Hannah Waddingham: All 'Home for Christmas' performers have music in their bones

"Hannah Waddingham: Home For Christmas" premieres Wednesday on Apple TV+. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 4 | "Hannah Waddingham: Home For Christmas" premieres Wednesday on Apple TV+. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Actress and singer Hannah Waddingham says her new Apple TV+ holiday program, Hannah Waddingham: Home For Christmas, showcases the skills she honed in West End productions, as well as on her TV comedy series, Ted Lasso.

Recorded in May at the London Coliseum in front of a live audience and premiering Wednesday, the 45-minute musical special features Waddingham at her elegant best, backed by a full orchestra.


Luke Evans and Leslie Odom Jr. are among the guest stars. There are others, but Waddingham and Apple are keeping their under wraps until air time.

"It needed to be on stage to have that part of my life very present, joining the newest part of my life that people know me for, and [Apple said] straight away: 'We're in! Let's do it! What do you want it to look like? What do you want it to sound like?'" Waddingham, a producer on the program, told reporters in a recent virtual press conference.


"They've been absolutely amazing bedfellows and I couldn't be more proud. I don't usually toot my own horn, but I am so proud of this special."

Waddingham was given the freedom to choose songs she felt best suited her range as a performer and the festive spirit of the occasion, which she describes as filled with "old-school joy and positivity."

"I wanted to find songs where I could do what I like doing with songs and pick songs that are very famous, but kind of reinvent them in my own way," she said.

"I love that the artists I have joining me aren't just famous singers. They are musicians, and that was the prerequisite for me. Everyone on that stage has music in their bones, and I think that is very obvious."

It was important to Waddingham to prove to viewers that she had bona fide musical theater chops and this wasn't simply a vanity project.

"The biggest thing for me is the psychology of the audience," she said.

"I need to let them know that I know what I'm doing, that the band knows what they're doing, that the backup vocalists know what they're doing," she added.


"You need to come out, slap everyone about the face -- metaphorically speaking -- with the first song. Slap them around the face with the second song, and then they know where they are. They can kick their shoes off and go, 'She's got this!'"

The point is for everyone to feel involved and have a good time, said said, adding, "I just wanted people to feel relaxed and happy and taken on a journey."

This venue was the only one Waddingham wanted to use for the show because it has great meaning to her and her family. As a child, Waddingham watched her mother, opera singer Melodie Kelly, perform there.

"For this one, for my first foray into this meeting of theater and TV together, it had to be where it also started for me, which was sitting as a little girl ... watching the English National Opera with my mum singing on that stage as a mezzo soprano," Waddingham said, adding that opera choristers from Kelly's era are also featured in the show.

She said her favorite moment in the special was singing "O, Holy Night" while her own daughter and mother were in the audience.

"My daughter was 8 when we shot this and she was sitting in the box where I sat from the age of 8 is kind of weird. That she was 8, sitting there and observing with her little spirit and her little heart, seeing her mummy standing there when I had sat there and watched my mummy," Waddingham said.


The entertainer didn't know if Kelly would be able to make the performance because she had Parkinson's disease.

"It was a big deal for me to get her there in her wheelchair and my father, who had quintuple heart surgery, while I was filming Season 3 of Ted Lasso," she said.

"If I never did anything again, this special would be my greatest achievement."

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