Tag Archives: Ben Richards

West End Bares 2012 at Cafe de Paris – 2nd September 2012

6 Sep

West End Bares has quickly become an annual fundraiser event for The Make A Difference Trust. Now in its third year the show brings together some of the West End’s most talented (and hottest) dancers.

Created by Jerry Mitchell – probably best known for being director and choreographer of Legally Blonde: The Musical – the event had its origin on Broadway under the name Broadway Bares. In London Darren Carnall has been in charge of the event as Artistic Director since the first West End Bares in 2010.

With London still sparkling with Olympic spirit this years West End Bares: “Get Set… Strip!” was sporting an Olympic theme treating the audience to everything from the Opening Ceremony to Sailing, Synchronised Swimming, Gymnastics, Wrestling, Table Tennis, Boxing and Equestrian right up to the Closing Ceremony. The whole evening was a colourful  mix of amazing choreography,  fabulous costumes and make-up, music that had the audience dancing and, as the title of the event suggests, a lot of naked flesh.

It’s hard to pick a favourite number out of all the brilliant pieces of song and dance. Personally I was especially impressed by The Opening Ceremony which started in style with torchbearer Oliver Thornton. Special mention here for the wonderful Jason Winter who made a rather nice to look at “golden boy” and for Paul Ayres and Jenny Fitzpatrick who showed off their great voices. Out of the “sports” numbers I loved Wrestling and Table Tennis which were both extremely entertaining. The whole Equestrian numb was stunning to look at. Big tumbs up for the amazing horse costumes by Spike Wilmer.
But then there really was no weak link in any of the numbers. This was entertainment on the highest level through and through! Amongst the performers of the evening were well-known West End names such as Carley Stenson, Zizi Strallen, Twinnie Lee Moore and Jodie Jaobs.  The Closing Number had a song especially written for West End Bares by Barry Anderson and Mark Petty which was performed beautifully by Mark Evans and Louise Dearman.

Some of the presenters of the evening were Robin Cousins, Claire Sweeney, Jon Lee, Ben Richards, Louise Dearman and Oliver Thornton. Sadly Rugby World Cup Champion Ben Cohen couldn’t make it due to unforseen circumstances.

Probably the most popular part of each West End Bares is the so-called Rotation. Basically this gives the audience the chance to get up and close to the performers of their choice by putting MAD money in their pants. Said MAD money is sold throughout the show and, of course, all proceeds go to The Make A Difference Trust. So, you can touch up your favourite performer AND do something for charity – what’s not to love?!

Since we’ve been talking about pants: A West End Bares tradition is the Pants Project which was once again introduced with the Pants Parade. For this project wardrobe departments of several West End shows design a special show-related pair of pants which is auctioned of online in aid of MAD. Amongst the shows taking part this year are Ghost, Sweeney Todd, Les Miserables and Billy Elliot. There are also pants signed by celebrities such as Brian May and Patrick Steward. I suggest you have a look and get bidding on Ebay.

For everyone that doesn’t know The Make A Difference Trust: The theatre industry has come together for over 21 years in form of this charity to help those facing crises and challenges. Please do check out their work here: http://www.madtrust.org.uk/

I was fortunate enough to contribute a small part to West End Bares by helping out as a volunteer. This was my first experience of volunteering for MAD and I honestly had no idea what to expect. But all my worries vanished as soon as I arrived at Cafe de Paris just before 7pm. Everyone was beyond friendly and I got to meet a whole bunch of wonderful people. In case you were there on the day you may have seen me handing out pre-paid tickets and sporting a bright red MAD t-shirt.
With this extra look behind the scenes and having the chance to see some of the preparations for the show by both performers and the people working off stage I can honestly say that everyone involved in West End Bares has given his and her all to make this evening a success. The people at MAD, the performers, the volunteers, the backstage crew, the costume people etc – everyone has worked so hard for this and I truly felt like a part of something wonderful and important. I can’t thank MAD enough for giving me this opportunity. Hopefully I will get to volunteer at more great MAD fundraisers. And definitely count me in for West End Bares 2013!

Here’s a little photo gallery of the event. Once again, please don’t use these pictures anywhere else without asking.
Since I have been asked which performer was in which number I’ve included an overview of the different numbers of the evening all with names of dancers, choreographers etc.

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Ramin Karimloo in concert – Southend, May 4 2012

9 May

After attending the first concert of Ramin’s current UK tour at the Royal Festival on May 1st it was time for a trip to Southend to see number two of the seven concerts I’m booked to watch in total (this could be called dedication or maybe pure madness).

The concert took place at Cliffs Pavillion which – although a nice local venue – was quite a change to the rather impressive Royal Festival Hall a few nights before. Everything looked a little smaller and didn’t have that much of a big city vibe to it. The audience seemed to be a mix between Ramin’s loyal supporters and local residents who probably attend almost every event at “their venue”.

There were some changes to the set list compared to the first concert a few days before which shows that this tour is indeed a road to find out as Ramin has called it.

“Show me light” once again proved to be a great song to start the show. There’s nothing better than a good uptempo beat to start a concert if you ask me.

I very much enjoyed the mix of songs from Ramin’s album, covers of some of his personal favourites and well-known musical tunes. Judging from the people around me it seemed that the musical songs were the most eagerly awaited ones though. I’d like to quote the lady next to me who announced just after Ramin finished “Till I hear you sing”: THAT is what I came here for!

Personally I will never get tired of hearing Ramin sing “Constant Angel” and “Cathedrals” and I adore his cover of The Avett Brothers’ “I and love and you” which was sung with the fantastic Katie Birtill on this occasion. Katie is a member of the Capital Voices who are supporting Ramin on this tour by providing excellent backing voices. In Southend the audience was lucky enough to hear more of Katie when Ramin asked her to join him on lead vocals for several songs. Her voice suited the songs beautifully and I hope she’ll be doing some lead vocals again in the upcoming concerts.

Ramin’s guest at this concert was the fantastic Ben Richards who sang “Walking in Memphis” and “Amazing” (you can download his version of this song on iTunes – all money goes to the Macmillan Cancer Support) and did a great version of “Big yellow taxi” with Ramin in the second half of the concert.

It was nice to hear “Losing” again which was announced as a new song but all the Sheytoons supporters will surely remember it. It certainly is a beautiful tune and definitely a great addition to the set list.

A special mention goes to Steve Young who is not only playing the guitar in Ramin’s band but also lends his voice to some of the songs. Hearing him, Katie and Ramin sing “Closer walk with thee” was one of my highlights of this concert. Ramin’s version of “Oh what a beautiful morning” (one could call it “The Banjo Remix”) is another song that stuck in my head after both concerts as it was such a unique and well done take on a musical classic.

All in all this was a diverse and enjoyable evening that offered something for everyone. Personally I would have loved to hear more non-musical theatre songs but I fully understand that the majority of Ramin’s supporters want to hear him sing those tunes and would be highly disappointed if they weren’t part of the concert. But if there’s ever a free song slot: I’m quite certain everyone in the audience would enjoy listening to “Wings” or “Driftwood” (you might have noticed by now that I am quite a Sheytoons fan).

I’m not a hundred percent sure about some of the scripted little tales in between the songs. Of course Ramin can’t tell new things at every concert and those “fillers” in between are there to connect the songs and lead through the evening. But take “Oh what a beautiful morning” after which Ramin told the audience that he was sure they had never heard the song done like this before. That was absolutely true at the first concert and fit in well there. However in Southend more than a few people in the audience had already heard that exact version of the song as they had been at the London concert three days before. So when Ramin said “I bet you have never heard the song like this before” the answer from several people in the auditorium was “I have! On Tuesday…”. This was all in good humour no big thing but it might be worth considering that a lot of fans will attend several of his concerts and maybe just go for more “free speech” instead of following “the script”. Especially since Ramin did have a fair amount of unplanned funny banter with his band, Ben and the audience which came across really well.

I’m very much looking forward to the concerts in Liverpool and Manchester now. It will be interesting to see how Ramin and his tour develop on this road to find out.

Before I leave you with the song list of the evening I would like to mention that Ramin (and Ben) stayed in the foyer of the venue for ages after the concert to sign programmes and CDs and chat with the fans. After performing on stage for two hours this is something that should not be taken for granted and shows just how much Ramin values his supporters.

Song list

Show me light
Wild world
The impossible dream
Constant angel
If ever I would leave you
Broken home
I and love and you
Solitude
Walking in Memphis (Ben Richards)
Amazing (Ben Richards)
Radames letter / Till I hear you sing
Oh what a beautiful morning
Bring him home
Guiding light
Broken
The perfect space / Hallelujah
Eyes of a child
Losing
Big yellow taxi (with Ben Richards)
Closer walk with thee
Cathedrals
Coming home
Music of the night
Good Riddance

A big thank you to Sarah for letting me use two of her photos from the evening!