Review: “When Clifton starts to dance and you can feel a ripple of excitement reverberate around the auditorium” ★★★★ Flashdance – The Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

If you yearn for the days of sudden saxophone solos, double denim and leg warmers, you won’t go far wrong with the new production of Flashdance, which will well and truly yank you back to the joys of the 80s.

Flashdance – The Musical is based on the 1983 film, which gained cult status mostly due to its iconic soundtrack – including the academy award-winning song “Flashdance…What a Feeling” – and raunchy dance routines.

Get ready for an enormous dose of cheese, but performed with so much energy and passion that you can forgive the superficial nature of the story and just wallow in the joyful exuberance of a high energy and thoroughly entertaining night out.

And one of the main reasons for the show being so watchable is its leading lady Joanne Clifton, who plays the steel worker-come-nightclub performer Alex Owens.

The former world showdance champion and current Strictly Come Dancing winner, shows her mettle, with a really breathtaking performance. You can’t watch anything else when Clifton starts to dance and you can feel a ripple of excitement reverberate around the auditorium. Her singing’s not bad either and fits well with costar Ben Adams’ classic pop vocals.

The supporting cast is also pretty good and Matt Coles’ choreography keeps an 80s air, without it feeling outdated. There are also some good comedy turns from Sasha Latoya as the sarcastic care worker and Rikki Chamberlain as the hapless club owner Harry, while Hollie-Ann Lowe puts in a great performance as the tragic Gloria.

This isn’t a show for anyone looking for any theatrical depth, but if you’re after a fun and frivolous night immersed in the 80s, you’re on to a winner with Flashdance – The Musical.

Flashdance – The Musical is running at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 7 October and at the Orchard Theatre Dartford from 9 – 14 October

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Lions and Tigers and Bares, Oh My!

The popular charity show West End Bares has ‘revealed’ this year’s theme for their night of fundraising frivolity.

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Now in its eighth year as the West End’s hottest annual fundraiser, fans are asked to join the cast of WEST END BARES as they strip off to see the Wizard in WEST END BARES: RUBY STRIPPERS at The Novello Theatre on Sunday 29 October with performances at 7.00pm and 9.30pm.

You can join the much-loved characters of Oz for an extraordinary night at WEST END BARES: RUBY STRIPPERS, which will see over 100 of the hottest performers from the West End stage and beyond, along with an array of celebrity hosts as they take to the stage to combine the naughtiness of burlesque with the magic of the West End. All monies raised will go to The Make A Difference Trust to fund HIV and AIDS projects that raise awareness, educate and provide care and support in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Directed by David Grewcock with choreography from Racky Plews (American Idiot; Footloose; Heaven on Earth),Ashley Nottingham (Thoroughly Modern Millie; Dance Mums; Disaster!), Will Lucas (Cats; Wicked), Joanna Goodwin (Barnum; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Sunset Boulevard), Aaron Renfree (X Factor; The Saturdays), Simone Mistry-Palmer (Motown; Dirty Dancing), Jaye Elster (Singin’ In The Rain; Half A Sixpence), Ashley Jordan-Packer(Cats; Thriller Live), Fletcher Dobinson (Cats; West Side Story), Chris Whittaker (Blondel; Judy!), and James Wilson(Strictly Come Dancing; The Voice)

Opening the show in style, WEST END BARES: RUBY STRIPPERS is delighted to welcome Olivier Award winner Rebecca Trehearn (Showboat, City of Angels, Ghost), who will perform a brand-new track written for the occasion by Mark Anderson (The Book Of Mormon, Legally Blonde) and Luke di Somma (That Bloody Woman [composer], 21 Chump Street).

Award winning director and choreographer, Jerry Mitchell, creator of the original concept ‘Broadway Bares’, the inspiration behind West End Bares, said: “Lions and tigers and BARES, oh my! I can’t wait to see the eighth edition of West End Bares in London and what a perfect theme to go full out and celebrate LIFE.  We need to keep up the fight against HIV and AIDS and by doing what we love or by buying a ticket and supporting this incredible night, you can be part of something HUGE that will change people’s lives – and you get to watch the hottest dancers in London strip, so it’s a no brainer!

Melanie Tranter, Co-Founder, Chair and Trustee of The Make A Difference Trust said: “Who can resist an amazing night of witches, lions and scarecrows combined with the magic that is West End Bares? I can’t believe that this is the eighth year of this amazing show. Sparkly shoes take over from the legends of Camelot, as David Grewcock and the amazing team behind last year’s EXCALIBARE, bring you Ruby Strippers. Every single ticket sold means that the Make A Difference Trust can continue our work towards a world free of HIV and AIDS. Together we can make a difference. So buy your tickets, get your MAD money, and enjoy one of the sexiest, most fun evenings you can have in a theatre!  I can’t wait to see you there!”

The Make A Difference Trust is a UK based charity with a vision of a world free from HIV and AIDS. Building on the legacy of 25 years of fundraising by the Theatre industry, they continue to make the vision a reality having distributed over £1.6million in grants to support individuals experiencing hardship across the UK as well as over £1million to support projects with their UK and international partners. For further information about the Make A Difference Trust please visit  www.madtrust.org.uk

Tickets for WEST END BARES are now on sale and are priced at £15 – £100.

Tickets are available from www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk

Photos by Darren Bell

We talk to Grammy nominated Sisters Grimm ahead of their new show Voices of the Amazon at Sadler’s Wells

After the phenomenal success of Inala, performed with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sisters Grimm will return to Sadler’s Wells next week with their brand new dance musical set in the Amazon Rainforest.

The company, which was conceived almost ten years ago by Grammy-nominated Ella Spira and former Royal Ballet dancer Pietra Mello-Pittman, will present their new show Voices of the Amazon with the help of Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons – who provides the voice over – and the Royal Ballet’s First Artist Nathalie Harrison, along with a cast of 16 dancer singers and musicians.

The creators took the idea for the new dance production from a visit to Brazil, where they saw for themselves the impact of the continued deforestation.

Pietra Mello-Pittman told us, “We went to Brazil and visited lots of cities but we ended up in the Amazon Rain Forest. We witnessed for ourselves the effects of forest fires and deforestation and we thought that we’d really like to try to work it into the narrative.”

Voices of the Amazon follows the story of Beleza; a water spirit, whose search to find a cure for her dying sister takes her on a journey deep into the forest.

Unlike the Grammy nominated Inala, the international cast of performers will undertake all of the elements of the production and Pietra said, “[They are] all singing, all dancing, all hanging from bits of fabric, performing circus skills and spinning on their heads as well.”

Composer Ella Spira has collaborated with Brazilian songwriters to ensure lyrically both the native Portuguese and English languages are reflected in the soundtrack. She gathered the inspiration for the melodies from some of the awe-inspiring sights she witnessed when in the Amazon Rainforest and fellow creator Pietra explains, “You just feel the emotion of the score”.

Sisters Grimm, Pietra Mello-Pittman (left) and Ella Spira (right) on stage at Sadler’s Wells with The Sweet London Life Editor Nicky Sweetland

The pair met through a mutual friend in 2008 and found almost immediately that they had a common goal, “We shared the same ambition with what we wanted to create, which was to fuse our backgrounds of classical music and classical ballet but really fuse it with a whole load of other disciplines and unite people from different backgrounds and create really spectacular shows.” Pietra said.

Ella has written the score for Voices of the Amazon (after her Grammy nomination for Inala), Pietra is directing the production and Helen Pickett (Resident Choreographer for Atlanta Ballet and former dancer with William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt) has joined the company to provide the choreography.

They are hoping the new show will be relevant – with some political leaders recently disputing the impact if greenhouse gases on the world’s climate – and will inspire audiences to take note of global environmental issues, while entertaining with an engaging narrative.

Ella Spira explained: “We hope they’ll leave feeling like they’ve had a really good night. We focus on having big choral singing that really hits you, so you have this immediate emotional engagement with it and we want people to leave feeling a bit more engaged with the amazon. It is a kind of folk tale and it is fairytaleish, but it’s beautiful. It’s also about letting go of differences between people and having everyone and everything coming together and respecting everything.”

Voices of the Amazon will receive its UK premiere at Sadler’s Wells from 4 to 8 July and the production is supported by WWF and the Eden Project along with science consultant Alexander Van Tulleken (CBBC’s Operation Ouch, Channel 4’s How to Lose Weight Well).

Following the run at Sadler’s Wells, the show will perform at Latitude Festival 13-16 July and Singapore 28-30 July. There are also plans to go to Australia and Hong Kong then do a UK Tour either later this year or early next year, including performances at the Eden Project.

Voices of the Amazon is at Sadler’s Wells from 4 to 8 July.