Tuesday, 30 April 2019

REVIEW: West End Eurovision 2019, in aid of the Make A Difference Trust, at the Adelphi Theatre

Never mind Avengers: Assemble, this epic TheatreMAD fundraiser is West End: Assemble, as heroes from all departments give their best Eurovision-inspired performances, in the hope of lifting the glittering trophy at the end of the night.

Back for its 9thyear, this highlight of the theatrical calendar boasted another fabulous panel of celebrity judges; Love Island and 9 to 5 star Amber Davies, television’s Tim Vincent, ballet impresario Wayne Sleep and stage and screen royalty Bonnie Langford. Throughout the night they treated us to hilarious patter, particularly Sleep, and the audience lapped it up.

Host Richard Gauntlett is a marvel. Each year, he has the audience eating from the palm of his hand with his lightning-quick wit, and this year was no exception. Special mention must also go to Musical Director and Arranger Matheson Bayley, perhaps the hero of the night, leading the seven-piece band through all of the performances. Events like this can easily fall apart without careful planning and rehearsal; with Gauntlett and Bayley at the helm, there is certainly no danger of that.

This year, the shows competing for the trophy were Only Fools & Horses, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Aladdin, Mamma Mia!, Follies, Wickedand reigning champions The Phantom of the Opera. Everyone involved devotes their time voluntarily, and an extraordinary amount of time and energy goes into creating the idents, costumes, choreography, vocal arrangements and technical work on and offstage.

The best choreography (and execution) of the night came from the cast of Wicked, with their performance of 2004 Ukrainian entry “Wild Dances”. Exciting, inventive, and incredibly tight, the dancers did choreographers Scott Sutcliffe and Paulo Teixeira proud. It was great to see Sutcliffe summoned to the stage for commendation from Bonnie Langford, and the performance won the Judges’ award for Best Direction & Choreography at the end of the night. It certainly got my vote!

It was incredibly humbling to see West End veterans Joanna Riding and Janie Dee (who also choreographed) appear in the Folliesperformance, 1977 French entry “L’oiseau et L’enfant”. This was a complete contrast to everything else we saw throughout the evening, and proof that sometimes less is more. It was simple, still and sung entirely in French (a first for West End Eurovision), with flawless accents.

Reigning champions The Phantom of the Opera showed us once again that they know how to deliver. Their take on “Grande Amore”, the 2015 Italian entry, was spellbinding, and garnered a standing ovation. Another huge contrast to the other performances, they stayed true to their operatic routes, with costume reveals and the most epic key change of the evening. It was no surprise that they held onto their title as West End Eurovision 2019 Champions.

Special guest performances came from from the UK’s 2019 entry, Michael Rice, and Eurovision legend and 1998 winner Dana International. Rice’s “Bigger Than Us” feels reminiscent of The Greatest Showman’s“This Is Me”, but does take a while to get going. Dana International treated us to her anthem “DIVA”, and was joined by the West End Eurovision dancers, with choreography by Will Peaco. For the die-hard Eurovision fans in the room (and there were a lot of them), Dana International’s appearance was a real treat.

It is always so wonderful to see the theatre community coming together to raise money for an incredibly worthy cause, particularly at a time where there is so much unrest around the world. The work the Make A Difference Trust does both in the UK and in Sub-Saharan Africa supports those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. They’ve been changing lives for nearly 30 years, and will continue to for years to come with the money raised by this wonderful event.

The results:

Best Ident – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Best Costume (Most Fabulous) – The Phantom of the Opera
Judges’ Choice (Best Direction & Choreography) – Wicked
West End Eurovision 2019 Champions – The Phantom of the Opera

Review by Ian Marshall 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Dress Circle, M22 | Price of Ticket: £25 - £50, VIP packages £110
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