Lying beneath the impressive Stamford Bridge Stadium, the home of Chelsea Football Club, is a secret nightclub – a cosy, bunker-like bar with a slightly futuristic feel to it. This hidden space is Under the Bridge, and on Sunday night, the doors opened for a red carpet event Reach Out and Touch organised by Wilmot Mulley – the fifth year this charity event has been running – in aid of Lupus UK; a sparkling, fishnet-clad variety show set to dazzle and engage its audiences with non-stop numbers, dance troupes and hilarious entertainment, all in the name of raising money for a rarely talked about cause. It’s a brilliant assembly of several diverse acts, spanning drag, dance and musical numbers; we’re guided through the show by the filthy Maria Hurtz (Martin Fox-Roberts), a glittering drag act with an endless supply of sequins and dirty jokes, experience some impressive Luther Vandross covers from Hamilton star Dom Hartley-Harris (and enjoy the competitive duets with fellow performer – and classmate – James Edge, who charms the audience effortlessly), and sit back in wonder at the fierce, energetic dance numbers, performed with elegance and ease by the Wilmot Mulley Dancers, a team of young talent who seem to throw themselves into Miulley’s choreography with boundless energy and skill (they barely leave the stage for the entirety of the two hour show).
It’s a real mix of acts impressively thrown together by Mulley, and brought to life by a brilliant line-up of artists who bring genuine joy to their performances – a joy that’s deliciously infectious. The energy of the room is tangible – there seems to be a real heart attached to the cause, perpetuated by both the performers and the crowd. It’s this warm feeling of goodwill that extends throughout the night, and despite being a newcomer, it made me feel quite at home. The quality of performance is high – it’s great fun watching standouts Edge and Hartley-Harris fight for the spotlight in several smooth sing-offs, channeling Crosby and Sinatra in their stage presence; as well as large scale musical numbers from performer Victor Ngo, who brings a wonderfully sunny rendition of Man About Town to life (the Young Frankenstein number is re-staged as a 1940s Broadway piece- and it works) with confidence and ease. There are moments I feel transported to a Saturday Night Live setting- it’s all showbiz, with performers and stage appropriately adorned with glitz and mirrorballs (singer Sam Love’s gorgeous diamante studded boots deserve a special mention)- and the crowd is well and truly pleased.
A delightfully entertaining evening from the benevolent Wilmot Mulley and supporting artists, this charity event delivers its promise to dazzle its audience, its heart beating firmly for a cause passionately cared about by its director. Here’s to many more years of Reach Out and Touch for Lupus UK.