If you somehow still haven’t heard — if you missed her decade in musical theatre, her Frozen karaoke on Ted Lasso, and her performance of “Shallow” for charity that went viral barely a week ago — Hannah Waddingham can sing. Like, knock your socks off, blow the roof off the London Coliseum sing. And that’s exactly what she does in her new special, Hannah Waddingham: Home for Christmas.
The special, produced by AppleTV+, sees Waddingham take her rightful place center-stage to celebrate the holiday season. Home for Christmas harkens back to old-school variety Christmas specials, featuring a live backing band, stunning seasonal décor, talented celebrity guests, dance numbers, and of course, Waddingham’s killer vocals.
As both the featured star and executive producer on the special, Waddingham’s stamp is all over this one — and I mean that in a good way. She’s hand-picked the setlist which features a wide range of Christmas classics, some swinging and jazzy, some emotional and operatic, some rocking and energetic. Her on-stage guests aren’t just big-name celebrity A-listers (although you’ll recognize the likes of Leslie Odum Jr., Luke Evans, and Sam Ryder), but people who’ve meant something to her during her career spanning stage and screen.
She’s got a supportive crowd of fans, family, and friends in the audience, too. Waddingham’s daughter and parents sit in the same box she herself used to frequent during her mother’s time on stage with the English National Opera. You can spot Game of Thrones co-star John Bradley, her on-screen Sex Education wife Sharon Duncan-Brewster, and pal and West End star Mazz Murray seated in the audience, among others.
Home for Christmas is clearly deeply personal to Waddingham, and that gives it a more emotional and intimate feeling for the audience as well. Technically, you could give anyone with a solid voice the lead in a special like this, and it would probably be perfectly watchable. But Waddingham has the kind of stage presence and charm that wraps you around her little finger, in a way that feels completely genuine. She’s thrilled to be there on stage, and everyone in the room is thrilled for her to be there. You can really feel the love in the room. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Of course, Waddingham’s Christmas special will also no doubt prove near and dear to fans of her hit AppleTV+ series, Ted Lasso. Many of the special guests are Waddingham’s Lasso co-stars; you’ll see them performing alongside her on stage, cheering her on from the audience, and helping break up the singing with a few behind-the-stage bits. (And while I’m always excited to see Waddingham’s real-life friendship with Juno Temple, the one that really got me was Brett Goldstein in a hot tub.)
Outside of the Lasso love though, Hannah Waddingham: Home for Christmas is just a damn good Christmas show. The ambiance is exactly what you want. From the stage decor to the costuming, you’re in the holiday spirit as soon as it starts. The music is excellent; Waddingham’s “Please Come Home For Christmas” duet with Leslie Odom Jr. may now be my favorite cover of the song.
It’s also a production that knows how to have fun, cracking jokes and doing silly little bits and just generally keeping the atmosphere light. Home for Christmas brings a little glamor, a little camp, and a whole lot of talent, love, and Christmas spirit. What more could you really ask for? If you somehow hate this special, I’ll be worried you’re incapable of experiencing joy.
Truly, my only complaint about Home for Christmas is that it seems to flash by in the blink of an eye. With a runtime of just over 40 minutes, I wanted to celebrate with Waddingham and her friends a little longer. But hey, that’s something AppleTV+ can correct when they bring Waddingham back for a new special next year, right? (Hint, hint.)
A few more spare thoughts about this special:
- As a society we should agree to give Hannah Waddingham more roles where she dramatically throws off a long coat.
- Watching Waddingham’s father tear up when she performed “O Holy Night” and dedicated it to her family made ME tear up, too.
- Brendan Hunt trying to land a duet is made funnier now that the pair did indeed sing together at Thundergong earlier this month.
- Someone needs to cast Phil Dunster as the lead in a rom-com, stat.
- “Where to, Hannah Poppins?” “Take me home, Jeeves.” That is all.
Hannah Waddingham: Home for Christmas is now streaming on AppleTV+. You can also listen to the soundtrack from the special on both Apple Music and Spotify.