West End Bares – Excalibare at the Novello Theatre, London.
Rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It is happy news indeed that West End Bares has been staged in a legitimate theatre for the first time. It’s where it belongs, like its Broadway equivalent.
True, the first six years at the legendary Café de Paris were fun, but lately the artists, as well as the audience, were beginning to appear a little crammed in to what was a comparatively small space, especially during last year’s sell-out success.
The beautiful Novello Theatre was the ideal home for this extended version of the annual charity event, easily the best by far.
From the terrific title song, written by Luke Di Somma and Mark Anderson and splendidly delivered by David Bedella, to the grand finale – ‘Marry the Knight’ – impeccably choreographed by Ashley Nottingham, Excalibare never had a dull moment.
It was just one showstopping number after the other. Highlights included the risque ‘Sword in the Stone: Pull It Out’, imaginatively choreographed by Racky Plews; ‘Ladies of the Lake’, with the ever radiant Summer Strallen leading an all-girl ensemble; and ‘Le Corps de L’Homme’ with spectacular fighting and choreography staged by Mitch Leow.
Who could go wrong with 106 first-rate performers on stage wearing 420 stunning original costume pieces,190 lingerie pieces from Ann Summers, 134 sexy Curbwear pants, 12 make-up artists, 11 choreographers, eight costume designers and five fabulous live singers? And that’s without counting 1,250 ivy leaves decorating the stage?
With surprisingly little patter from host Graham Norton, this 90-minute show was a fast-paced treat for the eye and ear with a well chosen eclectic track list, rightly followed by a free-for-all rotation of the dancers amongst the overjoyed audience as they collected extra money for TheatreMAD (Make A Difference Trust).
We can never thank the great director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell enough for inventing this concept and artistic director David Grewcock for bringing it to the West End.