Editors' Blog: Having a Ball (& Staunton) at West End Eurovision
I've only just about recovered from this year’s event, which finally drew close at the West End's Dominion Theatre around 2.30 this morning (well done if you stayed up and watched our live stream to the bitter end).
I can't pretend it was the most stunning climax to a show in recent West End history - major gremlins resulted in a technical ‘omnishambles’ - but nevertheless the audience spilled out into the early morning air laughing, smiling, and many no doubt hoarse from cheering.
Held in aid of TheatreMAD and now in its fifth year, West End Eurovision, much like its cousin West End Bares, is one of those nights when the barriers between stars and audience are well and truly lowered and the more ‘stagey’ among them are given free rein. Flags and outrageous costumes abound as the casts of Theatreland's biggest hitters merrily send themselves up in the name of charity.
The runaway winner this year was the Sweeney Todd company, who played the ultimate trump card by performing Michael Ball’s 1992 entry “One Step Out of Time” with a special appearance from - yep, you guessed it. Creeping up on ensemble member Matthew Gent (who does a stunning impression of Ball in his chart-topping days) with his Sweeney razor, he slit his younger doppelgänger’s throat and grabbed the mic to bring the number to a foot-stomping climax.
But the best was yet to come. Out popped Mrs Lovett (Imelda Staunton) to help drag away the Gent’s corpse, before reappearing with Ball to mop up the blood – and the applause. A cast member told me at the interval he has never worked with a leading pair as fun and professional Ball and Staunton (who apparently pops her head around every dressing room door before curtain up), and this certainly shined through last night.
So full credit to them and to all the shows involved this year (Mamma Mia!, Wizard of Oz, Wicked, Phantom, WWRY, 39 Steps, Les Mis, Shrek, Rock of Ages and Billy Elliot) – there was hardly a weak link among them and they managed to dredge up some incredibly catchy numbers from the dross-riddled Eurovision archives.
And special mention should also go to hosts Gaby Roslin and John Partridge for battling on through the myriad technical hiccups, and to panel member Kerry Ellis, who not only showed a sense of humour regarding her recent appearance on The Voice (“at least your chair’s facing the right way,” Roslin joked after one number), but also stepped in at the end to give us a belting rendition of “Somebody to Love”.
So once the streamers have been swept and the hangovers fed I think David Pendlebury and his team can look back proudly on another fine year for this night of unashamed stagey fun - roll on the next.