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Spotlight on Darren Carnall

By Ben Bunce

This month the ATG Blog talks to Darren Carnall, a name we have seen in programmes and on posters around the West End for many years. From his first stage appearance in the local school play at the age of 7 to his choreographic debut in London's West End today, we thought it was about time we got to know the man in the bowler hat a little better...

© TalbotLee Photography
© Catherine Ashmore

What was the first musical/play that you ever saw?

The first one I saw was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat starring Jason Donovan. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen and I learnt every single word of the soundtrack.

When did you know that this was what you wanted to do as a career?

Quite early on. I played the lead in the school play as Rumplestiltskin when I was about 8 and then carried on being the most enthusiastic in the drama club at senior school! When it came time to do careers talks, I never had one because I already knew what I wanted to do.

When did you start performing?

I started dancing at the age of 7 at the Allesley School of Dance, doing Tap class, then I started Ballet and Jazz because my teacher said if I wanted to be a dancer I had to learn all the disciplines. I then went on to train at Laine Theatre Arts when I turned 16 and I left and started my professional career at the age of 20 in Chicago the Musical at the Adelphi Theatre, 16 years ago!!

Your best advice for someone wanting to go down the same route?

Work hard and don't give up. I'm told that when I started learning, I used to leave the dance school all the time but I obviously loved it because I kept going back! It's a very hard business to work in, but the rewards are worth it.

© Garry Lake
© Catherine Ashmore

Who is your inspiration? Your idol?

My Idol is Bob Fosse. I was lucky enough to be in Chicago and Fosse which were both shows in the style of the great man and I got to work with Chita Rivera, Anne Reinking and the great Gwen Verdon so I feel very lucky to have been taught by the people closest to him. My inspiration is Jerry Mitchell who I am lucky enough to be working with all the time at the moment. His energy and commitment to making great musicals is infectious and exemplary.

Most disastrous moment in an audition or on stage?

Most disastrous moment on stage came during the tour of Saturday Night Fever when i was playing Bobby C who sings the Bee Gee's (and later Steps!) hit Tragedy. I was supposed to run towards members of the cast who were in my mind but actually on stage and therefore frozen and looking through me. I slipped as I ran towards them, collided with one of the girls and ended up with her lying on top of me. The fact I was singing Tragedy, well, the irony was not lost on me!!

What is your favourite musical/play?

Merrily We Roll Along is probably my favourite musical. The story is unbelievably touching and the way it unfolds in the musical is a stroke of genius. Highlighting the fact that we can't see the path our lives are going to take is a powerful and poignant message.

What is the best moment of your career to date?

I have just been lucky enough to choreograph The Ruling Class for the brilliant Jamie Lloyd at the Trafalgar Studios and it is my first job as Choreographer in the West End. Walking up to the theatre and seeing my name on the front as Choreographer is something I will never forget.

© Marc Brenner

What would you be doing if you were not working in the theatre?

 I love interior design. All the members of my family paint or have creative jobs (my brother Paul is a graphic designer) so I'm sure I would have probably studied interior design and would hopefully be doing up some town house in Chelsea! I'm always redecorating the rooms in my house. They last about a year or two before I get the urge to change it up again!

A show/play that you think they should bring back?

42nd Street. I did the show when I was in a youth theatre group called YOG (The Youth Operetta Group) back in Coventry where I grew up, and I think it's one of the best shows ever written. They keep putting it out on tour in the UK but i want them to put a full, large scale production back into the West End where it belongs!

Click here to keep up to date with Darren on Twitter