The Phantom of the Opera retain their title in a dazzling performance at West End Eurovision 2019
The Adelphi theatre is the new home for one of theatreland’s most beloved annual charity events, West End Eurovision. Last night, stars from seven hit West End musicals generously donated their time and talent, battling it out to become the 2019 champions by performing an original Eurovision entry in front of four celebrity judges: 2017 Love Island-winner Amber Davis; her 9 to 5 co-star, stage and screen legend Bonnie Langford; beloved actor/presenter Tim Vincent; and dance master Wayne Sleep OBE.
The evening began with an opening number worthy of the Oscars – cue clever lyrics and line kicks as hilarious host Richard Gauntlett (the original Lefou in West End’s Beauty and the Beast) expertly mocked and explained the additional three trophies up for grabs: The Best Ident Movie, voted for online by the public, the entries played for us before each song; The Best Creative, chosen by tonight’s judges; and a new costume award, Outstanding Gorgeousness.
First up was the ident, and then the cast of Only Fools and Horses (from the Theatre Haymarket) gave a jovial rendition of Ukraine’s 2007 second-place entry Dancing Lasha Tumbai, which came with a gatecrashing Del Boy and cardboard yellow three-wheeler.
Taking on last year’s Eurovision winner, Israel’s Toy, was the cast of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo theatre), who hit the stage in fantastic form. With catchy vocals, neon outfits and Layton Williams aka Jamie repeatedly backflipping across the stage, the bar was set super high. Aladdin’s ident video was practically perfect, as everyone’s favourite nanny Mary Poppins dropped by the Prince Edward Theatre for spit spot of magical assistance, dispensing medicine with a spoonful of sugar, before their song took us to a whole new world with a terrific tribal take on Finland’s 2018 song Monsters.
Gasps reverberated around the Adelphi as one of the Novello Theatre’s Mamma Mia stars fell and limped across the stage until the mic was handed to a startled, off-key dancer – then after another mishap, we realised it was all part of their hilarious routine. Taking Iceland’s 2010 dance track Je Ne Sais Quoi in a comical direction was genius: it stood out, fooled the judges and raised the bar, bringing the competition’s first half to an impressive musical conclusion.
Before the interval, we learned more about the incredible work that Make a Difference Trust has been doing for the past 30 years supporting those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS here in the UK and in Africa. Every element of West End Eurovision is voluntary and last year this event raised a staggering £42,179, an incredible achievement. This year it may be even more.
We returned with a trip to 1968 Eurovision, everyone enjoying a sing along to Cliff’s mega-hit Congratulations. The ident video from The Follies (National Theatre) had an understandable political tone and their 1977 French winner L’Oiseau et l’Enfant exuded elegance and style as four divas with delicious harmonies delighted the crowd and received well-deserved, thunderous applause.
2018 Champions The Phantom of the Opera began as the original entrants II Volo had with Italy’s 2015 hit Grande Amore, the male trio of voices caressing each note until they pulled away the cloth surrounding them to reveal the rest of the cast. Their voices soared in multi-pitch perfection as their magnificent rendition sent shivers through the room, the performance then incorporating another costume change as ladies went from black to sequined rainbow gowns with exquisite musical timing.
Their ident had shown us the Phantom’s merciless boot camp and it was clear all that work had certainly paid off as the room exploded, everyone aware they had just witnessed something extremely special.
2004 winner, Ukraine’s Wild Dancers, was an inspired choice for Apollo Victoria’s Wicked as they enthralled with fabulous costumes, flying vocals and undoubtedly the highest note of the night, bringing this year’s exceptional battle to a spellbinding finish.
As the crowd switched on their phones, ignored the many messages and voted for their favourite, guest artist and Eurovision megastar Dana International pounced onto the stage in a black glittery catsuit to some heart-pumping beats before taking us back to her 1998 worldwide smash hit Diva.
All seven casts stood waving flags as the tension mounted and the winners were announced: The Best Ident Movie went to Everybody’s Talking About Jamie; The Best Creative, decided and presented by the celebrity judges, was given to Wicked; and the Outstanding Gorgeousness award went to Phantom of the Opera.
Then, just like on Eurovision, a scoreboard appeared above the brilliant live band and each show’s representatives came on stage and awarded their points. This resulted in some narrow margins between Phantom, Follies and Wicked. Then it was time for the audience’s phone votes, which counted as double, and to announce these Dana International returned with guest 2019 Eurovision UK commentator and national treasure Graham Norton. Our 24 points went to Phantom Of The Opera, ensuring their second victory in a row, with Folliesonly four points behind.
Another rendition of the cast’s Grande Amore as magnificent as the earlier performance brought a well-deserved standing ovation for their dedication, talent and creativity. Golden strips (thankfully not a chandelier) fell down from the ceiling as another West End Eurovision extravaganza came to a close.
Can Phantom make it three in a row? We will have to wait and see what next year’s singing, sequined spectacular will bring. Michael Rice, who will be carrying the UK hopes to Eurovision next month, also kindly performed his beautifully emotive ballad Bigger than Us. We wish him the best of luck in Tel Aviv.
Photo: Gaz Sherwood/ PBGstudios.com
West End Eurovision 2019 took place at the Adelphi Theatre on 28th April 2019. To receive updates about next year’s event visit the website here.
Watch the winning ident from West End Eurovision 2019 here: