Charity production for Plymouth girl Lola raises £11,000
THE star of a one-off charity show has said it would be a "dream come true" if the money raised could help find a cure to save a little girl from a fatal condition.
More than 500 people bought tickets to watch A Charity Night with Brian Conley and Friends from Oliver!, at the Theatre Royal on Tuesday night, raising just under £11,000.
Actor Brian Conley, who is starring as Fagin in Oliver!, took to the stage for a second time that evening as he starred in the charity production in aid of three-year-old Lola Bloomer, from Plympton, who has the rare incurable condition Ataxia-Telangiectasia, known as A-T.
Mr Conley, who was inspired to organise the star-studded event after reading about Lola in The Herald, pulled a picture of her from his pocket at the opening of the show. He said: "Lola is absolutely gorgeous – when we read about her we felt moved and had to do something. We're all here now doing our bit for little Lola, so thank you."
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With everything from stand-up comedy, a host of musical numbers and some off-the-cuff impressions, the first half saw performances from Oliver! cast members including Jack Edwards, Lincoln Hudson and Cat Simmons.
It also brought an unexpected announcement.
The audience cheered as Lola's mum Jo Bloomer, and Suzanne Roynon, from the A-T Society, took to the stage with Mr Conley to announce that he had agreed to become a patron of the charity.
Mr Conley said: "Lola really is lovely – she melted my heart. I am honoured to be a part of the A-T Society."
Jo added: "When I found out Lola had A-T my reaction was that I needed to do something to find a cure so I put my heart out to the people of Plymouth which has helped raise awareness. Thank you."
The second half of the show, performed solely by Mr Conley, had the audience on its feet with rapping, fire-eating, magic and sing-a-long-songs.
As Mr Conley's renditions of songs by Queen, The Monkeys, Tom Jones and Lionel Richie came to a close the audience leapt to its feet to give the whole cast a standing ovation.
Speaking after the show, Ms Roynon, from the A-T Society, said: "Brian, the cast, theatre staff and the city of Plymouth have taken Jo and Lola to their hearts and in doing so have raised awareness of the A-T Society both locally and nationally. To have this kind of coverage is incredible."
She added that the money raised would go a long way towards funding a research project to try and find a cure for the degenerative condition which causes increasingly severe disability and premature death.
Mr Conley said: "I'm really pleased with how the show went – the audience was very responsive which was great. It's a worthy cause and doing the show and becoming a patron is the least I can do.
"It would be a dream come true if the money we have raised could go towards finding a cure in Lola's lifetime, but it's most important that we've raised awareness of the condition.
"The people of Plymouth should be proud of what they have achieved by supporting the show."
Audience members said what an enjoyable evening it was with many saying they had been so touched by Lola's story they felt they needed to show their support.
Jo Bloomer said: "It was an absolutely amazing night. I want to say a massive, massive thank you to the people of Plymouth and Brian. It's hard to comprehend that Lola and I are behind all this. It's been fantastic."
William Davis, chief executive of the A-T Society, praised Mr Conley for agreeing to become a patron. He said: "Having a star like Brian supporting us will give us a real lift – and he is also the nicest of men. Thank you so much to Jo and Lola Bloomer and The Herald for touching his heart."