Ahead of the real, 54th annual Eurovision Song Contest in Russia on 16 May, theatregoers will get a sneak peek at Graham Norton’s Eurovision commentating abilities. The chat show host - who takes over this year from Terry Wogan as the BBC commentator on the competition - has joined the judging panel for the second annual West End Eurovision, held at 11.30pm on Thursday 30 April 2009 at the Piccadilly Theatre in aid of Whatsonstage.com’s 2009 adopted charity, TheatreMAD (Theatre: Make a Difference), which supports those living with HIV, AIDS and other long-term conditions.

Commenting on his involvement, Norton (pictured) said: “After spending a few months in La Cage Aux Folles, I am delighted to be joining TheatreMAD's judging panel for their West End Eurovision contest … Because Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the UK's 2009 Eurovision entry, it seems fitting that West End shows are joining in the Eurovision fun. I'm glad I can be a part of it during my last week in La Cage.”

Members of the company of La Cage will compete against stars from Billy Elliot, Carousel, Mamma Mia!, Grease, Dirty Dancing, The Lion King, We Will Rock You and other current West End musicals will compete in the contest, which will be decided by the public audience, voting via text message. Norton will be joined on the celebrity judging panel by Katrina Leskanich (of Katrina and the Waves, the last UK Eurovision winners, in 1997) and Sally Ann Triplett. The evening will also feature a special guest appearance by Nicki French, performing her 2000 Eurovision entry “Don’t Play That Song Again”.

First broadcast on 24 May 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the longest-running television shows in the world. The UK first won the competition in 1967 with Sandie Shaw’s “Puppet on a String” and then again two years later with Lulu’s “Boom Bang-a-bang”. Other UK winners include “Brotherhood of Man” in 1976 and Bucks Fizz with “Making Your Mind Up” in 1981. This year the UK is represented by Jade Ewan, winner of the BBC reality TV Eurovision competition Your Country Needs You. She is competing with “It’s My Time”, the ballad written especially for the cause by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Tickets for West End Eurovision cost from £15 to £25, with £40 premium seats including pre-show champagne and a complimentary programme. To book, call 0870 060 6630.


In other one-off events in the West End, Hannah Waddingham, who has just opened at the Garrick Theatre this week in Trevor Nunn’s Menier Chocolate Factory revival of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, will perform a late-night evening of cabaret at the Delfont Room at the Prince of Wales Theatre on Saturday 25 April 2009. Waddingham was Whatsontage.com and Olivier Award nominated for originating the Lady of the Lake in the London production of Monty Python’s Spamalot. Her other West End credits include The Beautiful Game, Tonight’s the Night and Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens.

Hannah Waddingham in cabaret is part of the ongoing, semi-regular “Live in the Delfont” series at the Prince of Wales. Tickets range from £10 to £20 for the performance, which commences at 11pm. To book, call 0844 482 5111.

- by Terri Paddock