Children In Need defies the crunch with £21m haul as BBC newswomen don bellbottoms and platforms for Abba tribute

The BBC's Children In Need appeal has defied the credit crunch with a record opening-night haul of £21million.

The seven-hour television extravaganza was hailed by presenter Terry Wogan as 'the greatest Children In Need since we started', and the appeal is now on course to smash last year's record total of £37million.

There were concerns that the British public might be less charitable as the country heads into recession.

But performances by Take That - who donated £250,000 - and Girls Aloud, as well as an Abba medley by the BBC newsreaders, encouraged viewers to give generously.

And Terry Wogan helped send the night's total to £20,991,216 in a Strictly Come Dancing special with Tess Daly, despite judge Bruno Tonioli describing his dancing as a 'good performance for radio'.

Fiona Bruce, Sophie Raworth, Susannah Reid, Nicholas Owen, Ben Brown and Chris Hollins dumped their usual formal wear for bellbottoms, platforms and oversized colours for their Abba tribute.

The sequinned six performed an all-singing, all-dancing version of Dancing Queen during the 7-hour telethon, which raised £20 million when the show ended at 2am and is on course to beat the £37m raised last year.

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Newsreaders in need: Susannah Reid, Fiona Bruce and Sophie Raworth sing Dancing Queen

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Agnetha or Anni-Frid: Fiona and Sophie croons along to Dancing Queen

Accompanied by dancers from the West End production of Mamma Mia!, the Beeb presenters swapped their autocues for fingers points that would make John Travolta proud.

Sports correspondent Hollins said he had waxed his chest especially for his plunging neckline jumpsuit.

The Abba tribute wasn't the only musical theme that evening.

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You can dance: Susannah Reid and Chris Hollins exercise their vocal chords

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Getting into the groove: Sophie Raworth and Nicholas Owen look to be enjoying themselves

The cast of the West End production of Hairspray - including Michael Ball - and the upcoming show of Oliver, which is set to open next month, gave TV viewers a taste of theatreland.

The cast of EastEnders aped various famous musicals for their 'WestEnders' segment including Moulin Rouge!, My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins.

Rita Simons, who plays pregnant Roxy Mitchell, shunned her character's baby bump to perform Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend in a sexy basque alongside co-stars  Diane Parish (Denise Wicks) and her on-screen daughter Belinda Owusu (Libby Fox).

Standing out with the best male singing voice in Albert Square was John Partridge, who plays Jane Beale's gay brother Christian Clarke.

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WestEnders: Rita Simons and John Partridge sang Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend from Moulin Rouge!

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A chorus line: (L-R) Don Gilet, Himesh Patel, Elliott Jordan and Jake Wood strike a pose

Before landing his role on EastEnders earlier this year, Partridge had a long history in the West End and has starred in Cats, Miss Saigon and Starlight Express.

Sid Owen (Ricky Butcher) and Patsy Palmer (Bianca Jackson) put on a perfectly cockney duet of Wouldn't It Be Luvverly, dressed in Victorian street garb.

And Laurie Brett was transformed from long-suffering Jane Beale to Mary Poppins as she lead the cast in a rendition of supercalifragicexpialidocious.

Twelve-year-old Charlie Jones (Ben Mitchell) showed off his impressive dancing skills in a solo act to We Love To Boogie.

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'Wouldn't it be luvverly': Sid Owen and Patsy Palmer are My Fair Lady

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What would Phil Mitchell say? Charlie Jones, 12, who plays Ben Mitchell, performed a solo dance routine

Earlier in the show, former EastEnder Emma Barton, who left the soap earlier this year, performed You To Me Are Everything.

Soap rivals Coronation Street also joined in the fun, teaming up with style guru Gok Wan.

In the segment, Gok's car breaks down in Weatherfield and after making friends with Becky Grainger (Katherine Kelly), he is introduced to the factory workers.

After encouraging Sean Tully (Antony Cotton), Rosie Webster (Helen Flanagan), Julie Carp (Katy Cavanagh) to strip off so he can tell them 'How To Look Good Naked', he ends up getting a makeover himself, and looks like transsexual Hayley Cropper.

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Frock horror: Julie Carp (Katy Cavanagh), Rosie Webster (Helen Flanagan) and Becky Grainger (Katherine Kelly) get a makeover from Gok Wan

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Frock horror: Gok Wan is madeover into Hayley Cropper by Sean Tully (Antony Cotton)

The Bill also perform a musical segment of Fifties and Sixties music, including an especially appropriate rendition of Jailhouse Rock.

Lisa Maxwell, who plays tough Detective Inspector Samantha Nixon, sang Aretha Franklin's hit Think.

Hosts Terry Wogan and Tess Daly got in on the action and competed in a special Strictly Come Dancing segment.

Daly teamed up with Anton DuBeke to perform the American Smooth to Big Spender, while Wogan waltzed to Three Times A Lady with Flavia Crace.

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Dancing coppers: The cast of The Bill danced outside Sun Hill

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Jailhouse rock: The cast liven up Sun Hill's prison

Despite their obvious lack of expertise, the judges were unusually kind to the pair and gave Daly 36 points and Wogan 29 points.

Arlene Phillips advised Wogan give dance tips to current Strictly underdog John Sergeant.

Wogan presented the original Come Dancing 30 years ago, but never performed on it.

Among the pop acts to perform included Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Boyzone, Katie Melua, Will Young, Craig David and McFly.

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Strictly trying: Tess Daly attempted the American Smooth with Anton Du Beke

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Giving John Sergeant a run for his money: Terry Wogan looks deep in conversation as he waltzes with Flavia Crace

Welsh singer Duffy, who performed twice on the night, showed off her shapely legs in a short black dress and heavy make-up.

Doctor Who fans got a treat as rumoured new timelord David Morrissey got into an argument with departing David Tennant over who the real doctor was.

Top Gear host Richard Hammonds also took a step back in time and visited Ashes After Ashes, where he got the opportunity to test drive an Audi and have the gorgeous DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes).

Host Terry Wogan described the evening as 'the greatest Children in Need since we started'.

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Slinky: Girls Aloud performed their new single The Promise

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Battle of the doctors: Departing timelord David Tennant (L) and rumoured new doctor David Morrissey (R)

Duffy performing in the studio during the filming of the BBC's Children in Need

Little black dress: Duffy sang Rain On My Parade and Mercy

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