The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, who himself had had theatrical aspirations, conceived The Beatles’ Christmas Show, a variety stage production featuring the group. It ran at the Astoria Cinema in Finsbury Park, London for 16 nights, ending on 11 January 1964.
Tickets had gone on sale on 21 October 1963, and by 16 November all 100,000 had sold out. There were 30 shows altogether, with two performances on each day, except for 24 and 31 December when only one took place. On 25 and 29 December and 5 January The Beatles were given the night off.
The first act, with five minutes on stage, were the Barron Knights and Duke D’Mond. Next came short sets from Tommy Quickly and The Fourmost, and Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas closed the first half. Following the interval there was a return from the Barron Knights and Duke D’Mond, then Cilla Black, and Rolf Harris. The Beatles were each evening’s final act, with performances lasting 25 minutes.
The group’s repertoire consisted of Roll Over Beethoven, All My Loving, This Boy, I Wanna Be Your Man, She Loves You, Till There Was You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Money (That’s What I Want) and Twist And Shout.
In between the support acts The Beatles took to the stage for a number of light-hearted skits, giving the night a pantomime feel. Although their delivery was reportedly fairly wooden and they lacked much rehearsal time, the performances were greeted with uncontrolled hysteria by The Beatles’ fans. The show’s director was Peter Yolland.
The Beatles were never much for rehearsing. That never really mattered as far as songs were concerned, but the fact that they were so bad at doing the sketches was an added extra for the show – it was organised chaos but it was very funny chaos.
After this evening’s performance The Beatles and the northern members of the cast and crew – essentially all but Rolf Harris and the Barron Knights – flew to Liverpool to spend Christmas Day with their families, in a private Viking aircraft chartered for £400 by Brian Epstein. They returned to London on the morning of Boxing Day.