Entertainment

Romesh Ranganathan marks milestone as he co-hosts Royal Variety Performance

This year's annual charity event featured Britain's Got Talent winner Colin Thackeray, Robbie Williams and Jamie Cullum.

Romesh Ranganathan joked that it had taken the Royal Variety Performance 106 years to “brown it up”, as he became the first person from a South Asian background to co-host the show.

The comedian hosted the annual event alongside his long-standing friend Rob Beckett, making the pair the first comedic two-hander at the helm in over 30 years, since Ronnie Corbett and Bruce Forsyth in 1988.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were entertained by a cast of famous faces at the London Palladium, including Chelsea Pensioner and Britain’s Got Talent winner Colin Thackeray.

Royal Variety Performance 2019
The Royal Variety Performance was hosted by Romesh Ranganathan and Rob Beckett (ITV/PA)

They enjoyed the show, in aid of the Royal Variety Charity, from the theatre’s royal box.

Beckett kicked off the evening by hailing the event’s “107 years of history”.

But Ranganathan added: “And it’s taken them 106 of these until they decided to brown it up.

“And then they diluted it by making me host it with the whitest person on TV. It’s unbelievable.”

Royal Variety Performance 2019
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive for the Royal Variety Performance (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He added: “We are not a double act. When your nan watches it she will think you hosted it with your Uber driver.”

Responding to the audience’s laughs, he added: “Pretty tasteless round of applause, if I am being honest with you.”

Beckett said that while he was “honoured” to have been asked to co-host the show, he suggested there had been a “booking error”.

Apparently referring to William and Kate, Beckett quipped: “Before we continue, we must acknowledge that there are two very special VIP guests here – our mums.”

Royal Variety Performance 2019
William and Kate at the London Palladium (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Ranganathan suggested their mothers were like “two extras from Loose Women”.

Introducing William and Kate, Beckett asked the pair: “Your Royal Highnesses, thank you for coming out tonight. Date night? That’s exciting, isn’t it? It’s hard to get out, isn’t it?

“Have you got the babysitter until midnight or one? It’s worth the extra 20 quid until late.”

Ranganathan quipped of the couple: “I might know how it feels. Like me, you have been blessed with three kids.

“I imagine every morning when they come running into your bedroom you look at their beautiful faces and you think: ‘I regret this.’”

Thackeray sung the hymn I Vow To Thee, My Country, backed by a military marching band and framed by a backdrop of the Royal Hospital Chelsea retirement home.

The night also saw Robbie Williams and Jamie Cullum duet music from Williams’ new album The Christmas Present.

Sir Rod Stewart charity dinner party
Sir Rod Stewart pulled out at the last minute (Ian Rutherford/PA)

Their performance was due to include Sir Rod Stewart but the veteran singer, 74, pulled out at the last minute due to a throat infection, saying on Instagram he was “absolutely devastated”.

Speaking ahead of the show, Royal Variety Charity chairman Giles Cooper said he hoped the night would raise as much as £850,000 – a “big chunk” of the charity’s annual income.

Robbie Williams Christmas musical plans
Robbie Williams (Ian West/PA)

He said it was a shame Sir Rod could not perform but that cancellations were an unavoidable part of variety performances.

“It’s something that happens in showbusiness a lot,” he said.

In his place Scottish chart-topping singer Lewis Capaldi closed the first half of the show with his song Bruises.

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who performed at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, was joined by his siblings on stage.

There were also performances from Emeli Sande and Manchester’s Bee Vocal Choir, Cirque Du Soleil’s Luzia and the cast of Mary Poppins, including Petula Clark, which is playing at the Prince Edward Theatre in Soho.

The Royal Variety Performance will air on ITV in early December.

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