Staged for the first time in the rather lovely Adelphi Theatre, West End Eurovision has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the MAD Trust – and it’s ninth event did not disappoint.
The Make A Difference Trust works tirelessly to support HIV and AIDS related projects in both the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa; as the Chair of the Trust Melanie Tranter herself reminded us it is “a tiny charity, with only two employees the beating heart of the trust…a night like West End Eurovision shows the power the arts have to engage in an act of change.”
While emotional speeches and heart-warming video clips of the great work the charity achieves were a vital part of the evening, the main event was the competition itself. The stakes were high as seven of our top current West End shows battled it out for votes from both a panel of celebrity judges, representatives from each show, and text votes from the audience, while recreating their own versions of choice performances from the last few years of Eurovision proper.
I was lucky enough early in my career to have been directed by the genius that is Richard Gauntlett in one of his well-loved self penned panto creations at the Theatre Royal Norwich, and to see him here as our genial host was quite a treat.
Balancing on the knife edge of mercilessly poking fun at celebrities both in attendance and “down the road at the Panto Awards” along with shows that have closed/might potentially close soon…no-one was safe and nothing sacred! With warm, jolly, camp good fun I was reminded what a talent Richard is as both a writer and performer and for me he was the perfect host for the event.
Tourette’s of the pirouette
The production values were uniformly high from the opening number, and all seven competition performances of a higher standard than we have seen in previous years. A particular standout moment for me was the cameo Layton Williams made in the “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” entry, a cover of Israel’s 2018 winning number “Toy”; that man oozes star quality and his dancing is out of this world.
Great good humour was brought by the celebrity judges in the form of showbiz legends Bonnie Langford and Wayne Sleep (as Richard humorously pointed out one of Wayne’s complimentary comments was the old adage “Less is More” to great amusement from the crowd, particularly as Wayne seems to have Tourette’s of the pirouette among other grand gestures) with well loved Blue Peter presenter Tim Vincent and Love Island and 9 to 5’s Amber Davies completing the line-up.
Special mention must go to the outstanding band under the musical direction and arrangements by Matheson Bayley…truly thrilling.
We were treated to performances from Eurovision legend Dana International with her infamous winning entry “Diva” and our current great hope for this year’s UK entry to Eurovision from All Together Now winner Michael Rice with “Bigger than Us” while the votes were counted and verified.
The Celebrity Judge’s Prize for “Creativity, Choreography and Production” went to Wicked’s imaginative entry with Ukraine’s “Wild Dances”.
In the end “Phantom of the Opera” were the victors of the night (see header pic), winning the trophy for the second consecutive year with 88 points for their cover of Italy’s “Grand Amore”. With thrilling voices, clever staging and excellent production values, as well as glorious costume changes, they also won the coveted “Outstanding Gorgeousness” prize, judged by Fly Davis and Jamie Campbell for costume design. This well-deserved winner, eliciting two standing ovations from the audience, was closely followed by the “Follies” entry, which was a classy French affair with stunning vocals and costumes.
The third prize of the night was won by “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” for the ident competition, voted for by fans in the run up to the event.
With Eurovision stalwart Graham Norton presenting the trophies, this glittering evening for a fantastic cause should be a must-attend annual fixture for musical theatre and Eurovision fans alike. Roll on next year!