West End Eurovision 2012

The Make A Difference Trust has a great range of annual events on its calendar and last Thursday saw the return of one of its most popular nights, West End Eurovision. Now in its fifth year, West End Eurovision has grown considerably since its debut in 2008 to become a highlight of the theatrical year, with the West End shows which take part always very enthusiastic to be involved. For 2012, we had some regular participators back again (Billy Elliot, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, The Wizard of Oz) as well as some brand new first-timers (Rock of Ages, Shrek The Musical, Sweeney Todd) – not forgetting the return of the first play to be involved in WEE, The 39 Steps, who received wonderful support from the audience last year.

A lot of work goes into the organisation of an event this size, from both the MADTrust team and the West End entrants. For the latter, it all begins with the WEE idents and the selection of the Eurovision song they will perform; from there, the casts go through weeks of choreographing, musical arrangement, costume-making and rehearsals, and all of this in their own time for the benefit of the charity. MADTrust too, put in the time to make the night a success. Apart from drafting in the ten West End shows the event needs, there is the celebrity judging panel which needs to be finalised, the venue, the awards, the selling allocation of tickets for both the audience and celebrity guests/press, promotion and so much more. It all takes months of preparation and, with the move to the bigger setting of the Dominion Theatre this year, that work inevitably becomes more time-demanding.

The outcome always makes the workload involved worth it however. West End Eurovision raises thousands for the charity, which goes a long way to helping them in the work that they do, and of course, in the tradition of MADTrust events it is also a fantastic fun night of camp and cheesy entertainment for everyone involved.

We had some truly outstanding entries this year, but there were some which really stood out for me personally: The Wizard of Oz put together a brilliantly creative entry with their Roman-esque themed performance of ‘Boom Boom’ (Armenia, 2011) – I don’t think anyone is going to forget the sight of cast member Martin Callaghan whipping around those nipple tassels in a hurry. The cast of Les Miserables decked out in red, white and blue were superb in ‘Ne Partir Pas Sans Moi’ (Switzerland, 1988) and Carl Mullaney was the most sensational drag queen in Theatreland that night. I hear that Rock of Ages’ pirate-themed ‘Wolves of the Sea’ (Latvia, 2008) is still stuck in people’s heads; it certainly was a catchy number and their staging of it was faultlessly executed. I also felt that Shrek The Musical really captured the spirit of Eurovision with ‘Fly On The Wings of Love’ (Denmark, 2000), especially with those flowing white outfits; Alice Fearn’s vocals were also nothing short of stunning. All the shows did an amazing job though and everyone will have their favourites, from those I’ve mentioned to Phantom (‘Fairytale’, Norway, 2009), Mamma Mia (‘Bonjour’, Switzerland, 1969), Billy Elliot (‘Shir Habatlanium’, Israel, 1987), Wicked (‘Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son’, Luxemburg, 1965) or The 39 Steps (‘Boom Boom Boomerang’, Austria, 1977). The clear favourite of the night though was the eventual champions of West End Eurovision 2012: Sweeney Todd.

Sweeney pulled out all the stops with their performance of cast member Michael Ball’s 1992 UK Eurovision entry ‘One Step Out of Time’, which was placed second in the original international singing competition. Their staging of it was exceptionally funny and Matthew Gent was ingenious in his impersonation of Ball – which is why I featured him in my most recent In Profile article. The show received a standing ovation from the audience, due in the part to the surprise appearance of the demon barber himself and his partner in crime. Ball strolled out onstage during the performance behind an ‘oblivious’ Gent, stalking him before ‘slitting his throat’ and grabbing the mic to take over the performance, which was topped off by the addition of Imelda Staunton who dragged the ‘deceased’ Gent offstage with the parting shot of “It was 20 years ago Michael, get over it!”, before they both returned to mop up the ‘blood’ from the stage. It was a very deserving win for the cast, who also walked away with the award for ‘Best Creative Entry’ – Les Miserables took home the ‘Best Ident’ award, courtesy of Adam Linstead and Scott Garnham.

The only setback to the night was the unfortunate series of technical glitches that occurred throughout, most notably with the sound issues during Les Mis’ performance (which had to be started over) and the scoring board during the end-of-night voting. As the votes were added up by hand backstage, celebrity judge and West End star Kerry Ellis stepped in to save the day though with an impromptu performance of ‘Somebody To Love’ which brought the house down. She was simply sensational and thankfully helped to prevent the evening ending on a down note. MADTrust have promised to investigate the cause of the technical problems and were just as disappointed as the audience and shows with the turn of events. It’s an unfortunate part of live theatre sometimes and I’m sure many of you have experienced similar issues during a West End show, but we do appreciate how understanding everyone has been about it. Thankfully, most people haven’t forgotten that WEE is all in aid of a wonderfully inspiring charity and the good work that they do and didn’t let it spoil their enjoyment of the night which, apart from the technical gremlins, was once again a highly fun and successful event. On a side note, a list of each show’s placement on the night will shortly be posted on the MADTrust website.

West End Eurovision as been going strong for five years now and will return in 2013 bigger and better than ever before. As always, MADTrust is hugely grateful to everyone who came together to make this night happen and hopes to have everyone’s continued support – after all, West End Bares is only a little over four months away!

By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)

Monday 30th April 2012