CLAIRE Sweeney, it seems, was born to entertain. Since singing in a social club at age 14 to a group of tipsy pensioners, she has gone on to enjoy great success on TV and in a string of musicals. Along the way, she has also become something of an armed forces sweetheart.
Despite the accolades and her celebrity status, she has never ever forgotten her Liverpool roots – her mum was a barmaid and her dad a butcher – nor the people who have helped her along the way to fame and fortune. At age 47 and proud mother of three year old son Jaxon, she seems thoroughly content with her lot. A radiant smile rarely leaves her face. Down to earth, earthy and possessor of a powerful pair of lungs.
Embracing rather than aloof. Very much at home when talking about the body sculpting impact of Spanx underwear on middle aged women. And stand out eyebrows that can be seen from miles away.
Sweeney has now encapsulated her life’s journey in a stage show where she intertwines the defining songs of her career with amusing anecdotes from her past. A show she presented at Brasserie Zedel in London on a sweltering Monday night (July 9).
It all makes for a rather fruity cocktail and a fun evening as Sweeney, often self-deprecating, recalls her time working six months at a time on cruise ships, being among the first participants of both Celebrity Big Brother and Strictly Come Dancing, and enjoying a kiss (or two) with Patrick Swayze in Guy and Dolls. Episodes of her life so far, all delivered with humour and her infectious Liverpudlian accent. You cannot help but like her.
Although her frequent appearances on TV (Brookside, Benidorm, Challenge of a Lifetime) define her in many people’s eyes as an actress, she is first and foremost a singer. Indeed, her voice and stage presence are made for musicals – and it was her medleys of songs taken from shows Chicago and Evita as well as Sunset Boulevard (As If We Never Said Goodbye) that really stood out. Even famous lyricist Don Black was impressed as he sat at the back of the audience quietly zipping water and nodding his head in approval as Sweeney hit all the right notes.
Sweeney belted out a number of songs made famous by Judy Garland (Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries, Somewhere Over The Rainbow and The Trolley Song) while harking back to her forces connection with a rousing version of Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again.
Born to entertain, Sweeney had dancers Alex and Charles join her on stage while she smouldered away as Chicago’s temptress Roxy Hart. She was also accompanied by long-time friend and musician Mark Inscoe (they worked together on the cruise ships) as they launched into We’ve Got Tonight, made famous by Kenny Rodgers and Sheena Easton.
Inscoe, still looking suave, did a couple of numbers on his own – Song On The Sand (La Cage Aux Folles) and a glorious A Bar On The Piccola Marina (Noel Coward).
With Sweeney getting the audience off their feet at the end to dance and sing along to Shout, this was an hour and a half of top entertainment. A mini Cilla. Even the late appearance of the pianist – who had been stuck for hours on a train London bound from Cardiff – did not detract from the fun as his replacement relished under the Claire Sweeney spotlight.
Fun. Glorious fun.