Many American TV watchers were introduced to Hannah Waddingham through the Apple TV+ series “Ted Lasso ” where she plays Rebecca Welton. Her work on the show as the owner of the soccer team Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) coaches has earned her an Emmy.
Long before “Ted Lasso” came along, Waddingham had put together a lengthy list of television credits in the United Kingdom. She also followed in the footsteps of her mother and maternal grandparents to use her four-octave range to perform from dinner theater to Broadway.
Waddingham gets to show off her vocal skills to a new audience with her Apple TV+ special “Hannah Waddingham: Home for Christmas.” The holiday musical extravaganza will be available on the streaming service starting Nov. 22.
It was Waddingham’s manager, Nick Todisco, who told her she should consider doing a project where the world would have a chance to hear her singing voice. They needed to learn what theatergoers in the West End and on Broadway already knew.
“The thing I was most known for was my range on the musical stage. So that was also a big pressure that I put on myself for this special. I wanted to find songs where I could do what I like doing with songs and pick songs that are very famous, but to kind of reinvent them in my own way,” Waddingham says. “And thankfully, my brilliant musical supervisor, Dave Tench, was totally down for that. And I love the fact that the artists that I have joining me aren’t just like famous singers. They are musicians. And that was the prerequisite for me. Everyone on that stage had to have music in their bones. And I think that’s very obvious.”
Joining Waddingham on stage are Sam Ryder, Luke Evans, Leslie Odom Jr. and Phil Dunster. Additional performers include the English National Opera, the London Gay Men’s Chorus, The Fabulous Lounge Swingers and an 18-piece band. Along the way, Hannah shares her personal stories and memories about her own holiday experiences.
One thing that ended up having a very personal connection for Waddingham was the selection of London Coliseum to use for filming the show. Waddingham recalls sitting in the theater as a little girl watching her mother sing with the English National Opera. There was no question when executives with Apple TV+ suggested the location that Waddingham knew it was the only proper place for her to perform.
“We were there for a whole week really bedded in. And then when the English International Opera Chorus, five or six of whom are still choristers from my mum’s era when they offered to come and sing with me on that stage, I mean, makes my throat go, ugh,” Waddingham says.
Once she had the deal to create a show that would allow her singing to be heard globally and the venue was set, the next step for Waddingham was the selection of the songs to perform. Some of her selections include “Run Rudolph Run,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “O Holy Night” and “Winter Wonderland.”
She picked the song list based on the knowledge that many viewers would only know her from “Ted Lasso” and not the two decades she spent singing on stage.
“The biggest thing for me is the psychology of an audience. Of course, there is the theater community globally that will know me and they’re in the pocket already,” Waddingham says. “But for people who don’t know me purely from ‘Ted Lasso’ doing the bits and pieces of singing I did. I need to let them know that I know what I’m doing.
“So, you need to come out and slap everyone around 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, okay, she’s got this.”
The holiday special will give Waddingham the chance to sing for a massive audience. That is what she will get out of the performance.
Her hope is that viewers will feel an old-fashioned sense of love, joy and positivity hearing the holiday tunes.
“We are in such a mess of unkindness and selfishness at the moment in the world. I know that there are far more important things in the world on a global scale, but everyone needs distraction. Everyone needs to smile. Everyone needs to shed a tear when they need to,” Waddingham says. “If I can provide that for 45 minutes as a little pill of happiness in a glass for them, then I hope that’s what this is.”
Those who want more of the performance will be able to purchase the live soundtrack that will be available on all music streaming platforms via Platoon starting Nov. 22 and features every musical highlight from the special.