Tag Archives: Darren Carnall

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.

Ghost – The Musical

8 Oct

We all have a bunch of movies that remind us of our teens. For me one of those movies is “Ghost”. That one was every teenage girl’s dream back in the days: Romantic, sad and funny all mixed together. And it had Patrick Swayze and come on, we all loved “Johnny Castle”!

And now that much loved movie of my youth has been adapted for the stage. I’m one of those people that think there are too many movies being made into stage shows and too little original musicals these days. I’m always the sceptic when it comes to watching yet another film to stage show. I had read mixed reviews about this one prior to seeing it. Almost everyone praised the special effects (all that walking through doors stuff and so on) and the cast. The score didn’t seem to be everyone’s thing and some found the whole adaption a bit lacking in tension. However, it seemed to be a show worth watching.


I’m writing this after my second visit to “Ghost” which kind of answers one question straight away: Did I enjoy the show? Yes, I’m known for watching shows I don’t love various times simply due to people in the cast but on this occasion I can honestly say: I loved “Ghost”!
I’ve mentioned this in previous blogs: I’m not someone who cries a lot in the theatre. This one however had me sobbing in my seat more than once.

The cast is lead by Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman. Caissie was part of what I call “The summer of Hair” (2010). I adore that woman, I really do. She’s got an amazing voice and she is such a pure and natural actress. There’s something about her that makes the audience connect with her and the character she portrays right from the start. In my eyes Caissie is a real star. She’s talented, she’s beautiful and she’s so naturally nice. Her Molly is truthful, honest and vulnerable in such a personal way that you just want to take her in your arms and tell her everything will be ok. “With you” had me glued to my seat . Just Caissie on stage, singing – it doesn’t get much better than this.
I’ve seen Richard as Warner in Legally Blonde and I admit I wasnt very fond of him back then. I thought his portrayal of the character was rather bland (yes, I know Warner is not the most well written character in musical history but still…). So yes, I was unsure about him being cast as Sam and didn’t think he would be able to do the famous Patrick Swayze part justice. But as much as I don’t have a problem saying that I also don’t have a problem admitting when I’ve been wrong. And I was on this occasion – big time!! Richard’s Sam was everything I imagined it should be. The guy can act, the guy can sing and the guy can show emotion on stage. Him and Caissie work so well together. A pure joy to watch!


Another vital part in this show is Oda Mae Brown who was played by Whoopi Goldberg in the movie. I’ve been lucky to have seen both Sharon D Clarke and her understudy Lisa Davina Phillip in the role. Both were fantastic in their own way. In my eyes Sharon is a brilliant performer. She’s got the most amazing voice and really owns the stage. But I have to say if I had to make a choice I’d go for Lisa as Oda Mae. There was just something in her performance that made the character that tiny bit more natural and believable. Maybe it’s because whenever I see Sharon on stage I automatically see Killerqueen (from “We will rock you”, the show I first saw her in back in 2003). And Oda Mae Killerqueen just doesn’t work that well.
Andrew Landtree as Carl does a great job but I do think the character is not very well written. He’s a bit flat and the audience doesn’t get the chance to get to know him the way they get to know Sam, Molly and Oda Mae.
Ivan de Freitas is perfectly cast as the bad guy Willie Lopez. He seems to be stuck with playing similar characters though – bad guys who sometimes have the tendency to be a bit stupid (Sister Act springs to mind).


I’m not totally sure about either the Subway Ghost nor the Hospital Ghost. Both Adebayo Bolaji and Mark White are doing a good job but the characters themselves are not for me I’m afraid. First of all I think the whole “Ball of wax” completely destroys the emotional scene of Sam’s death. I mean, Sam dies (everyone’s sad) and the next thing we see is a Ghost doing a tap dance? Please!!
Then there’s the whole “Focus” scene with the rapping Subway Ghost. The scene is loud but it’s not as powerful as it intends to be and I found it rather hard to understand what Adebayo was saying or better, what he was shouting. The message got lost in the noise for me.
Big shout out to the whole ensemble! Everyone is working so hard on this show but unfortunately the ensemble doesn’t really get much attention. They are often reduced to being a bunch of extras that walk around in the background which is a shame. There’s some awesome choreography in this show and the ensemble guys and girls clearly are a hugely talented bunch of dancers.
I’d like to mention 2 people in particular at this point: Darren Carnall and Louise Lawson. I’ve known Darren for years now and have seen him in various shows. And he has always managed to catch my eye no matter how small his part has been. Seeing Darren dance really puts a smile on my face. His energy seems to know no limits and he’s got such a positive personality – the guy is amazing.
Louise used to work in Germany a couple of years ago which is where I first met her. It’s fantastic to see her in this big production in London now. She’s a great dancer and I hope she will be around in this business for a long time – she definitely deserves a place in the West End.


As the reviews had suggested the special effects in “Ghost” were quite stunning. I honestly didn’t manage to understand how some of them worked the first time I saw the show. My second visit revealed a bit more as I knew where to look the different scenes. I’m guessing once you’ve seen the show a few times the effects will lose a lot of their magic. But then watching the same show again and again is not what the regular theatregoer does. And for someone who goes to see “Ghost” just the one time those effects are truly magical.

I like the score of the show. It has some powerful ballads and it doesn’t overuse “Unchained Melody” (something I was most afraid of). “Here right now” and “With you” are the two songs that I enjoy the most followed by “I’m outta here” which is a really catchy and fun number. As mentioned before I’m not that keen on “Ball of wax” and “Focus”. But all in all this is in my eyes a great score with a good mix of ballads and uptempo songs.

If you haven’t seen the show please do give it a try. It’s worth it! I will definitely be back and yes, I do believe.


Ghost is playing at the Piccadilly Theatre. For more info go to http://www.ghostthemusical.co.uk/.

West End Bares – Clothing Optional

9 Sep

The second West End Bares took place at Cafe de Paris on Sunday, September 4th 2011. Just like last year there were 2 shows (9:30pm and Midnight)  and since I wasn’t able to attend the event in 2010 I decided to treat myself to both performances and stayed a bit for the party afterwards. This ment I got zero sleep that night, and with zero I mean ZERO, as I had a 7:30am flight to catch the next morning. But hey, sleep is overrated anyway, isn’t it?

It’s impossible to do the event justice in a review – you just had to be there. But I do want to sum up my thoughts and I will throw in some pictures just because I know that’s what you all want to see anyway!

The event was hosted by Sheridan Smith and Gok Wan who both did a fantastic job. Sheridan is such a funny and naturally nice person – you cannot not like her. Both her and Gok Wan seemed to have a fantastic time up on stage. I wonder if Sheridan expected to end up in the newspapers the next day for “getting her tits out” though! But then it was for charity which is the perfect excuse.


So, the show started with a number called „Fashionista“ performed by Steven Ceverly, Susie Allman, Jenny Wickham, Will Peaco, Graham Weaver, Damien Poole, Matt Krzan, David Grewcock, Zoe Doano, Lisa Anne Wood, Jayde Westaby, Tara Young and Siobahn Dillon (Choreographer Dom Tribuzio). I love Steven in Priscilla – Queen of the desert and I was delighted to see him on stage at West End Bares. That guy has charisma and is a fantastic performer. And I wish I had those legs!!!
Special mention to the lovely Jayde Westaby – she’s fantastic and I hope it won’t be long until we see her on a West End stage again.


Next up „Icons“ with Hannah Toy, Jasmine Kerr, Louise King, Aisling Duffy, Alex Bird, Lia Given (Choreographer Stuart Winter). That was one very sexy number I have to say. The girls on stage looked amazing. Special shout out to Louise King – what a body (I’m only a bit jealous… honestly!).

The next number „Muse me, abuse me“ was a great dance number performed by Tom Muggeridge and Rachel Ensor (Choreographer Stuart Winter). This one could easily fit into a West End show (minus the stripping if the producers wanted to label their show „family entertainment“).


 Straight on to „Hats“ which was one of my personal favourites. Darren Carnall, Summer Strallen and Zizi Strallen in a very clever and entertaining dance number (Choreographer Darren Carnall). I might have seen more of Darren than I ever intended to though!


„Elizabethan“ with Dom Tribuzio, David Rudin, Adam C Garcia, Gregor Scott, Natalie Casey, Emily Whitehead, Carly Meyers and Jess Ellen Knight (Choreographer Fabian Aloise) gets an extra point for chosing the perfect music: Lady Gaga. I was hoping there would be one number with a bit of Gaga and this one was done extremely well. Loved the Elizabethan/Gaga costume!


The next number fits into my blog perfectly: „Confessions of a shopaholic“ performed by Lisa Mathieson, Ian Oswald, Luke Johnson, James Cohen, Callum Nicol, Ben Bunce and Luke Jackson (Choreographer Will Peaco). This one was fun and every girl’s dream – shopping and naked guys, what more do we need?


The temperature in the building must have doubled when Oliver Thornton entered the stage to perform „Mad Men“ with Rachel Muldoon, Michelle Francis, John Phoenix, Paul Saunders, Tristan Temple and Sean Mulligan (Choreographer Ashley Wallen). Judging from the noise I figured at least half the audience had been waiting fort his moment alone. And Oliver certainly didn’t disappoint his supporters – we all know the man has a body like a greek god but he can also move and has stage presence. Though once again I may have seen more than I was planning to!


Then it was time for a performer that had honestly surprised me when he told me he was taking part in this event a few weeks ago: Ramin Karimloo. I would never have guessed it! His number was called „Formalwear“ (Choreographer Ben Bunce) and consisted of him singing „Sex on fire“ by Kings of Leon whilst getting rid of his clothes (of course!). He even got himself some hot dancer (Susie Allman, Jenny Victoria Wickham and Amanda Karimloo). Well, we all know the man has a voice to die for but I may also say: The hours in the gym have definitely not been wasted! 



„Fashion Faux Pas“ featured Ivan de Frietas, Paul Read Ayres, Andrew simeon, Anna woodside, Sophie Jones, Sophie Linder Lee and Lizzy Benham (Choreographer Rebecca Howell) and was another fun number full of energy. Seeing Anna on stage was a fantastic surprise as I had no idea she was taking part. As always a joy to watch!


The show went on with „Labels or love“ performed by Aaron Renfree, Paulo Jorge Teixeira, Robert Jones, Jack Hawitt, Amy Thornton, Lauren Varnham, Emily Hawgood and Holly James (Choreographer Aaron Renfree) and came to a close with the specially composed song „Flesh never goes out of fashion“ which was performed brilliantly by Charlotte Riby, Landi Oshinowo and Emma Lindars (Choreographer Gary Murphy). Such power voices and may I add the three looked absolutely stunning.


But, of course, there was still one more number – the famous Rotation. Basically this was the big finale in which the audience got to put their MAD money (available to buy throughout the show – all for charity, of course) in their favourite performers pants. Sounds mad and fun and that’s exactly what it was. I only joined in during the second show and I’m happy to report that my money went to the fabulous Luke Jackson and the amazing Ramin Karimloo (after I had convinced him to come to the front of the stage – the things one does for charity, eh!). Don’t believe me? Well, you better do because I’ve got picture proof!


If I wanted to sum up the whole evening in one word it would be HOT. Every single performance on that stage was absolutely fantastic. I can’t imagine how much work must have gone into organising, preparing, choreographing and rehearsing the whole thing. To see all these performers, many of whom I’ve been watching on stage in various shows for years, dedicating their free time and putting so much effort into this event made me proud to be a supporter of theatre and the people who work in the business. And not to forget the people backstage, the MAD volunteers and everyone else who gave their time to make this happen. It really shows that people can make a difference!


A special mention has to go out to Darren Carnall. Without him there would be no West End Bares. Darren has been the director of the show both in 2010 and in 2011 and has really put his heart and soul into this project. I still haven’t figured out how he managed to do this seeing as he has this little “side job” as Dance Captain and Swing in Ghost the musical as well – my guess is he hasn’t slept for months! Darren, you are a star and I am proud to know you. 


And last but not least: Don’t forget the Pant Project everyone. There’s still some time left to bid on a pair of specially designed pants from your favourite show.


Go to http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/madtrust08/m.html?_trksid=p4340.l2562 and check them out! The auctions close on September 16th so get bidding now.

Here’s to West End Bares 3 in 2012 – I certainly can’t wait!! 


*Apologies in case I got any of the performers names wrong or if I listed someone who might not have been on stage after all. All numbers and the list of performers were taken out of the West End Bares programme as it was impossible to remember everyting and everyone just from watching the show.*