Bartels has performed in musical productions since 2001. He played Nick Piazza in Fame (2001-2002), King Arthur in Pendragon (2002). Both of those were productions from Stichting Theaterplan Producties Eindhoven. After that, he could be seen as Clopin in Disney's Quasimodo (2004), Roger Davis in Rent (2006) and Sjaak in Into The Woods (2007).
His big break came in 2008, when he got the role of student revolutionary Enjolras in Les Misérables. For this part and his role in Into the Woods, he received a John Kraaijkamp Musical Award 2008 for Aanstormend Talent (upcoming talent). In 2008, Bartels also participated in the television show "Op Zoek Naar Joseph", a Dutch version of the BBC program "Any Dream Will Do". Bartels was a favourite from the beginning, and he eventually won the lead part of Joseph in the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
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