It is now just one week until what has fast become one of the events of the theatre year: West End Eurovision. Returning on 23rd May 2013 for its sixth year, this fun, Eurovision-style charity performance sees another ten West End shows competing against one another to be named 2013 West End Eurovision champions, taking the crown from last year’s winners, Sweeney Todd.
For those who may be new to the concept, West End Eurovision is an annual event presented by TheatreMAD, an off-shoot of the entertainment charity The Make A Difference Trust (MADTrust). Styled on the long-running televised contest The Eurovision Song Contest, the West End version features a line-up of ten of the best West End productions which must stage a fully costumed and choreographed performance of a past Eurovision song entry. Last year’s event moved to the larger venue Dominion Theatre in response to its ever-growing popularity, and it returns there for 2013.
Taking part in West End Eurovision 2013 are an assortment of old and new faces. West End musicals Wicked, Rock of Ages, Billy Elliot, Mamma Mia and The Phantom of the Opera are repeat attenders at WEE, with Top Hat, Spamalot, Once, A Chorus Line and Viva Forever! making their first appearances. These ten shows will be going head to head next Thursday as they display their creative efforts in a live performance before the WEE audience, but the competition already began for them with the release of the video idents. Each show has produced an accompanying video ident which will introduce their performance on the night, but also serves to raise support for them with the public as all videos include an individual phrase code which can be texted to a number – this carries the double benefit of raising money for the charity and gaining each show more support for them and their ident. The most popular ident will earn its respective show the Ident Award on the night.
I’ve viewed all of this year’s WEE idents, as I’m sure many of you have. Once again, all the participating shows have has produced some fantastic results which offer fans just a taste of what they can expect at West End Eurovision this year. Some have been inspired by popular films, such as with the Hunger Games-themed ident from Wicked or the ‘stagey sequel’ to Saw (featuring Warwick Davis) that A Chorus Line came up with, while Once used the James Bond and HRH the Queen spot featured in the 2012 Olympic Games as a basis for their ident, and even roped Dame Helen Mirren into making an appearance. There were also some hilarious efforts from the likes of Top Hat (Tapititus), Rock of Ages (Big Throbbing Rock), Mamma Mia (Name the ABBA songs) and Viva Forever! which poked fun at its negative reviews and early closure with its ‘forever’ cast who could never leave. The best of the bunch for me though were Spamalot with director Christopher Luscombe’s Spamatot Academy, Billy Elliot with the reunion of boy band Turquoise and The Phantom of the Opera with their spoof of ‘Southern Comfort Man’, brilliantly played by cast member Tim Morgan. All the video idents can be viewed on YouTube.
Every year, West End Eurovision invites a number of celebrities to join in with the night’s activities. Past names which have involved themselves with WEE include Gaby Roslin, John Partridge, Sheridan Smith, Justin Lee Collins, Frances Ruffelle, Sally Ann Triplett and Graham Norton, in varying positions from presenters to celebrity judges. The 2013 event doesn’t disappoint with another batch of well-known names taking part this year. Multi-talented entertainer Richard Gauntlett is on board as the night’s compare, assisted by a series of guest hosts who will be presenting individual links throughout the evening, including the Creativity, Ident and Volunteer awards. These will be ‘Queen’ of the Jungle and panto favourite Christopher Biggins, 80’s pop singer Sinitta, Wicked star Harriet Thorpe and the big-voiced actress and singer Kerry Ellis – the latter was a judge at WEE 2012 and will forever be remembered for stepping in during technical difficulties with an impromptu performance of ‘Somebody To Love’ which brought the house down. Sitting on the celebrity judging panel will be actress Lisa Riley, West End leading lady Jodie Prenger, X-Factor contestant Rylan Clark and Oz’s former Wizard, Russell Grant.
It has become tradition at West End Eurovision for a former Eurovision Song Contest act to perform at the event. Past audiences have been treated to special performances from such acts as Scooch, Bucks Fizz, and last year, Javine Hylton. For 2013, lead singer of Katrina and the Waves, Katrina Leskanich, will be performing their 1997 Eurovision entry ‘Love Shine A Light’.
TheatreMAD have become a prominent name in the West End for their extensive charity work and bringing the theatre community together in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the Make A Difference Trust, which aims to support those living with HIV AIDs and other long-term chronic illnesses. They have worked with the West End industry in an assortment of projects and, along with West End Eurovision, they are behind such other popular annual events as the burlesque-style dance extravaganza using West End dancers, West End Bares, and the seasonal concert series A West End Christmas.
West End Eurovision is a memorable night that never fails to deliver an injection of highly enjoyable and camp entertainment, and WEE 13 is set to administer another dose of theatrical fun. It has a phenomenal line-up of West End shows and a great selection of celebrity faces taking part, and there is still a secret guest act due to perform alongside the Dominion Theatre’s resident show, We Will Rock You. Director of TheatreMAD, Steven Inman said of WEE 13: “We are really proud of this year’s line-up and along with the amazing celebrities and some surprises we have planned for the night; this promises to be the best West End Eurovision yet.” The event has already attracted a great deal of backing from those in and out of the industry, with people invited to send in photos of themselves holding a sign of support. West End Eurovision 2013 has had a mass of photo-support from theatre fans, West End shows/performers and celebrity faces, including Barbara Windsor, Arlene Phillips, Samantha Womack and even ‘The Fonz’ himself, Henry Winkleman.
Ten shows will be performing on the night, but who is going to steal the Demon Barber’s crown for West End Eurovision 2013?
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 16th May 2013