As we head into autumn, the days are beginning to get darker and the nights a little colder. That won’t be a problem this Sunday however, as the the West End is about to experience a burst of super-nova heat with the return of the sexiest theatrical event of the year: West End Bares.
The popular annual charity event sees the spotlight fall on the incredible dancers of the West End as they take to the stage for a Burlesque-type strip show, performing choreographed routines which display their talents – in more ways that one. The show is back at Café de Paris once again this year, and as with each of the previous shows, the entire night is based around one central theme. This year’s event pays homage to the murder mystery genre and has been named West End Bares: Nude Dunnit? It’s all to easy add your own puns to the night’s activities, and with a tag-line which reads ‘4 Suspects, 1 Body, No Underwear!’, it also seems apt to offer a warning about the risk of the cast carrying concealed weapons…
West End Bares is the sister-event to the original US concept, Broadway Bares, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. It was the inspiration of the legendary Broadway director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, and he in turn provided the inspiration for the UK version when actor and choreographer Darren Carnall, who is the artistic director of WEB, worked with him on Legally Blonde. Carnall approached him about putting on a fundraising event and his response was, “You make it happen and I’ll help you.” That is exactly what happened and West End Bares was born.
The London edition is now in its fifth year and continues to go from strength to strength with each show. Previous shows Strip Britannia, Clothing Optional and On Your Marks…Get Set…Strip! have helped turn the fundraising event one of the theatrical highlights of the year, and last year’s show, All the Fun of the Fair, was the most successful yet. There are many treats in store for audiences of West End Bares 2014, the best of all being the announced line-up of West End dancers taking part in the show by taking off their clothes! These twinkle-toed hunks and honeys come from such hit West End shows as Miss Saigon, Wicked, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Book of Mormon and are undoubtedly the stars of the show as they get set to strut their stuff for the two performances that take place on the night: the first at 9.30pm and the second at midnight, with the latter being decidedly more risqué than its earlier showing. The full cast of performers for West End Bares 2014 includes: Jade Albertsen, Ashley Andrews, Alex Bird, Robbie Boyle, Will Bozier, Sam Cassidy, Claire Doyle, Patrick George, Maria Graciano, Lloyd Green, Selena Hamilton, Daniel Hope, Kim Ismay, Sophie Carmen Jones, Matt Jones, Robert Jones, Kurt Kansley, Jasmine Kerr, Jessica Ellen Knight, Matt Krzan, Ela Lisondra, Leon Lopez, Lucy Martin, Lisa Mathieson, Scott Maurice, Fergal McGoff, Sara Morley, Kanako Nakano, Eva Noblezada, David O’Reilly, Sean Parkins, Elliot J. Powell, Jon Reynolds, Oliver Roll, Tom Scanlon, Jordan Shaw, Kirstie Skivington, Joshua Steel, Gregor Stewart, Summer Strallen, Paulo Teixeira, Dom Tribuzio, Laura Tyrer, Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Matthew Wesley and Jenny Wickham.
Putting this stellar and very sexy line-up through their steps is artistic director Darren Carnall, who has also enlisted help from fellow choreographers Matt Krzan, Callum Francis, Billy Mitchell, Racky Plews, Ashley Nottingham, Dom Tribuzio, Stuart Rogers and Sean Parkins to create the night’s themed dance numbers, which are sure to be nothing short of spectacular judging by the results of previous years. West End Bares is about more than just the dancers and their routines however, even if both are the definite highlights of the night. This year’s event will be overseen by celebrity host Dr. Christian Jessen, star presenter of such hit TV shows as Embarrassing Bodies and Supersize Vs Superskinny. Speaking about his involvement in this year’s fundraising performance, he said: “As a doctor I am quite used to seeing bodies in various states of undress, but I can honestly say that the West End Bares bodies are, with perhaps one or two exceptions, far, far from embarrassing, as evidenced by their uncanny ability to generate huge amounts of cash for very good causes! It is both a pleasure and a delight to be hosting this year’s show. I’m quite sure that despite years of training, I shan’t know where to look. If you have never been, then come! We promise you an experience you will never forget.” He will be joined throughout the night by a series of special guest presenters as well, with Will and Grace star Leslie Jordan being the most recent addition to the already announced line-up of Christina Bianco, Jake Canuso, James Dreyfuss, Matt Evers, Jill Halfpenny, Helen Lederer and Harriet Thorpe.
West End Bares supports The Make A Difference Trust, the entertainment industry charity dedicated to helping people living with HIV and AIDS in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa. It has been working with MADTrust since that first show, and over the last four years, has raised more than £100,000 for the charity, which was originally founded in 1991 as West End Cares. West End Bares, together with MADTrust, aims to promote safe sex and raise awareness about the HIV and AIDS climate that we now live in.
Recent statistics show:
- Over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK
- Of these, 22% are undiagnosed and not aware of their status
- Nearly half (47%) of people diagnosed with HIV in 2012 were diagnosed late – after they should have already started treatment
Fundraising efforts for MADTrust through West End Bares also include such activities as ‘The Rotation’ which takes place at the end of the night and allows the audience to show their appreciation for the performers by tucking cash (pre-purchased money notes) into their underwear as they circulate around the venue. Another popular and profitable money-maker for the charity is ‘The Pants Project’, which was conceived in 2011 and see a selection of star names customise and sign underwear, which is then auctioned online. Celebrities who have previously taken part include Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Alfie Boe, David Tennant, Amanda Holden, Matt Lucas and Rupert Everett, among many others. Select performers also pose for the West End Bares calendar, which has proven to be a popular seller for obvious reasons. The 2015 West End Bares calendar goes on sale soon after the event and a teaser photo of the cover was recently released, featuring Daniel Hope and Laura Emmitt.
A new fundraising idea for this year is the West End Bares ‘Stripathon’, which sees people taking their clothes off and posting sexy photos in return for donations. Performers in past shows have always set up JustGiving pages, but it has now been opened up to allow anyone in the theatre community who wants to help raise money to take part, including cast members, stage management, backstage departments and front of house staff. The strippers have in total raised over £16,000 so far, and with three days still to go, there’s still time to donate (details are on the West End Bares website). Having seen some of the resultant photos already, I can say that it’s definitely worth it!
West End Bares: Nude Dunnit? takes place at Café de Paris on Sunday 9th September 2014 and has two performances at 9.30pm and Midnight. As Darren Carnall said, “West End Bares is a chance for the finest performers, technicians, choreographers and costumiers to come together, raise funds for a great cause and show why British Theatre continues to be amongst the best in the world.” That, coupled with the delicious dancers and the steaminess of the routines, makes this one-night-only event the place to be this Sunday. If you don’t, the only mystery left to solve the following morning will be why you weren’t there?
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Thursday 4th September 2014