In Profile with Darren Carnall
The musical stage adaption of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels proved a hit on the boards of Broadway, so the show’s choreographer, Jerry Mitchell, donned his director’s cap once more and brought it to the UK last year. The West End production opened at the Savoy Theatre in April 2014 with Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound in the lead roles of Lawrence Jameson and Freddy Benson respectively, and is still going strong nearly a year on, with Alex Gaumond now starring alongside Lindsay. They aren’t the only stars in the cast though. Having worked with Jerry Mitchell on several projects previously, Darren Carnall teamed up with him again for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; not only as a performer, but also as a choreographer. The multi-talented Carnall has continually proven what an asset he is to any show he is involved in, in whichever capacity, and has more than earned his place in the ranks of In Profile.
As well as being a fantastic stage actor and a wonderfully creative choreographer, Carnall is a highly accomplished dancer. Growing up in Coventry, he started dancing at a young age at the Allesley School of Dance. He later attended Laine Theatre Arts, an esteemed performing arts college based in Epsom, Surrey which has produced such stage stars as Kerry Ellis, Ruthie Henshall, Michael Vinsen, Haley Flaherty and Liam Tamne.
Since he graduated from Laine Theatre Arts, he has performed on-stage in a range of productions both in and out of the West End, with one of his earliest roles coming courtesy of the hit musical, Chicago. Then playing at the Adelphi Theatre, the show gave Carnall the first of many West End credits with the ensemble role of Bailiff. He then appeared as a featured artist in the original cast of Fosse at the Prince of Wales Theatre, which he then returned to to play Curtis in The Witches of Eastwick, also covering the role of Michael Spofford.
The London Palladium is one of the biggest and most prestigious theatres in the West End, and is where the musical stage adaption of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang premièred in 2002, with new songs by the Sherman Brothers. Carnall appeared there as part of the original London cast of the show, performing in the ensemble and covering the role of Goran, alongside such stars as Michael Ball (Caractacus Potts), Emma Williams (Truly Scrumptious) and Brian Blessed (The Baron). Following that, he took to the road for his first touring production. He played Bobby and was the understudy for the lead role of Tony Manero in the UK Tour of Saturday Night Fever.
He was involved in several theatrical productions after that, earning further credits as Protean in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum (Royal National Theatre), ensemble/cover Emile in Beauty and the Beast (RSC, Stratford-Upon-Avon) and Kevin in Debbie Does Dallas (Oxford Old Fire Station). He returned to the West End in the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Guys and Dolls, which first opened at the Piccadilly Theatre in June 2005 starring Ewan McGregor, Jenna Russell, Douglas Hodge and Jane Krakowski in the four main principal roles. He played the role of Scranton Slim and was also Dance Captain in the production, additionally covering the roles of Rusty Charlie and Benny Southstreet.
Following his time there, he was next seen in the 2007 musical stage adaption of Lord of the Rings, which premièred in London at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and was one of the most expensive musicals ever produced in the West End. He had an ensemble role in the epic production and also covered the principal role of Gollum.
After the show closed in July 2008, Carnall next appeared in Candide at the ENO. He then played Mercedes and covered Francis/Jean-Michel in La Cage Aux Folles (Playhouse Theatre) and appeared as Rumpleteazer in an international production of Cats (Larnaca Municipal Theatre, Cyprus). The West End was far from done with him however, and he was soon back to join the cast of Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre, where he played Kiki the Colorist.
It was during his time in Legally Blonde that he first met director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell. Among his many other achievements, Mitchell is also the creator of Broadway Bares, the hugely popular annual fundraising event (which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year!)which features dancers from the Broadway stage baring all in the choreographed strip-show. When Carnall approached him about doing something similar in the UK, he was told, ‘You make it happen and I’ll help you,” and that was the start of West End Bares. Carnall is the Artistic Director of West End Bares, the sibling event to Broadway Bares which sees West End dancers performing striptease/burlesque routines for the benefit of The Make A Difference Trust. It was where I first met him, in fact, as I’ve volunteered with MADTrust and helped out with a number of their charity events. The annual fundraiser has been running for five years now, with Carnall devising a murder mystery theme for the most recent show in the series, which took place at Cafe de Paris on 7th September 2014.
After Legally Blonde, Carnall joined the original London cast of Ghost The Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre. Ghost The Musical was the stage adaption of the award-winning 1990 film of the same name which starred Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. It transferred to the West End in 2011 after making it’s world première at the Manchester Opera House earlier that year, starring Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy in the lead roles of lovers Sam Wheat and Molly Jensen. Carnall was a Swing and Dance Captain at Ghost, which ran for just over a year in the West End before embarking on a UK Tour. Following the show’s closure, he joined the cast of another brand new musical at the Piccadilly Theatre. Viva Forever! was a jukebox musical based on the songs of the Spice Girls, which made its world première at the Piccadilly Theatre on 11th December 2012 (previews from 27th November) and featured such names as Hannah John-Kamen, Sally-Ann Triplett and Bill Ward, with Carnall again performing as a Swing and Dance Captain in the show. The musical received a mixed response and closed after just 7 months in the West End.
Carnall’s choreography credits include Make Me A Song (Players Theatre) and Assistant Choreographer for Bugsy Malone (Queen’s Theatre), Tin Pan Alley (Edinburgh Festival) and Breathless (ITV). He also worked with stage and screen actor James McAvoy as the choreographer for The Ruling Class, which is currently running at Trafalgar Studios as part of the 2014/15 Trafalgar Transformed season.
His TV and film credits include Miss Marple: A Sleeping Murder, Scenes of a Sexual Nature and the upcoming Disney release of Cinderella.
He can currently be found in the West End production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy Theatre, where he performs as a Swing and is also credited as the Associate Choreographer for the production.
Darren Carnall is a wonderful talent and a great addition to any show, as an actor, dancer and choreographer. He has a wealth of theatre experience and is very gifted in his field, as anyone who has attended West End Bares in the past can surely attest to. This highly-skilled individual has achieved much in his career so far, but still has so much more to give to the industry, which we only be thankful for.
You can follow Darren on Twitter: @darrencarnall1
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 7th February 2015