MUSICAL director Anthony England is usually to be found tweaking songs and playing piano accompaniment for entertainers like Bonnie Langford
MUSICAL director Anthony England is usually to be found tweaking songs and playing piano accompaniment for entertainers like Bonnie Langford and Sandi Toksvig, writes Lesley Potter. But next week, in a bit of a departure for him, he will be entertaining diners in a solo cabaret night at the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row.
England, from Caversham, has been Bonnie Langford’s musical director since 1998, when he met her at a royal gala evening at the Wimbledon Theatre. He accompanies her on piano at her solo shows, arranges songs for her and even produced her last album. In April, the pair will be sailing the high seas on a Saga cruise, where she will perform two shows, with England at her side on keyboards. The pair are great colleagues — and firm friends.
But as he explained, it was comedian Sandi Toksvig who convinced him to branch out on his own and do a solo show.
He said: “Bonnie and I did a tour a few years ago with Sandi, and she encouraged me to do some of my own material. I had written my own musical — Santa Claus The Musical — but I’d never had the confidence to actually do it myself.”
After giving it some thought, he came up with the idea of producing a cabaret show, which he descibes as “a tongue-in-cheek, kind of Victoria Wood-esque, Victor Borge-style show — music and light-hearted comedy.”
The cabaret evening next week will include songs he has written himself, including TheHairdresser Blues, I Wish I Was Like Eddie Izzard (which, he hastens to add, is a song about running) and a Seventies medley. For the latter he has good form, having played with the Seventies band Sailor for two years. He will also play Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer in the style of Les Dawson (complete with facial expressions) and Elvis Presley’s I Can’t Help Falling In Love — in the style of Mozart.
England is a local boy. He grew up in Sonning Common, attended Chiltern Edge School and Henley College — then King James College — and had a brief stint at Surrey University before deciding that academia was not for him. He turned his hand to a career as a professional musician, and never looked back. He has worked alongside many other top names in showbusiness, including Cilla Black, Danny La Rue, Barbara Windsor and Gary Wilmot, but one of the stars who impressed him most over the years is Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli, whom he met on a tour of What A Feeling years before he became a household name.
“Bruno’s a scream,” he said. “He’s camp and silly in that way that only Bruno can be.”
* Anthony England plays at the Crooked Billet, Stoke Row on Wednesday, February 20. Tickets for dinner and the show from (01491) 681048.