Tag Archives: Oliver Thornton

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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Goodbye Priscilla – Queen of the desert – December 31st 2011

5 Jan

I remember running into Matthew Cole at the last performance of Never Forget – The Take That Musical and him mentioning that he was going into a new show in the West End: Priscilla – Queen oft he desert. Having never seen the movie my reaction was something along the line of “Is that the new jukebox show with lots of drag queens?”. Of course I had heard of the show opening in Spring 2009 but I hadn’t paid much attention so far.

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I’m writing this about three years later after attending the final performance of Priscilla in the West End on New Year’s Eve 2011. And although I haven’t been a totally devoted fan and hardcore regular I did manage to see the show 25 times during its run. I can hear some of you saying: But that’s a lot, you definitely are a regular! Yes, watching the same production 25 times is more than most theatergoers will ever commit to. But I know for certain that a lot of you Priscillaholics have seen the show twice that many times (or more). So, let’s say I am a supporter of the show but not a die-hard fan.

Being a supporter ment I definitely wouldn’t miss out on coming along for Priscilla’s last journey. So that was my New Year’s Eve sorted then.

The atmosphere inside the theatre was absolutely buzzing right from the start of the show. There were cheers and clapping throughout the show – and I mean the enthusiastic and fun cheers, not the annoying cheers you sometimes get at the most inappropriate moments of shows. Even though the closure of a show is rarely a fun occasion the audience definitely wanted to make the most of this evening and show their appreciation to everyone involved in the production.

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A great audience usually helps to bring out the very best in the cast’s performance. Though I doubt the cast would have needed any help in that department. The energy on stage was stunning – you could feel that everyone in the cast gave his and her all and wanted this show to be one to remember. And it worked as I can safely say I will always be happy and proud to mention that I was there for the last journey of the pink bus.

Oliver Thornton has been with the show right from the start and as much as I enjoyed seeing other performers play Adam/Felicia (amongst them Matthew Cole who I have known for years and generally love to see on stage) no one was able to capture the role so absolutely perfectly. Adam/Felicia is such a loud, extravagant and camp person yet there is also something vulnerable about him. To portray the character without losing touch of this vulnerable side is something Oliver has managed exceptionally well. It does help that he has a body like a Greek God, a fantastic voice, great comic timing and is all around nice to look at. 😉
His reaction to the (well deserved) full standing ovation during the complete Kylie Medley shows how much the part and the show means to him – I honestly thought the guy wouldn’t be able to sing at all. But he did and my God, that was the best I’ve ever seen and heard him. Pure emotion and just a bright star on stage at the Palace Theatre – Oliver, I salute you!

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I have never really warmed to Richard Grieve’s Tick I have to admit. He was good – I don’t deny that. It’s just that I have seen quite a few other performers in the part that I thought were more suited both acting wise and vocally. For me Hugo Harold-Harrison will always be Tick. The guy was perfect in the part and he and Oliver were by far my favourite on stage duo in this show. Richard definitely delivered the best performance out of the times I’ve seen him in this show. He seemed quite moved by the audience’s reaction as well.

Don Gallagher managed to really grow on me during his time in the show. I will always have a soft spot for Tony Sheldon who just had that special sparkle as Bernadette. However I was glad they found such a worthy actor to take over from Tony.

The whole cast was on such a high that night. I did spot a couple of tears in the opening number and by the end of the show there was hardly a dry eye on stage.
A special mention goes to the fabulous Steven Cleverly. I have admired those legs for the the past three years and I’m not ashamed to admit that. The guy looks absolutely stunning in drag – a lot of women would kill for looks like that!
The second person I’d like to mention is John Brannoch (who is responsible for one of my two appearances on stage in that show). John has always stood out for me in the cast. He’s a brilliant dancer and is a really expressive dancer. Shame I never managed to see him as Bernadette.

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Priscilla is such a feel good show. No matter what my mood was when I entered the theatre I could always be certain that I would leave with a smile on my face. And that’s one of the things I will miss: The uplifting atmosphere this show provided. The West End will be a bit less colorful without the pink bus. Shows come and go and Priscilla has had a good run but this is one of the shows that leave a big hole in the heart of the West End and are hard to replace. Drag queens, divas, half naked guys, a mix of the best pop and party song classics there are, a pink bus, cupcake costumes, a run over Teletubby…. The show certainly was quite something!

Priscilla will be missed by many fans. But the memories of the journey to the heart of fabulous remain thanks to everyone involved in the production. So thank you to everyone on stage and off stage. It’s thanks to you so many people have been able to escape the often dark and gloomy everyday life for a few hours. This show has provided me with some fantastic memories that I shall cherish forever. Priscilla may be gone but the memories remain.

Farewell Priscilla, you were the Queen of the West End!

Video by the extremely talented John Brannoch.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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! 

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„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!

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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. 

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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.

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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!! 

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*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.*