie Drake, Pat Boone, Mantovani, Eartha Kitt, Kenneth More Held in the presence of the HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
22 May 1960 Victoria Palace Theatremarker Bruce Forsyth Max Bygraves, Nat King Cole, Russ Conway, Billy Cotton and his Band, The Crazy Gang, Sonia Rees, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lonnie Donegan, Diana Dors, Jimmy Edwards, Adam Faith, Bud Flanagan, Benny Hill, Robert Horton, Frankie Howerd, Hattie Jacques, Liberace, Vera Lynn, Bob Monkhouse, Cliff Richard & The Shadows, The Tiller Girls, Norman Wisdom and Harry Worth Held in the presence of the HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. ATV television presentation by Bill Ward
12 November 1961 Prince of Wales Theatremarker Bruce Forsyth Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball & The Temperance Seven, Dame Shirley Bassey, Jack Benny, George Burns, Lionel Blair, Max Bygraves, Maurice Chevalier, The Crazy Gang, Sammy Davis Jr, Arthur Haynes, The McGuire Sisters, Morecambe and Wise, Nina & Frederik, Andy Stewart and Frankie Vaughan Held in the presence of HM The Queen and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. ATV television presentation by Bill Ward
29 April 1962 The London Palladiummarker Norman Vaughan The Black and White Minstrels, Rudy Cardenas, Rosemary Clooney, Dickie Henderson, Bob Hope, Edie Adams, Frank Ifield, Eartha Kitt, Cleo Laine, Johnny Dankworth, Cliff Richard & The Shadows, Harry Secombe, Andy Stewart, Sophie Tucker and Mike & Bernie Winters Held in the presence of the HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. BBC television presentation by Duncan Wood
4 November 1963 Prince of Wales Theatremarker Dickie Henderson The Beatles, Wilfrid Brambell, The Clark Brothers, Harry H. Corbett, Marlene Dietrich, Michael Flanders, Donald Swann, Buddy Greco, Dickie Henderson, Joe Loss, Susan Maughan, Nadia Nerina, Los Paraguayos, Pinky and Perky, Harry Secombe, Tommy Steele, Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques - Also the West Endmarker casts of Half a Sixpence and Pickwick Held in the presence of HM The Queen and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. ATV television presentation by Bill Ward
8 November 1964 The London Palladiummarker David Jacobs The Bachelors, Cilla Black, Tommy Cooper, Gil Dova, Gracie Fields, Lena Horne, Kathy Kirby, Brenda Lee, Millicent Martin, Morecambe & Wise, Bob Newhart, Ralph Reader's Gang Show, Cliff Richard & The Shadows, Dennis Spicer, Jimmy Tarbuck and The Tiller Girls Held in the presence of HM The Queen. BBC television production by Duncan Wood.
14 November 1965 The London Palladiummarker Not Known Dame Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Jack Benny, Max Bygraves, The Carmenas, The Dave Clark Five, Peter Cook, Ken Dodd, Johnny Halliday, Arthur Haynes, Hope and Keen, Frank Ifield, The Kaye Sisters, Neville King, Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore, Peter, Paul and Mary, Peter Sellers, Dusty Springfield and Sylvie Vartan Held in the presence of the HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. ATV television presentation by Bill Ward
20 November 1966 The London Palladiummarker Des O'Connor The Bachelors, Bal Caron Trio, Gilbert Bécaud, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jack Douglas, Hugh Forgie, Christopher Gable, Nadia Nerina, Juliette Greco, Frankie Howerd, Jerry Lewis, Kenneth McKellar, Henry Mancini, Marvo & Dolores, Matt Monro, Wayne Newton, The Pietro Brothers, Gene Pitney, The Seekers and Tommy Steele Held in the presence of the Queen and the Queen Mother. BBC television presentation by Bill Cotton with introduction by David Jacobs


Date Broadcast Venue Compère Acts Other
Monday 24 November 2003 Wednesday 26 November 2003 ITV1 Edinburgh Festival Theatremarker Cat Deeley Strathclyde Police Pipe Band, Scottish Power Pipe Band, The Drambuiemarker Kirklston Pipe Band, Laine Theatre Artsmarker Dancers, Flur na H-alba, Rachel Stevens, Ronnie Corbett, Daniel Bedingfield, The Oriental Swan (Hua Wong, Chen Wen, Wen Xiaoyan), Busted, Danny Bhoy, Hayley Westenra, Donny Osmond, Gloria Estefan, Al Murray The Pub Landlord, Jamie Cullum, Katie Melua, Cirque du Soleil, Westlife, Luciano Pavarotti Was held in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II & HRH The Duke of Edinburgh K.G.K.T.

The performance was televised later and was produced by Granada Television for ITV by Producer Jeff Thacker, Director Stuart McDonald, Musical Director Trevor Brown, and Production Manager Keith Lascelles.

This was the first Royal Variety Performance to be held in Scotland.


Date Broadcast Venue Compère Acts Other
Monday 3 December 2007 Sunday 9 December 2007 ITV 1 Liverpool Empire Theatremarker Phillip Schofield and Kate Thornton Bon Jovi, Kiri Te Kanawa, James Blunt, Joan Rivers, Teatro, Viva la Diva, Enrique Iglesias, Katherine Jenkins, Al Murray, Darcey Bussell, Dany & Edina, Paul Potts, Stephen K. Amos, Philip Achille, English National Ballet, Jimmy Tarbuck, Lang Lang, Raymond Crowe, David Jordan, Big Howard, Little Howard, Russell Brand, Seal, Natasha Day, The Cast of Hairspray Was held in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II & HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

The performance was televised on 9 December and was produced for ITV by Executive Producer Sue Andrews and Mark Wells, Producer Glen Middleham and Director Simon Staffurth.


Date Broadcast Venue Compère Acts Other
Thursday 11 December 2008 Wednesday 17 December 2008 BBC1 7:30-10:00pm The London Palladiummarker Tess Daly, Graham Norton, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Emma Bunton, Mathew Horne, James Corden, Tom Daley, Myleene Klass, Jimmy Tarbuck, Craig Revel Horwood, Arlene Phillips, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Josh Hartnett, Rebecca Adlington, Brendan Fraser, Christine Bleakley, Adrian Chiles, Connie Fisher, John Barrowman, Pete Waterman, Nicky Chapman, Neil Fox, and Peter Kay Jimmy Carr, Brian May, Kerry Ellis, John Barrowman, Josh Groban, Leona Lewis, Rhod Gilbert, Rihanna, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Armstrong & Miller, The Pussycat Dolls, Naturally 7, Duffy, Take That, Only Men Aloud, George Sampson, Michael McIntyre, Geraldine McQueen and Cliff Richard & The Shadows - Also the West Endmarker casts of Jersey Boys, La Cage Aux Folles, The Lion King and Zorro 80th Anniversary - Was held in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales & HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. The performance was televised on 17 December and was produced for the BBC by Executive Producer Nick Vaughan-Barratt, Senior Producer Dominic Smith and Producer Helen Tumbridge.


Date Broadcast Venue Compère Acts Other
Monday 7 December 2009 Sunday 13 December 2009 ITV1 Opera House, Blackpoolmarker Peter Kay Michael Bublé, Alexandra Burke, Diversity, Hal Cruttenden, Miley Cyrus, Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Hills, Lady Gaga, Bob Golding as Eric Morecambe, Les 7 Doights de la Main, Katherine Jenkins, Lady GaGa, Jason Manford, Pilobolus Dancers, Mika, Bette Midler, Andre Rieu, Faryl Smith, Paul Zerdin - Also the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band, the cast of Sister Act the Musical, with Whoopi Goldberg and the cast of Here Come the Girls; Anastacia, Lulu and Chaka Khan First RVP staged in Blackpool since 1955. Ticket sales had to be suspended early due to overwhelming demand.

Britain's Got Talent

Since 2007, one act of the Royal Variety show has been selected by the British public through the ITV1 television talent show Britain's Got Talent.

Devised by music and television impresario Simon Cowell, the show is produced by his company SYCO TV. It was originally due to be launched in the UK in 2006, presented by Paul O'Grady, however a dispute between ITV and O'Grady caused him to leave the station and the pilot series was cancelled. The format was subsequently launched in America, where the winner receives a deal to perform in Las Vegasmarker.

The show follows a series of auditions. First of all, there is an audition tour in which the celebrity judging panel of Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan travel nationwide watching potential acts and picking their favourites. The panel then select the best of these acts to compete in a series of five semi-finals, which are broadcast live on ITV, between Monday and Friday on one week. 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 on the Saturday following the semi-finals and all the acts perform again for the public vote. Whilst the judges comment on the performances, the eventual winner is decided entirely by the public.


See also


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