Following his experiences onstage in Edinburgh 2004, and realising quite how useless a degree from Cambridge really is, Andrew Pontzen increasingly found himself taking on menial roles in cheap comedy shows, at best playing the rear ends of animals, at worst allowing himself and his 1994 Song for Christmas to be viciously mocked on stage. For many years, uneducated fringe audiences in seedy bars laughed long and hard at Pontzen’s worthy musical efforts. Pontzen bore it all with his customary cheerful optimism, but the strain of being laughed at on a daily basis and his habit of sleeping in a prison cell began to take their toll.
One man, however, was not laughing.
Baz Luhrmann, desperately looking for ideas for new films, found himself watching James Lark’s Musical Chums in a cabaret bar following a performance by Irish singer Camille, who he hoped to cast in a planned (and later aborted) musical about the Irish potato famine. When he watched Pontzen perform his Song for Christmas, he saw past Lark’s snide remarks and cheap one-liners, realising that the song was just what he needed for his new cinematic venture.
Pontzen was rocketed to fame in Luhrmann’s hugely successful yuletide wartime adventure, Song 4 Xmas, in which a humble musician called Porfiroio Colon (Pontzen) goes to the warzone that is Bethlehem and, armed only with his music, brings peace to the Holy Land.
Pontzen went on to feature in a series of increasingly shoddy sequels (Song 4 Easter and Song 4 Pancake Day), wrote several unsuccessful musicals and following a messy divorce from Irish singer Camille he went back to sleeping in a prison cell and designing publicity for Annie Castledine.