As I sit here writing this, the sun is shining and a warm breeze is gently blowing; all in all, it’s an idyllic summer day. We’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a pretty nice UK summer for a change, and people have certainly been making the most of it. You only have to look outside and you’ll see throngs of happy summer-ers soaking up the sun in an assortment of short, skirts, dresses and bikinis. This parade of flesh is nothing though, compared to what is going to be on display at Café de Paris on Sunday 1st September 2013. Yes, I’m talking about the sizzling spectacle that is West End Bares. Now in its fourth year, the annual event returns to the West End to once again to scintillate and titillate the senses in a combination of the ‘naughtiness of burlesque and the razzle-dazzle of the West End’. A charity striptease, what could be a more fun way to raise money for a good cause?
That good cause of course, is TheatreMAD, a branch of the well-known entertainment industry charity MADTrust which supports people living with HIV and AIDs. West End Bares is just one of the popular annual events which the organisation has become known for, along with West End Eurovision and A West End Christmas. This particular event features some of the West End’s stage stars in a very different way however.
The focus of West End Bares is not on the voices of the West End, but the fabulous dancers who grace its stages. It features one hundred of the hottest male and female dancers from some of the biggest shows in the West End, performing steamy burlesque-style routines and showing off more than just their talent, all in the name of charity. WEB is based on the original concept by renowned Broadway/West End director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, and since 2010, has managed to raise over £85,000 through the event. Each year’s performance centres on a particular theme; it was the London Olympics which inspired last year’s On Your Marks…Get Set…Strip! Show, and for 2013, the cast will be giving the audience some frolicking fairground fun as they present, All The Fun of the Bare.
The dancers will be incorporating the curiosities of the funfair into their routines, which are all choreographed once again under the talented lead of WEB artistic director Darren Carnall, who was most recently seen in Viva Forever! at the Piccadilly Theatre. Audience members who have attended previous shows will be treated to an assortment of new and familiar faces (and other parts too!), coming from such shows as Wicked (Jason Winter, Tom Muggeridge), The Book of Mormon (David O’Reilly, Tosh Wanogho-Maud, We Will Rock You (Peter Houston), A Chorus Line (Lucy Jane Cooper), Billy Elliot (David Muscat), Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (Damien Poole) and The Bodyguard (Ashley-Jordon Packer). Other performers involved include Sean Parkins, Matthew Wesley, Jack Jefferson, Jenny Wickham, Rachel Muldoon, Alex Bird, Ben Bunce, Kirstie Skivington and other return-offenders Steven Cleverley, Aaron Renfree, Matt Krzan, Callum Francis, Dom Tribuzio and Jodie Jacobs. They will also be joined on the night by a selection of celebrity guests to share presenting duties. Loose Women TV personality Jane McDonald will be there on the WEB stage, along with Strictly Come Dancing stars Robin Windsor, Anita Dobson and Lisa Riley, the latter of which incidentally, was a judge for MADTrust’s West End Eurovision 2013. Also appearing as a presenter is Wicked stage performer Harriet Thorpe.
Aside from the celebrity presenters and the performances from the dancers, West End Bares has still more treats in store for its audience members. Up-and-coming composing duo Anderson & Petty are currently in the midst of recording their debut album of original compositions, which features performed by West End vocalists Sophia Ragavelas, Kieran Brown, Debbie Kurup, Gina Beck, Cynthia Erivo, Matthew Barrow and Frances Ruffelle. Musical theatre veteran and original Eponine in Les Miserables, Ruffelle is collaborating with Anderson & Petty away from the album also, as she teams up with another West End star to perform a new song commissioned exclusively for West End Bares. Ruffelle will duet with Michael Xavier, who is currently starring in the Open Air Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of The Sound of Music.
Continuing the tradition of MADTrust’s ‘Pant Project’ at the event, there will also be a catwalk of underwear which has been specially customised by the wardrobe department of various West End shows, such as The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. In addition, a number of celebrities have also customised and autographed pants for the charity, including Rylan Clark, Joanna Lumley, Emma Thompson, Graham Norton, Alfie Boe and Kate Winslet. The underwear will be auctioned on EBay to raise funds following the event.
West End Bares 2013 is presented in association with Nair, which is sponsoring the event alongside the likes of GT Magazine and MAC AIDS Fund. Charity Director of MADTrust, Steven Inman, said of the event: “West End Bares is a great fun way to spend an evening with some of the best talent there is on the West End stage, supported by some of our nation’s favourite names and raising funds for a great cause… If you haven’t been to this event before, give it a try, you won’t regret it!”
I was unfortunately unable to attend last year’s event, but I was there for 2011 and would certainly support Inman’s statement. WEB was presented by Gok Wan and Sheridan Smith that year, both of whom made the national news thanks to Wan persuading his co-presenter to strip to her underwear – that photo of her on stage in stockings and suspenders and clutching her bare breasts was featured in many well-known newspapers the following day and has become an iconic WEB image. Those who also attended that year will also recall the unforgettable performance by West End leading man Ramin Karimloo, who sang ‘Sex On Fire’ with a bevy of dancing beauties, who stripped him down to his underwear during the song. I remember watching the performance with Simon Bailey, who had previously co-starred with Karimloo in Phantom and was there as his guest on the night. I don’t know if he quite expected to watch his friend near-naked on stage when he agreed to come along, but in any case, the crowd’s obvious enjoyment wasn’t enough to convince him to contribute his own ‘talents’ to next year’s event.
West End Bares 2013: All The Fun of the Bare takes place this Sunday (1st September 2013) at its previous venue of Café de Paris. There are two shows on the night, the first at 9.30pm and the second continuing the fun at midnight. Previous events have proven themselves to be sold-out successes and tickets go like hotcakes, so those wishing to go should act quickly. Audience members can sip on the specially-made West End Bares cocktail, Bareground Attraction, as the West End cast raise the temperature with their hot and steamy performances. You couldn’t ‘bare’ to miss it.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
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