April 22nd saw the relaunch of ‘West End Eurovision’ at the Shaftesbury Theatre, by Theatre MAD (Make A Difference Trust) who also put on shows such as ‘West End Bares’, raising money for HIV & AIDS awareness.
In true MAD style, the production value was fantastic. LED lighting strips framed the stage with the live band dead centre. There was a projector screen above the band in which each contestant showed an ‘ident’ representing their act, which I will come back to.
The evening, hosted by the very funny Richard Gauntlet, saw each show play a video ident (pre filmed) which they could win an award for, and a performance to any Eurovision competing song. However each act was asked to put a flare of their own show into their performance. Judging them was comedian Tom Allen, West End Choreographer Arlene Phillips and actor John Partridge.
The contestants for the evening were HAMILTON (performing Cliche Long Song, Denmark 2014), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (performing Take Me To Your Heaven, Sweden 1999), 42nd STREET (performing Boom Bang A Bang, UK 1969), KINKY BOOTS (performing Warrior, Georgia 2015), PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (performing Rise Like a Phoenix, Austria 2014), DREAM GIRLS (performing Making Your Mind Up, UK 1981), MAMMIA MIA (performing Undo, Sweden 2014) and finally ALADDIN (performing Drama Queen, Denmark 2007).
All the performances were high energy and well thought out, with humour driving it forward. The idents were a nice touch but most of them didn’t really relate to their performance which left a lot of the audience a little confused to the context. Although Hamilton’s performance lacked fun, and stank of ego, their ident was well thought out, which led to them winning the award for Best Ident. Surprisingly – ALADDIN wasn’t allowed to show their video last minute as Disney refused the rights (shocker), but they still seemed to come in second for their ident.
As for the performances, special mentions must go to 42nd Steet which had a impromptu appearance from their leading lady, and UK superstar Lulu! Phantom of the Opera stole the show for me with their incredible performance. It was well thought out, funny, involved magical reveals, and quite frankly the best voices of the night (followed closely by Dream Girls). Its not a surprise that Phantom then went on the win the main trophy that evening.
The scoring system has to get a mention. The audience got to text in their vote as well as the judges and each show got a vote to give their ‘2 points, 4points etc’. As the points were being read out, there was a huge live interactive scoring board, a touch that really made the evening for me.
Throughout the night we heard from different member of the Make A Difference Trust, explaining where the money is going and who it is helping. Let’s not forget, the evening was put on for their benefit. We heard from many speakers, including Dean McCullough who did a fantastic job talking about safe sex and HIV and how it’s still not being talked about enough in schools.
Sadly, sat in the same row as me, there were some younger guys who seemed to be involved with the evening somehow who decided to talk throughout anything that wasn’t a performance, which was really distracting and also quite offensive. It’s a shame that an evening that was created for audience amusement and also to raise money for a good cause was being used purely as a fangirl event for west end fans. There were no ushers asking them to be quiet, as these seemed to be their friends.
The evening finished off with performances by Lucy Jones, who represented the UK in Eurovision and who is currently in the Legally Blonde, tour. Lucy has such a powerful voice, and her upbeat rendition of her song was a great way to get everyone on their feet and dancing. Finally we heard this years UK contestant SuRie who, even after following Lucy, gave us a very strong performance.
Overall the evening was full of excellent talent, cheesy comments from the judges (which, let’s face it, we secretly love) and a great way to raise money for a good cause.
West End Bares tickets are on sale now and will be held at the same venue, on 28th October 2018 for two performances 7pm & 9.30pm.
Reviewed by Benjamin Martin
Photo: Leigh Carter