Eurobeat Media Reviews

Eurobeat, the glorious celebration of everything Eurovision, heralds the dawn of the interactive musical as the audience vote for their favourite song via text messaging*.

THE METRO – August 2007

Oh God – a musical tribute to Eurovision? Yep, predictably this noisy, rabble-rousing spectacle – ten songs, a recorded introduction by Wogan, ridiculous outfits, voting by mobile to finish – is about as camp as Graham Norton listening to Bucks Fizz in a camper van.
The ten songs are cartoonish, shambolic delights: Russia have a boy band dubbed ‘the new kids on the Eastern bloc’, Italy’s combines opera, rap and The Twist; Iceland’s is just plain weird.
Beyond all the catchy musical silliness, Christie and co-writer Andrew Patterson have given this show a sharp sense of humour and bags of personality. Eat your heart out, Scooch – this show’s a winner. (5 stars)

VARIETY – June 2006

Destined to become this year’s major Australian cult musical, “Eurobeat” dazzles with kitschy brilliance and beguiles with its spoofy, all-embracing multicultural humor. Auds are lapping up this interactive piece, inspired by the already hilarious Eurovision Song Contest, an elaborate annual competitive popfest telecast to millions of international viewers (but, as yet, not Stateside), including ethnically diverse Oz.
”With its sweetly naive take on national stereotypes, “Eurobeat” is an epically delirious hoot, equally engaging for those unfamiliar with the subject it’s lampooning and for those merrily in the know.

EVENING NEWS – August 2007

Even Wogan himself can’t disguise his love of Eurovision (telling the audience it’s his pension) and how could you? What’s not to love about it?
Ten songs are performed, each one a winner if truth be told….but this is not just a comedy, nor just a musical, it’s perhaps the first interactive musical. Audience members, who have already been decked out with flags, badges and clackers in the queue, text in with their choice of favourite song.
This multi-cultural spoof is fantastically over the top and gloriously kitsch. The creators have taken everything that’s bad about Eurovision and made it brilliant. A very, very long run at the West End is surely destined to follow. (5 stars)

THE SCOTSMAN – August 2007

This show is aptly named….Eurobeat does, with affection, charm, and lashings of camp….Eurobeat is a very silly show, perfect for a drunken night out, but it’s also a deceptively clever one, equally enjoyable sober. Trusting its audience to get the joke, it is almost never more OTT than it needs to be. (4 stars)

NEW ADDINGTON ADVERTISER (Wimbledon) – April 2008

Everyone knows the Eurovision song contest is as camp as a boy scout jamboree, bring together all the most unfortunate excesses that showbiz has to offer. And, strange but true this is a musical tribute to the whole crazy thing! A big hit on the Edinburgh Fringe last year and also a success in Oz, it translates unbelievably brilliantly to provincial theatre and makes a wacky night out. You might think it impossible to lampoon an event which is widely regarded as a parody of itself, but Eurobeat excels.
It’s glossy, load and tacky in the funniest possible way. Even Eurovision veteran Terry Wogan gets in on the act – via a televised contribution. The clever bit is that each member of the audience is invited to vote for their favourite songs by text and the results are nail-bitingly announced Eurovision style after the interval. Forget the fact that you despise the Eurovision Song Contest: Eurobeat is a riot of fun. (5 stars)

THE GUARDIAN – August 2007

After a hard day down the pit (other wise known as Traverse 2) what a girl needs is a bit of trash theatre, and Eurobeat – Almost Eurovision at Pleasance Grand hits the spot. I reckon it’s going to be one of the mega hits of the fringe…Eurobeat is already packing them in and audiences are having a ball. …Several of the songs are actually much better than real Eurovision entries and the lyrics are often a clever mix of innocence and innuendo.
….It works because it doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence and always assumes that they will get the joke, and because the production values are high and the cast work their cotton socks off – and in some cases the rest of their wardrobes too. The famous Eurovision costume “reveal” is just one of the many Eurovision traditions spoofed, along with sour faced Eastern European presenters. No, it’s not going to change your life and it is instantly disposable, but only the terminally high minded would be inclined to award this ludicrously silly and enjoyable show nul points.

THE TIMES – August 2007

…a consistently amusing piece of musical mocker….with a spot-on new British cast, this gigantic tickle of an Australian import will almost certainly shift south of Edinburgh before too long.
…instantly, wonderfully funny….the audience participation angle is played for all its worth… at the performance I attended the crowd seemed to be on a manic high even before the house opened.
The script is laden with broad but clever satire and withering innuendo. Between them, the show’s three choreographers have devised movement that is slick and camp. The songs, delivered by a versatile and tremendously spirited young cast, are hook-filled hoots. (4 stars)

THISISLONDON.CO.UK (West End) – September 2008

Love the Eurovision Song Contest? Then see this show. Can’t bear it? Then see this show. Regardless of whether you are a fan of the annual popfest, you will love this spoof: Eurobeat, coming to the West End after being a huge hit at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and a successful national tour, is tremendous, ridiculous, camp-as-a-row-of-Scouts fun. And if ever you wondered why Eurovision has such a continuing fascination for the UK, Eurobeat will explain why — and confirm the suspicion that anyone who doesn’t like the BBC extravaganza is a humourless snob.
Eurobeat’s creators are Australian duo Andrew Patterson and Craig Christie; the latter’s Eurovision entry a few years ago was deemed ineligible because, despite holding a UK passport, he was living in Melbourne. So revenge is sweet as we are in “sunny, safe and secure” Sarajevo, with our hosts Boyka, former Olympic pole-vault champion turned cabaret performer, and Sergei, a very dodgy-looking children’s presenter. They hate each other, but it’s all fixed smiles and false bonhomie as they effortlessly match each other with tasteless ethnic stereotyping and casual xenophobia.
A manageable 10 countries take part in the contest and, when you enter the auditorium, you will be able to choose the flag of the country you are encouraged to support (and vote for by mobile phone towards the end of proceedings). The songs are pitch-perfect parodies and the dance routines are just as overblown and cheesy as the real thing.
Mel Giedroyc (one half of Mel and Sue) as Boyka and Les Dennis as Sergei keep a straight face amid the buffoonery, while the entries really could be anything Terry Wogan might describe for us on the BBC. The great man, by the way, does a knowing cod introduction on tape.

PRESS AND JOURNAL (Aberdeen) – August 2008

There are not too many shows which inspire north-east theatre goers to get on their collective feet and perform a whooping, screaming Mexican wave.
But with Eurobeat it came as standard. And that was before the curtain went up for the official start of the performance.
Before they took their seats with flags and clackers in hand, members of the audience were issued with badges bearing the flag of one of the contending countries in the mock Eurovision contest.
Set in Sarajevo, the show is hosted by former Olympic pole vaulter Boyka, played by Mel Giedroyc of Mel and Sue fame, and comedian Norman Pace as her dimwit sidekick Sergei, a Bosnian children’s TV presenter.
Both gave fantastic performances as classically cringe-worthy Eurovision hosts, their forced flirtations made all the more comical with the trademark vowel-mangling and unflinching delivery of double entendres.
The performers for each country were top notch, with wonderful singing, dancing and costumes – albeit very much tongue-in-cheek throughout.
If you normally enjoy Eurovision, you will love Eurobeat. And if you normally scoff at the whole embarrassing concept, well, you might just change your mind once you get your badge on. Go on, get yourself a clacker and give it a go.

SOUTHERN DAILY ECHO (Southampton) – August 2008

The phrase “Royaume-Uni – douze points!” may never again be uttered on live television. But for one glorious moment last night the possibility of Team GB romping home first in the Eurovision was a very real possibility.
The memory of a velour-clad Bucks Fizz clinching victory in Dublin in the 1981 contest (with the aid of those nifty detachable skirts, of course) is still cherished by many – myself, I must confess, among them.
And it was in the spirit of the classic Eurovision years that Eurobeat – Almost Eurovision took to The Mayflower stage for a week-long whirl of boy bands, boy-girl bands and dementedly frolicking folk troupes.
Taking the form of a fictional Eurovision Song Contest, the interactive extravaganza is hosted by kids’ TV reject Sergei (Norman Pace) and former Olympic pole-vaulter Boyka (Sally Lindsay, late of Corrie). With strained bonhomie they usher on ten acts “to fart it out”, each as banal and surreal (and very, very funny) as you would expect from Eurovision. Audience members, who are badged up with a “home” country on entering the theatre, then get to text vote for their favourite song.
With political voting thus firmly off the agenda, even the UK – here represented with a sickly pop ballad sung by a cavorting duo spookily reminiscent of 2003’s Euro-duds Gemini – stood a chance of victory. (“That’s the kind of quality we have come to expect from the UK – year, after year, after year…” enthused Boyka through a rictus grin.) There was even the traditional interval entertainment, a pull-out-all-the-stops Beijing-style spectacular (we were told) representing the turbulent history of Bosnia-Herzegovena. Translation – some dancing waiters and Boyka dressed as a turnip. Frankly, we would have been disappointed with anything less.
Lindsay and Pace were just the right side of OTT as the gold lame-clad hosts, and it would be a crying shame if at least one of these songs didn’t make it into the real song contest. Estonia’s, involving some briefcase-carrying businessmen stripping to luminous Lycra underwear, would be a dead cert.
Best of all – and it just wouldn’t be the same without him – even Terry Wogan puts in an appearance (albeit it on a screen).
“But did the UK win?” I hear you ask. Don’t be silly – but with your help they might just do tonight.

MUSICAL STAGES (Brighton) – July 2008

The question may well be asked how can you send up Eurovision when the real thing has been doing it to itself for years. The answer is that the creators of Eurobeat have done it and done it exceedingly well.
The show is not great art and may lack subtlety but it is a gloriously silly celebration of all the things camp and kitsch that go to make up the Eurovision Song Contest. Nothing is spared, all is ridiculed – figure hugging flamboyant costumes that get ripped off, atrocious hairstyles and crass lyrics that are matched for cringing embarrassment by dicey choreography. The best bit of lampooning is of the naff co-presenters that are wheeled out by the host country.
In the show the contest is set in Sarajevo with local “celebrities” Boyka, who once represented her country at pole vaulting in the Moscow Olympics, and Sergi, a kiddies TV host and part time lecher, in charge of events and introductions. The vampish Boyka is played with great relish by Mel Giedroyc who employs a hilarious forced laugh and is forever putting down her co-host, played by Les Dennis. Denis is in top form as he continually adjusts a wig and his crutch whist delivering the most atrocious of puns. Between them they create mayhem with the English language as words get mangled, often creating double entendres.
Ten acts are introduced in the first half of the show with each country’s stereotype being exploited to the full. Italy’s entry manages to combine opera and rap with the twist whilst Estonia’s homo-erotic routine with suggestive hand movements was well appreciated by the Brighton audience. There are two clever pastiches – Iceland’s entry has a spoof Bjork whilst Germany’s mocks Kraftwerk and Philip Glass. My personal favourite came from Hungary where a trio in peasant dresses danced and sang about the joys of eating chicken entrails. After all the acts have been seen the audience is invited to cast their vote by texting in their choice.
Whilst the votes are being counted the second half opens with the cabaret “entertainment” that reflects the host country. “I’m Sarajevo (Taste Me)” has a turnip dancing to song that praises the said vegetable. This is followed by a round-up of the votes country by country via a telelink projected onto a screen. Again the characteristics of the country and the crassness of the commentators have fun poked at them.
The success of this show is hugely dependent upon the willingness of the audience to get involved and participate by waving flags, blowing horns and cheering their country of choice. The Brighton audience threw themselves into it full heartedly and even my wife, who is normally like a violet shrinking on speed when it comes to audience participation, fully entered into the spirit of the evening and was as enthusiastic as the best of them.
It is possible that this show could follow Rocky Horror and become a cult show.

THE ARGUS (Brighton) – July 2008

Eurovision and Brighton have had a long alliance.
The city hosted ABBA’s legendary winning performance back in 1974 and the Duke Of York’s Picturehouse has been the venue for the country’s biggest Eurovision party for the past eight years.
So Eurobeat Almost Eurovision was an inspired booking for the summer, especially during Pride week when Brighton celebrates the camp and kitsch even more than usual.
And the show does not disappoint. It is a brilliantly silly celebration of everything the UK loves about the Eurovision Song Contest, from the tight costumes and ridiculous haircuts, to the dodgy choreography and embarrassingly bad lyrics.
No national stereotype is left untouched, both during the ten performances and the results announcements that form most of the second half.
The United Kingdom’s entry is uniformly awful, the Irish offer up a heartfelt ballad complete with smoke machine, and the Germans seem to have missed the point of the competition entirely.
Particular highlights are the Hungarian entry, which seems to focus on the eating of chicken’s entrails, the Bjork-spoofing Icelandic song and the helping of Estonian homo-erotica which proved to be the audience’s favourite on Monday night.
Our guides through the competition are the vampish former Bosnian pole vaulter Boyka, played with relish and a spectacularly forced laugh by Mel Giedroyc, and embattled children’s television presenter Sergei, brought to life by a be-wigged Les Dennis on top form.
With audience text votes deciding the final outcome, you can’t help but get involved in the action, and the nail-biting countdown to the winners.
It is a perfect night out for a group of friends or for anyone counting down the days to next year’s competition in Moscow.

WEST SUSSEX GAZETTE (Brighton) – July 2008

Think of Eurovision and the words classy and brilliant don’t immediately come to mind. Thanks to the sheer entertainment value of the camp, cheesy, silly, and hilarious Eurobeat – Almost Eurovision it may yet prove cool again to go ding ding a dong about the annual song contest.
Part tribute, part affectionate send-up, part lunacy this new show (still fresh from success at last year’s Edinburgh Festival) has understandably been impressing audiences on tour and stopped off at Brighton shortly before a well-deserved short West End transfer.
Introduced from the big screen by Euromeister Terry Wogan, the evening is one of the best nights out you are likely to get this side of an Abba reunion, with 10 countries battling it out in Sarajevo for the kudos – and the audience having the chance to text in their votes.
Leading the way in this Bosnian humdinger were a tousle-toupeed Les Dennis as TV children’s presenter Sergei (there was a great joke about Amanda Holden that only a few of us seemed to get!) and the gloriously catty Mel Giedroyc as the beguiling ex-pole vaulter Boyka, who came into her own as a turnip in the post-interval entertainment, “I’m Sarajevo – Taste Me!”
There wasn’t a single weak link among the exceptionally talented and attractive company, all of whom were called upon to represent at least two national stereotypes in the contest – complete with dodgy lyrics, tight costumes (or lack of them), and brash colour.
Highlights in what must surely become a cult classic were Scott Garnham’s Irish entry (Ronan Corr singing La La La), the lycra-clad KGBoyz of Russia singing Ice Queen, Adam Charles-Hills and Natasha Jayetileke for the UK (nearly a nul points scoring I Love to Love to Love (Love) by Rayne and Sheiner), the Kraftwerk-inspired humourless non vocals of Germany’s entry, The Molnar Sisters for Hungary singing a song about the nutritional value of birds, and the fantastically outrageous Estonian entry Together Again (a super Arvid Larsen playing Toomas Jerker, supported by the Stone Hard Boys) – a popular winner on the first night.
Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson’s creation, directed by Glynn Nicholas, is one of those rare treats – sheer entertainment, top quality performances, and something you are bound to want to see again and again. Go – feast on its delights!

LITTLEHAMPTON GAZETTE (Brighton) – July 2008

There’s more cheese than you can shake a stick at, a huge dollop of campness and it really is hilarious.
Eurobeat is doing what I thought could never be done – it’s out-cheesing the Eurovision song contest it is parodying.
Theatre Royal Brighton has become sunny Sarajevo for the week for Almost Eurovision and it’s a place well worth visiting for a show bound to make you laugh.
I’d heard it was brilliant but didn’t quite know what to expect when I took my seat on July 28, with my badge telling me I was voting on behalf of Estonia.
The audience were already up for the event. They were waving flags and clackers, cheering and shouting.
Cleverly written by Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson, Eurobeat follows the basic structure of Eurovision but with the acts already cut down to the “cream” from the top 10 countries.
Taking us through the line-up were hosts Boyka (Mel Giedroyc) and Sergei (Les Dennis), giving what can only be described as truly terrific performances.
With a laugh that has to be seen, as well as heard, to be believed, former Olympic pole vaulter, lifestyle programme hostess and vamp Boyka teased and ridiculed a toupéed Sergei throughout.
While children’s TV presenter Sergei, with dodgy mispronounciations and double entendres worthy of ‘Allo ‘Allo, gave some pointed and witty introductions to each country represented.
A comedy duo made in heaven, they could not disappoint.
Wonderful performances were given by a mix and match cast of singers and dancers for each country.
The routines were executed to perfection and beautifully sung, with some easily recognisable acts being mimicked.
Sweden, of course, resembled Abba, while Iceland had a demented version of Bjork, Germany was Kraftwerk and Greece brought us Nana Mouskouri.
All things Eurovision are there – clothes are ripped off, keys change mid song and Terry Wogan makes a video appearance.
But to say too much would ruin the show for those still to see it. Before the interval for “drink-drink” and “pee-pee”, we used our mobile phones to vote.
Unable to plump for my own country, although I loved Estonia’s camp hunks who threw away their briefcases and suits, I chose the Lycra-clad boys from Russia.
The second half saw the countries returning their votes, again brought about hilariously by the ensemble.
Who was top of the leader board at the end? My vote counted. Russia came in second but top slot went to my fellow Estonians! Could there be any other winners in Brighton?

LATEST 7 (Brighton) – July 2008

Forgive me for saying this but I have tired of the frenzy of fun that surrounds the Eurovision Song Contest – or at least I thought I had. Then came the invitation to see Eurobeat.
I like the Churchill Theatre in Bromley so I was happy to drive up for the first night and find out what all the fuss is about. Yes fuss, because this show has been getting some rave notices.
If I explain the process first, things might make more sense. Eurobeat is not a play, in any conventional sense – although the cast are all playing parts. It is however a contest, in a real sense, as each night voting takes place and one entry is the winner.
The set is truly tacky, in a very intentional Eurovision way. Just as the word Eurovision draws out the very oddest music, so too it draws out the worst stage design. This set is magnificently awful.
Mel Giedroyc and Les Dennis are equally appalling, in the very best way. Their portrayals of Sarajevo’s hosts had me crying with pleasure. Giedroyc has absorbed the pure essence of a Eastern European show-host and delivers it with an unrelenting smile that occasionally turns into a grimace. Her costumes look like she has been tarred and thrown into a drag artist’s wardrobe. Aware of her as a comedian, I was unsure she would pull it off as an actor but she does – quite brilliantly.
Les Dennis is equally hilarious as her embarrasingly bad co-host, in a gold suit and ill-fitting wig. Since his appearance on Extras, Dennis has attained a new status and in Eurobeat he proves his worth. The real stars of the evening are the songs. Ten entries in all, none from France (hoorah) and all written and executed in a knicker-wettingly fine way; from cheesy ballads to weird electro pop and all points between. The cast dance and sing with conviction, despite their moves being so terrible – terrible in the very best way.
Each member of the audience is allocated a country and at the end of the first half you vote by text. It’s easy and fun. After a few drinks – you will want a few drinks – you return for the ubiquitous entertainment. Giedroyc, this time strutting her stuff in a hysterical dance number, then follows the marking with video links to each participating country.
I wanted Estonia to win and voted for them but in the end Ireland won with an awe-inspiringly awful ballad that moulded Bono with Johnny Logan and Val Doonican, the tears ran down our legs.
If you love Eurovision you will love Eurobeat. If you enjoy a good night out you will love Eurobeat, the only show that I have ever seen that actively encourages you to leave your mobile phone turned on.

EVENING POST (Nottingham) – July 2008

As Mamma Mia has shown on the big screen, the great British public under the cosh of a credit crunch want a bit of escapism when they venture out at night. Something that’s accessible, recognisable and able to banish the woes of the world for a couple of hours.
I’m pleased to report that the Royal Concert Hall is serving up just such a feast this week with the visit of Eurobeat.
Once through the doors don’t forget to pick up your badge (which denotes what country you’ll be supporting for the night), and banish all thoughts that you’re in Nottingham. This superb parody takes us to Sarajevo in the heart of Bosnia Herzegovina as they stage the finals of the Eurovision song contest.
National celebrities Sergei (Les Dennis) and Boyka (Sally Lindsay) welcome us to the delights of their homeland and introduce songs from ten European countries.
You don’t have to worry about keeping quiet in this production either, because everyone is urged to support their country as loud as they want. You can even keep your mobile phones switched on as it will come into its own when it’s time to vote for the winner.
Noisy, brash, loud, colourful and that’s just the audience Eurobeat sneaks up and grabs your funny bone when you least expect it.
The songs are written and performed in an instantly recognisable way – this really is the Eurovision song contest. We know how the acts perform because we’ve sat and listened to Terry Wogan over countless years, and look, he likes this show so much he even appears on the big screen to introduce it!
Best of all it doesn’t take itself seriously.
Eurobeat is likely the closest we’re going to get to enjoying Eurovision the way we used to – before the tactical voting ruined the competition.
A cast iron hit for all concerned. And if you don’t leave the Concert Hall with Ireland’s entry engraved on your brain, there’s no saving you.
I give it douze points

EVENING CHRONICLE (Newcastle) – July 2008

As soon as you enter the Theatre Royal you cannot help but feel the buzz of flamboyant electric excitement that runs through the air.
Fans cheer, wave their flags, clap their clappers and honk more horns than gridlocked drivers on the M4. Yes, the campest musical extravaganza since an Elton John gig has hit Newcastle and has brought a whole host of glitter, lycra, music and laughs with it in the form of Eurobeat.
Terry Wogan introduces the contest via personal video message and as usual has the audience in stitches with his now legendary commentary on Eurovision, declaring ‘this is my pension’.
As the crowd whips up a frenzy of excitement our hosts for the evening Boyka (Mel Giedroyc) and Sergei (Les Dennis) take to the stage to rapturous applause and anticipation. They say all that glitters isn’t gold, but due to Mel and Les’s brilliant comic chemistry on stage, these two hosts are certainly giving a glittering performance in their matching gold outfits.
Italy kicks off the night’s proceedings setting us in good stead for an array of performances so crazy and over the top, it’s just what we’ve all come to expect from Eurovision.
Highlights are Estonia with their businessmen come boyband who are camper than a Steps reunion gig at a Butlins holiday camp, and Germany’s answer to an adult version of the Teletubbies performing an abstract electronic dance number.
Russia’s entry, a boyband of models straight out of the movie Zoolander in more lycra than the whole of the Tour de France cyclists, also prove a smash with the audience.
Surprisingly the second half of the show in which the results are announced proves to be the most entertaining. The whole theatre is in stitches as we are played clips of guest presenters from each country’s capital city announcing their results.
Mel’s comedy background really shines through as host Boyka and shows just how talented she really is.
Les again plays his part brilliantly with poor ‘Eurovision host’ jokes that have the audience laughing at his character Sergei rather than with him. This partnership makes the comedy musical a must-see. But don’t take my word for it, go along and boogie while making your mind up!

NORFOLK EASTERN DAILY PRESS (Norwich) – June 2008

Nonsensical lyrics? Check. Off-key warbling? Check. And a huge pinch of camp? You bet.
Last night must have been one of the noisiest – and definitely the most kitsch – in the history of the Norwich Theatre Royal.
Air horns were blaring even before our hosts for the evening, former pole-vaulter Boyka and children’s TV host Sergei, had taken to the stage to introduce the countries competing in the hilarious Eurovision Song Contest spoof Eurobeat.
The show, penned by Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson, which was a huge hit at the Edinburgh Festival, is en route to the West End – and even Mr Eurovision himself, Terry Wogan, was there in spirit, intro-ducing the show via a big screen.
No country escapes unscathed – the script is cheeky, packed with witty one-liners and double entendres – and the show’s leading players, Les Dennis (complete with unruly hairpiece and spangly suit) and former Coronation Street actress Sally Lindsay (who shows off her hitherto unknown talent for doing the splits) give great comic turns.
Audience participation and flag waving is mandatory – on arrival you’re allocated a country, and once you’ve laughed and winced your way through all 10 (scarily spot-on) entries, it’s time to vote, via text, for your favourite – a great chance to put things right if you’re still smarting from Royaume Uni’s poor perform-ance in this year’s real competition.
Last night Estonia won with Together Again – memorable for the band members’ Borat-style man-kinis as much as the song itself. The votes of the EDP jury are in – Eurobeat, douze points.

NORWICH EVENING NEWS (Norwich) – June 2008

Nonsense, complete and utter nonsense – but it was brilliant nonsense at its very best.
Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision was a celebration of all things Eurovision – but even if you hate the contest you are sure to love this show.
Ten countries from across Europe try to wow the audience with their songs which range from bad to awful in costumes from the sublime to the ridiculous.
While in between the musical acts Les Dennis, doing his very best Borat impersonation, and former Coronation Street actress Sally Lindsay provided the laughs as politically incorrect show hosts Sergei and Boyka.
It was like a camp carnival inside the Theatre Royal.
Italy, Estonia, Iceland, UK, Hungary, Russia, Ireland, Greece, Germany, and Sweden all went head to head for the chance of becoming Eurobeat winners.
The audience cheered, booed, clapped their clappers, blasted their horns, and waved their flags in support of their favourite nation which was determined by a badge given to them in the theatre’s reception as they walked through the doors.
It was Estonia who emerged as eventual winners with their camp entry Together Again which, as Sergei might say, beat off stiff opposition from Russia.
Other notable acts included the UK’s Love to Love to Love which amazingly did not end up with nil points, Hungary’s bird loving Molnar Sisters, and the post post-modern entry by Nepotism from Germany which had no singing at all.
Dennis and Lindsay proved to be the perfect comedy double act with their brilliant send-up as Eurobeat hosts.
In fact it was the attention to detail which was one of the most enjoyable parts of the evening – from the TV cameo from Terry Wogan at the start of the evening to the political voting from the rest of the European nations judges it was all there.
At the end of the show Jeremy Hooke, the city’s Lord Mayor and self-confessed Eurovision fan took to the stage to thank the cast and crew for a wonderful night. It sure was.
This is a show which is not to be missed – its camp, its kitsch, and it’s a comic classic.

STIRRER (Birmingham) – June 2008

Ten years on from Birmingham hosting the 1998 ‘Comedy Show’ masquerading under the title of The Eurovision Song Contest, it’s back in the city… Well almost!.
There are a few subtle changes. The venue has moved from the cavernous National Indoor Arena to the more homely confines of the Birmingham Hippodrome.
The competing Nations have been whittled down to 10. and replacing Hosts Terry Wogan and Ulrika Johnson we have Les Dennis and Sally Lindsay.
The audience are suitably encouraged to play their part in the proceedings. They wave National Flags, click ‘Clackers’, applaud any songs deemed worthy and text their votes to choose the eventual winning song as the curtain comes down to end the first half.
What a spoof. A laugh a minute show that lampoons what has become a contest so ridiculous that no one apart from the contestants can possibly take it seriously, and even they must have their doubts?.
The scene is set. Via a big screen Mr Eurovision himself, Terry Wogan, welcomes the audience with his usual combination of witty perceptive outlook on the coming proceedings.
Reminding them to ensure their Mobile phones are switched on so they can vote for favourite song and stressing they cannot vote for their own Country. (.In this case the Lapel Pin Badge bearing one of the Countries names, chosen as they’d entered the Theatre).
This year the host nation is Bosnia Herzegovina . The City awarded the ‘honour’ of presenting the contest being Sarajevo .
Sally Lindsay and Les Dennis wickedly ‘send up’ everything and anyone connected with an annual contest that down the years has become the butt of Eurovision critics everywhere. She is Boyka, an Olympic Pole Vaulter who vainly tries to hold the ridiculous contest together with the help of her male counterpart Sergi.
The songs come thick and fast, each in turn composed as a vehicle to underline some of the most ‘camp’ performances imaginable.
The Iceland entry are five girls, one making her entrance resembling a Silver clad Dalek. The Estonian participants are three dancing guys carrying .brief cases who finish their routine with an imitation of ‘Buck’ Fizz’ as they whip off their pants amid whooping applause.
The Germans? Ah yes the Germans the methodical Nation who pride themselves on attention to detail whatever the competition.
Sadly this time their multi clad trio of singers had been left with the impossible test of attempting to win a song contest with a music only entry!
My favourite, and I can’t remember them all in detail, was Ireland ’s. A male entrant singing a typical ballad that on numerous occasions has been adjudged the winners of the ‘genuine’ Eurovision. Song contest.
Laughs aloud as the stage is slowly filled with a heavy mist leaving him completely immersed and having to switch on a Miners headlight to find his way back to the front of stage. Truly hilarious.
On to the voting itself and a subtle dig as Sergi announces “This is a genuine vote, not like the National Comedy Awards” Ouch!

BIRMINGHAM MAIL (Birmingham) – June 2008

This is the ultimate in audience participation!
Clackers, horns and national flags were swung, blown and waved constantly throughout this spoof Eurovision show.
And the winning act is chosen each night by the audience’s text votes.
This is so cheesy, and tongue-in-cheek, that it is positively entertaining, taking the worst of Eurovision and making it funny.
An energetic cast sings and dances well throughout, from ‘Russian’ entry KG Boyz to Abba-inspired ‘Swedish’ outfit Avla.
But the real stars of the show are undoubtedly Les Dennis and ex-Corrie actress Sally Lindsay as over-the-top Sarajevo hosts Sergei and Boyka.

BIRMINGHAM POST (Birmingham) – June 2008

There are some things, surely, which are beyond parody – and until seeing this show I would have felt pretty confident in saying the Eurovision Song Contest was one of them.
But having started in a sceptical, not to say bemused, state of mind, I quickly found myself being won over by Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson’s brilliant spoof.
It has two powerful things going for it. One is that Christie and Patterson have managed to hit an extremely difficult target, finding just the right satirical touch where too little would have made it pointless and too much would have made it laboured. The other is the talent and enthusiasm of the performers.
Les Dennis, in shiny yellow suit, and former Coronation Street star Sally Lindsay do a good job as the Bosnian hosts with a linking script littered with corny double entendres, both intentional and not. But the ensemble of singers and dancers are the real stars as they whizz through beautifully crafted specimens of Euro-trash.
Bjork gets a cuff round the ear with the atonal robotics of Iceland’s entry, Love Ballad No 3a by Greta Grollmersdetter, unassuming Irish charm is consigned to the Celtic mists in La La La by Ronan Corr, and new-wave Russian machismo threatens to burst its lycra in Ice Queen by muscly boyband KGBoyz.
And this is a real competition. Audience members are allocated countries on arrival, and can vote by mobile phone, so the votes read out by reporters standing in front of the Kremlin or Big Ben in the second half are actually those cast in the house.
Monday’s winner was Estonia with the extremely catchy, superbly choreographed and outrageously camp Together Again, by Toomas Jerker and the Stone Hard Boys. But who knows who else might triumph during the week? For once, don’t forget to take your mobile to the theatre.

ONE4REVIEW (Edinburgh) – June 2008

Ok I know the world is going a little crazy, but when life imitates art (or is it art imitating life?), it gets a little too much even for me.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a bit of a saddo where music is concerned. Yes I actually watch “The Eurovision Song Contest” and the two qualifying rounds, pen and pencil in hand giving each performance marks, but when watching the superb “Eurobeat – Almost Eurovision” did the final results have to be quite so similar??? Russia winning, with my beloved Greece in third place (I demand a recount!!!)
We are welcomed to Sarajevo in the heartland of Bosnia Herzegovina by Boyka – ex-Olympian turned TV presenter – and her co-host Sergei. Sergei’s claim to fame is that he presents the countries only chil-ren’s TV show daily – this is his first opportunity to show his adult side?! Between the two of them they present the top songs from 10 Eurovision Countries, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Sweden and the UK. Not that there weren’t others who entered, but they were not fit for audience consumption. The song presented by each of the above countries display remnants of what are the best and worst efforts from past contests. Without being told what country each specific performance originates it is easily guessed by looking at the costumes, listening to the tune and the lyrics who is who. This is a brilliantly observed and presented premise with little comedic additions surreptitiously included in each segment. In my opinion all bar one of these offerings could win the traditional original contest.
The cast of performers on stage are some of the brightest and best we have seen together for some time, this basic core of 14 who perform all the songs from the ten different countries along with the technical team and stage management are joined by various front men (and women) giving the show completely different flavours throughout.
During Edinburgh, and previously in Glasgow the stunning, vivacious Sally Lindsay as Boyka is joined by the debonair and, dare I actually say it, sexy Craig Hill. Kiltless for once, Mr Hill is gorgeous in his white suit rivalling some of the sexy lycra and spandex clad dancers he introduces. In this combination we have a well respected actress who proves she can do comedy with the best and a Scottish comedy genius getting to display his acting ability.
Eurobeat has been a resounding success in Australia where it was created by Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson. It also scored a cult following during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2007 and has now started a UK tour prior to assaulting London’s West End, where I think it should do great business. As for the cult following thing, well, Geoff and I were not the only people in the audience wearing costumes referring to the nation we were following. You are encouraged to purchase flags, clappers, horns, badges and make as much noise in encouragement as possible. We also get to keep our mobiles on to vote for our chosen winner. It is theoretically possible to have a different winner each night.
Eurobeat does not take itself seriously (most of the time) and is a complete mickey-take of an institution which is sadly losing popularity. If anything “Eurobeat – Almost Eurovision” has much more of the original spirit of the event than its almost outmoded inspiration.
With a well-written lib, which produces several songs you just can’t get out of your head, superb choreography, a mix of both kitsch camp costumes and some superb haute-couture, this is an ideal night out for a great time whether you actually like the original or not.

TELEGRAPH & ARGUS (Bradford) – May 2008

We suffered bitter humiliation in Belgrade on Saturday but tonight, when Eurovision came to Bradford, the UK got sweet revenge – by coming a close second to Estonia. It’s a big douze points for Eurobeat, a hilariously affectionate spoof of the song contest we hate to love, and way more entertaining than the real thing.
It’s the first-ever interactive musical and for the audience there was a lovely sense of ownership as, armed with flags and clackers, we cheered on our adopted countries and texted our votes. “I haven’t laughed so much in ages!” cried a woman near me, dutifully waving her Sweden flag.
Billy Pearce, as you’ve never seen him before, was a gem as Bosnian presenter Sergei. And Mel Giedroyc was fabulous as co-host Boyka, former pole-vaulting champion turned lifestyle presenter. Her facial expressions alone had us in stitches. This was a hugely feelgood show, featuring gloriously Eurotrashy acts. There was Italy’s Vesuvia Versace, featuring rapper 50 Lire, seamlessly blending opera, hip-hop and the Twist’; Russian boyband KG Boyz in skin-tight white Lycra; Ireland’s lesser-known Corr brother urging us to wave our flags for world peace’ and a barking-mad child/woman from Iceland. The UK’s entry was chavtastic duo Reyne and Sheiner, with harmonies as dodgy as their stone-washed denim.
When the scoring got underway we were well ahead along with, er, Russia. We lost out to an eye-wateringly camp quartet but, hey, that’s Eurovision.
Terrific fun.

WHAT’S ON STAGE . COM (Salford) – May 2008

Thank heavens for Terry Wogan… now you can also thank Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson, the writers of the hilarious new spoof musical, Eurobeat, for capturing the sheer lunacy of this crazy competition.
As soon as you see Wogan on video introducing the show, you are in, ready to wave your flag, cheer on your assigned country and wallow in the zany spectacle that awaits you.
What about the controversial neighbourly voting? Well, you get the chance to vote for your favorites, but as any Eurovision fan knows, you cannot vote for your own country. Before the votes are counted, you also get to see what musical artistry Sarajevo has to offer in the form of Boyka, dressed as a turnip, surrounded by camp dancers!
As you can probably tell, this show is a complete blast. It helps if you are an Eurovision addict, but there is much to enjoy here even if you haven’t sat through the delights of the oddest show on the box.
The hard working cast play a multitude of roles, changing costumes, wigs and accents at the speed of light, getting it right each and every time.
It’s worth seeing for the glorious Giedroyc alone. As for the so bad they are really good songs; 12 points! (4 stars)

MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS (Salford) – May 2008

…the crowd, armed with clappers, klaxons and every other sort of noise-making device known to women of a certain age and gay men, are raucously determined to put on their own show anyway, despite Terry Wogan’s filmed threat of ‘genital cuffs’.
The songs and their presentation tend to be witty and smutty in equal measure, although some of them might be a bit too clever and accurate for their own good!
It’s presented, allegedly, from Sarajevo (hence lots of goat gags, surely the international language of comedy!) by the gorgeous former athlete Boyka and Bosnian childrens’ TV presenter Sergei, it boasts a succession of preposterous songs but colourfully terrible turns, and it’s all loud, fast and thoroughly foolish – what’s not to like? (4 stars)

GLITZ MAGAZINE (Stoke) – May 2008

It’s bad enough sitting through it every year on TV – so why would anyone want to pay good money to see a spoofed-up stage version of the Eurovision Song Contest?
That’s what I wondered as I made my way into the lavish Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent, amid excited Eurovision fans, many of them clutching national flags in support of their favoured country.
However, after a few minutes, I started to see the appeal of this show, Eurobeat, and was soon caught up in its passion, silliness and sheer bonhomie.
Yes, it’s camp and corny but it is also hugely enjoyable.
It’s just like a shortened version of the real thing and even has a video message from Mr Eurovision himself, Terry Wogan, urging us to sit back and wallow in the nonsense of it all.
The star of this joyous musical is Mel Giedroyc, of Mel and Sue fame. She is brilliant as Bosnian co-host Boyka, whose job it is with East European children’s’ presenter Sergei (Gareth Hale) to introduce the acts from ten competing countries, her fractured English providing some of the best lines of the evening.
The acts themselves are deliberately dire, but performed perfectly by the talented company. Among the comic highlights are the Irish entry getting lost in the dry-ice and a Nana Mouskouri look-alike, representing Greece, suddenly losing her innocence…and her drab clothes!
We are treated to the traditional interval cabaret and then have the `excitement’ of the voting, complete with gushing representatives from around Europe congratulating Boyka and Sergei on doing such a marvellous job.
Nothing can ever be quite as funny or as bad as the real Eurovision but Eurobeat, which began life at the Edinburgh Festival, is a worthy Euro-winner. Catch it ahead of its move to the West End.

THE SENTINEL (Stoke) – May 2008

EVEN more cheesy than the real thing (yes, it is possible) Eurobeat, which opened at the Regent Theatre last night, takes good taste to new depths in this hilarious send up of the Eurovision song contest.
The audience are treated as spectators at Sarajevo Eurovision. Flag flying, cheering and whistle blowing is expected – and proves a great way to build the atmosphere as the show begins. Following a televised contribution from Terry Wogan, hosts for the evening Sergie and Boyka, pictured, (famous faces from TV Gareth Hale and Mel Giedroyc), introduce 10 musical acts, each promoting their homeland and competing for the coveted Eurovision cup.
There was certainly no shortage of glitter, white teeth and battling egos as we enjoyed the performances of an Italian operatic rapper, the KGBoyz from Russia, Ronan Carr – an Irish ballad singer who gets lost in his own dry ice, a Swedish foursome called Alva and a scary Icelandic diva who screeched a lot (who might that remind you of…) to name just a few.
In the second half, tension grew as the voting started, using television footage from around the world and “behind the scenes” looks at the reactions of the various artistes.
The set was as one might expect for such a prestigious event, with impressive lighting, and special effects such as bubbles and golden rain. The wardrobe department clearly had a ball with a no holds barred opportunity to produce deliciously over the top costumes.
It was great fun as a member of the audience to actually vote – but what a tough decision with so much talent. In the end I chose Estonia’s’ muscle bound Toomas Jerker and the Stone Hard Boys. I was really impressed by their quality song and not influenced by their fluorescent extra tight shorts, at all.
Hosts (Hale and Giedroyc) were true stars, gluing the evening together with gags, gaffs and innuendo – the subtlety of which could be easily missed. Eurobeat is a musical with a difference and a great night out.

WESTERN MAIL (Cardiff) – April 2008

Walking into the Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre, it seemed like Eurovision really had come to Cardiff. Air horns hooting, hands clapping and a sea of European flags waving. Welsh National Opera was never this raucous. The opening night of Eurobeat was a riot of glittering, camp tackiness – just what you’d expect from a pastiche of Europe’s most tasteless music contest. Aussies Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson’s idea to send up Eurovision, with its stereotypical acts, is so inspired, you wonder why no-one has ever thought of it before. I guess it’s because the real thing has cornered the market in kitsch. Being the world’s first interactive musical, every member of the audience is handed a badge and a flag of the country they’re supporting. Tonight we’re flying the flag for Estonia. We’re also asked to switch our mobile phones on, ready to vote for our favourite acts. Welcome to Sarajevo, the host city for tonight’s riotous ceremony. And it wouldn’t be Eurovision without an appearance by the king of kitsch commentary Sir Terry Wogan, who appears, albeit on screen, to introduce the “glorious homage”. Hosts for the night are the portly Sergei (Gareth Hale), a recently-discovered children’s television star with an excruciatingly embarrassing line in bad puns, and Boyka “the face of modern Bosnia Herzegovina”. In her voluminous gold dress, former Coronation Street star Sally Lindsay was suitably-stilted as the former Olympic pole vaulter turned lifestyle TV presenter. Then it’s onto the contest. The 10 countries competing are all so predictable they should be real. An Italian disco diva Vesuvius Versace and her rappers; an Estonian former political activist and his muscle Mary dancers; a Bjork-alike for Iceland; for Russia a boy band in skin-tight jumpsuits, The KGBoyz; for Hungary a group of traditional sisters singing about gutting chickens; for Ireland Ronan Carr sings la, la la; for Greece a Nana Mouskouri look-alike who rips off her long dress to reveal a skimpy outfit in typical Eurovision style; a foursome of Swedish swingers called Avla; a German techno trio called Nepotism and, representing the UK, an out of sync, out of tune boy/girl duo called Rayne and Sheiner. When it came to the voting, thankfully it wasn’t nearly as drawn out as the real thing, with Estonia clinching the Welsh vote. Eurobeat is one of those shows that has the potential to be a cult classic. If only the real Eurovision was as much fun.

Joseph Reviews

Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com (four stars) – “Lee’s just the job. He has footballer thighs, curly black hair and a voice that never gives up even when he misses the melodic line at moments of stress. The mums will like him and other older women find him sexy. Myself, I prefer the camel, but hey, ‘Any Dream Will Do’ … The show looks so much better in the Adelphi than it did before, balancing the charm of the children’s chorus with the vaudeville excesses among the Pyramids and Egyptian café classes with a firmer control. The scale is more suited to the content, and Lee is less desperate to please than either Jason Donovan or (oh God, he was awful) Philip Schofield … It brims with witty musical invention and engagingly literate lyrics, encompassing pop styles of calypso, country music, Parisian café songs and megamix disco sounds, drawing out a fantastic all-purpose finale from such still fresh items as the irresistible ‘Any Dream Will Do’ and the sinuous ‘Close Every Door to Me’ … Rice and Lloyd Webber have written a lovely new song, ‘King of My Heart’, for the Elvis-style Pharaoh (Dean Collinson), which stitches together many fine clichés while inventing some surprise melodic leaps. Preeya Kalidas, the star of Bombay Dreams, makes up in style and beauty as the Narrator what she lacks in vocal texture, while Stephen Tate, the original Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, is a notable Potiphar. Stunning costumes all round, too, and not just the coloured coat.”

Rhoda Koenig in the Independent – “Has Andrew Lloyd Webber managed, once again, to use a TV talent contest to make an unknown a star? Commercially, yes indeed, going by the hyperactive box office and an audience that reaches beyond the usual patrons of the West End … It seems less likely that Lee Mead will join the immortals. Lacking in character and with a tendency to give out towards the end of a line, his voice is not the world’s greatest, or even the greatest in the show … That honour belongs to Dean Collinson, whose Elvis-imitating Pharaoh matches the original with every dirty growl, falsetto flutter, and sudden, heart-stopping intimacy…But Mead more than fulfils the requirements, with a mop of dark curls, a wholesome, sweet manner, and a way of filling a pleated loincloth that will appeal to all sexes … The real star is Steven Pimlott’s production of 1991. It shows, in this revival, what gold-plated professionalism can do for even this simple story of brotherly disloyalty, dream interpretation, and an ending in which the god of vengeance takes a rare day off … It’s not only Joseph’s coat that knocks your eyes out – all the sets and costumes glow with rainbow hues and joie de vivre.”

Nicholas De Jongh in the Evening Standard (three stars) – “For those of us, aged ten and over, who do not take musicals too seriously, this earliest of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s shows, still does the comic-satirical business with amusing gusto. It offers a seductive blend of camp, kitsch, and cool mockery of a few Old Testament dreamers and tough-boys, not to mention the sound of Lloyd Webber in first romantic and triumphal form …This gawdy, hand-clapping, seductive revival, based upon the popular 1991 production by Steven Pimlott who died in February, jubilantly keeps a satirical tongue in its cheek as it unfolds on a stage that does not need to bother with multi million-pound, scenic sensations … The music and the staging offers no end of appealing parody… Potiphar’s Twenties high society world looks a triumph of crazy, mixed-up taste, with men exposing bare legs and white socks, while Potiphar’s wife (Verity Bentham) plumbs the depths of come-hitherish vulgarity … Nichola Treherne is credited as associate director, but I suspect the show’s co-producer, Bill Kenwright, took a prime hand in the direction, as this evening of delightfully nuanced joie de vivre and spirited jokiness recalls elements of his own production four years ago.”

Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph – “I suppose one ought to be sternly disapproving about this revival of Joseph … Yet I have to admit to voting for Lee myself and to experiencing a sugar rush of pure pleasure at last night’s exuberant premiere when I found myself in the same row as the losing contestants on Any Dream Will Do. The generous enthusiasm with which they whooped and applauded Lee at the end was touching to behold … As Lee was hoisted high into the air on a terrifying piece of machinery to wild ovations during the grand finale, there was no doubt that the former understudy had proved himself a West End star. What Lee Mead has in spades is charm, crucial in a role that could easily seem unattractively priggish. He also looks good in a loin cloth, and has a powerful and expressive voice … By the end, however his vocals were beginning to sound a touch frayed and he and the management need to take care he doesn’t overstrain his greatest asset like Connie Fisher in The Sound of Music. Both Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice have gone on to bigger things than Joseph, together and apart, but this early piece … has an irresistible bloom of youth about it … What you hear is a composer delightedly discovering his gift for melody. And Tim Rice … is at his witty best, coining couplets Cole Porter might have smiled upon … Nichola Treherne has revived the late and sorely missed Steven Pimlott’s 1991 Palladium production with terrific brio and the energy level never flags … Joseph looks like being a sure-fire hit all over again.”

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail – “Book of Genesis this ain’t. Nor is it classic musical theatre or high art. But the Joseph which opened in the West End last night, with TV find Lee Mead in the lead, is cheery, let-your-hair down fun …Trivial? You bet. Goosed to within an inch of its life? Undeniably. But it is amusing and agreeable and perfect for ten-year-olds, as well as grown-ups who have had a couple of sharp ones in the bar beforehand … Lee – he is one of those actors for whom the Mr Mead bit seems arch – is a handsome hit …The voice is weak in the lower register and at one point it almost disappeared completely, washed away by an over-pumpy band and maybe by a dry mouth. He sounded slightly blocked-nosey in the early moments. Flu, maybe … But he has stage presence and a winning way and the public, having voted for him on BBC One’s Any Dream Will Do, will forgive him much. Good. He deserves it… The cameo of the night belongs to Dean Collinson, who gives us an Elvis Presley Pharaoh. Terrific stuff…Lee himself is not a natural comedian. He does not move particularly well. But he hurls himself into the honking cacophony and is almost as gorgeous to behold as Joseph’s multi-coloured coat … Preeya Kalidas, who plays the Narrator, almost dislodged a couple of my fillings, so tunelessly did she screech one or two notes…. On either side of the stage a large choir of pop-eyed children warble away like nestlings…At first I was uncertain if their enthusiasm was infectious or mightily irritating, but I slowly thawed and by the end was humming along with the rest of the stalls…Joseph had won me round. As it will do London.”

Book Tickets for Joseph the Musical

Les Miserables Reviews

“With much sledgehammer-like subtlety, Victor Hugo’s novel blasts onstage in a performance that, by no surprise, marks a justification for the musical’s 16th consecutive year in the West End.

Recalling that the original production was by the Royal Shakespeare Company – can its restructuring repeat such highs? – this show crushes later rivals that attempted to conquer such grandiose spectacle.

Les Miserables has a mosaic of characters – police, prostitutes and pragmatic students – woven onto an automatically dramatic backdrop of tragic revolution in France where there is glory in death for a cause.

Its real star, apart from a world-class performance by Hans-Peter Janssens as fugitive turned fighter Jean Valjean, is the pounding, slippery, exquisite score by Claude-Michel Schonberg. Like the production, it has heavy operatic influence. The music is almost incidentally orchestrated, perched to provide a clear path for the vocal crescendos. The score is also oddly uncommercial. There are few hummable choruses with plain chord structure but there are dozens of intricate, consistently strong melodies that carry Herbert Kretzmer’s digestible lyrics.

This wielding backbone is augmented by designer John Napier’s revolving stage, atmospherically effective with David Hersey’s lighting and directors John Caird and Trevor Nunn crackling over decades and cities.

Although almost every number is as strong as a finale, the passion – death, romance or obsession – often provides touching moments such as policeman Javert’s search of the dead and Valjean’s Bring Him Home.

The swinging rowdiness of Master of the House is a welcome variance from the enthralling pomposity of the show’s unrelenting ambition, which supersedes itself when Javert avows to the stars that he will hunt down Valjean. Les Mis is an overwhelming and exhilarating experience that remains a grand daddy musical. ” The Stage

Book Tickets for Les Mis

The Lion King Reviews

The Lion King roared and the West End cheered last night as this wonderful evening unravelled in the famous, restored Lyceum… Most impressively, our very own Zimbabwe-born designer, Richard Hudson, has created a fantasy world of savannah and veldt, of jungle and desert, of burnished colours and a great looming, swivelling rock that represents the seat of power. You hope all nights in the theatre will be like this… Julie Taymour, steeped in Bunraku puppets and Indonesian temple dancing, provides the most glorious commercial demonstration of the actor and the mask yet devised. You see the animal, and the actor, and you relish the manipulation and the beauty of the choreography. Watch out for a very slinky cheetah and a wicked trio of hyenas. The performance energy is not yet as high or as concentrated as it was on Broadway… Potent, popular, primitive and perennial, The Lion King restores true magic to the West End. The genius lies in the genorosity of spirit and the way it embraces so many types of song while providing an overall pictorial style. This is the ideal show for all children from eight to 80.” The Daily Mail

“Yes, this really is a musical that invents a better class of magic than those multi-million-dollar technological tricks and thrills flashing on celluloid. In a beautiful dazzle of invention and imagination, the true star of The Lion King, director Julie Taymor, has dreamed up a way of bringing an entire African jungle and its menagerie of animals thrillingly to the stage: eastern and western styles meet and merge. The Disney cartoon’s air of sweet whimsy is quite banished. With intricate mobile masks, puppets, exotic costumes and even stilts, which are all Taymor’s own creation, these jungle creatures, from prides of lions to jeering hyenas, capture a fresh dynamic theatricality. They look like a new alliance between the human and the animal as they parade, shuffle and athletically dance in Taymor’s brave new world, with its gusts of chanted African choruses. The giraffes are operated by actors on stilts concealed within the animals’ skin. The front legs of each zebra belong to performers who wear the same skin as the animal they play. Designer Richard Hudson’s jungle is equally startling, since it looks like a children’s picture-book brought to life with sudden promontories and gorges leaping into view… Taymor’s production – with its vivid set-piece parades of jungle life, birds on poles and animal silhouettes on backcloths – travels at exuberant pace, pausing for spectacular dramatics… It lights up the West End with the blaze of Taymor’s fabulous imagination.” The London Evening Standard

The Lion King roared into town last night and staked its claim as the mane attraction for the millennium. From the opening moment when the burning African sun rose on stage and a gaint elephant sashayed down the centre aisle it was clear we were in for some real Disney magic. Over £6Million has been poured into turning the hit cartoon movie into a musical. And it’s money well spent. You won’t see more colourful costumes or more imaginative back-drops anywhere else… The African music from Lebo M is stirring. Sir Elton John and Sir Tim Rice contribute showstoppers such as ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’. But even if you don’t go home from London’s West End humming the songs you will sing the praises of the spectacular sets and exotic costumes. It’s a fun show for all the family. The Lion King rules okay. This one will roar and roar.” The Mirror

“Disney’s mighty Lion King has roared into the West End in triumph. I was bowled over by the show when I saw the premiere in New York two years ago, and if one was going to be coldly analytical, the Broadway staging probably just has the edge when it comes to precision and sheer pizzazz… Adults will enjoy The Lion King, especially those, in the odious modern parlance, still in touch with their inner child. But it is a great family show, and the word great is no exaggeration… The triumph of Julie Taymor’s often inspirational staging is that she constantly stimulates the imagination. Throughout this show about animals, you are aware of the humans inside the ingenious costumes, and the humanity of the narrative. Many of the characters wear masks not over their faces but on top of their heads, so you see both the human and the animal simultaneously, and there is no attempt to disguise the hands operating the beautiful and ingenious puppets. In this way the viewer is drawn into the show, invited to collaborate in a communal act of story-telling, rather than being merely gobsmacked with high-tech special effects. This is theatre at its potent best. The score is one of the finest in years. The pop songs by Elton John and Tim Rice are tuneful and witty, but it would all seem a touch bland if that’s all The Lion King had to offer. Fortunately the African composer Lebo M has added superbly haunting chants and vocal arrangements that combine Zulu tradition with the vibe of the South African townships. The result is that the show is distinctively African, with a strong sense of place and ritual, and when the adult Simba comes to reclaim the Pridelands, it is impossible not to be reminded of Nelson Mandela. As always with Disney, there are moments when it all seems a bit twee, others when it is excessively PC. But the ingenuity of Taymor’s direction and costume designs, the beautiful, simple settings by Richard Hudson, the power of the narrative and the wit of the dialogue (Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi are responsible for the excellent book) easily outweigh such critical niggles… For once a mega musical lives up to the hype. This is a dazzling show with the heart of a lion.” The Daily Telegraph

“There is enough jaw-dropping theatrical spectacle in The Lion King to tickle even the most hardened theatre critic’s palate. As the procession of animals makes its way down the aisle at the beginning or the cast controls a flight of coloured birds across the auditorium after the interval, you really are transported thousands of miles away from the Strand on a drizzly London night to the primary colours and vegetation of the Africa Savannah. The grass grows upward to become a swaying part of cast head-dresses. The flying and the exuberant, impeccably lit sets are stunningly imaginative too. And all that is counterpointed by some riveting, powerfully rhythmic African-style singing – as pure as plainsong – mostly by the elastic-bodied Gugwana Dlami…” The Stage

Book Tickets for The Lion King

Hairspray The Musical Reviews

Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com (four stars) – “The ecstatic choreography of Jerry Mitchell combines with the delightful, primary-coloured costumes of Broadway veteran William Ivey Long to create a riotous scene at the oversize shop where mother and daughter are kitted out in style and the resident mannequins include a Supremes tribute trio. Director Jack O’Brien has tapped adventurously into the British talent pool, not only in giving the richly voiced Michael Ball a role to relish, but teaming him with the wonderfully rumpled Mel Smith as the toyshop owner husband – he brings a battered vaudevillian charm to their “Timeless to Me” duet – as well as discovering the powerhouse talent of Leanne Jones as Tracy. Tracie Bennett makes a good impression, too, as the vampiric television producer, and Elinor Collett and Adrian Hansel are a dynamic duo on the dance floor where the beat you can’t stop erases the social divide. This is indeed a rare thing: a totally daffy and delightful musical where the serious issues are as good for you as a big stick of pink candyfloss.”

Michael Billington in the Guardian (four stars) – “Where the show really scores is in its ability to integrate serious issues into a lightweight plot. Jerry Mitchell’s joyous choreography is the beating heart of the show. There is something dionysiac about it; and, if the show achieves the ecstasy one looks for in a musical, it comes largely through the dance routines. But the performances, in Jack O’Brien’s deliciously fluid production, underline the show’s basic benevolence. Leanne Jones is a remarkable Tracy with a talent as high and wide as her scooped-up hair. She puts across Marc Shaiman’s numbers with belting brio. And Michael Ball is very funny as her muscular moll of a mum who once entertained dreams of being a designer. “I thought I was going to be the biggest thing in brassieres,” Ball announces in gravel-voiced tones. What makes him so good is that he reminds us that heftiness is not incompatible with haute couture. Mel Smith, as Tracy’s joke-retailing dad, seems underemployed until he joins Ball in a front-cloth duo.”

Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph – “If you are up for a good time, however, and especially if you are a teenage girl who has just downed a couple of alcopops, it will strike you as heaven on earth. You will laugh, you will scream, you might even shed a sentimental tear or two. I even managed to make quite a night of it myself, and I’m male and middle-aged, as the National Theatre boss, Nicholas Hytner, is fond of pointing out … A superb pop score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, which gloriously captures the sounds of pop before the arrival of the Beatles – girl groups, rock and roll, rhythm and blues and an amazing gospel number that almost lifts the roof off the theatre … Director Jack O’Brien ensures that sentiment and laughter are mixed in just the right proportions in a show that offers a sugar-rush of pleasure … I saw Hairspray at the final preview rather than the press night, and the audience’s whooping response and spontaneous standing ovation suggest it could prove to be the big hit that has eluded the Shaftesbury for so long.”

Nicholas de Jongh in the Evening Standard (four stars) – “It comes at us in rare musical parts: the first part is low-camp satire and burlesque: Michael Ball deliciously fattened up and dragged down in bland frocks and lurid gowns, majestically slips into the role of the fat, foghorned laundress, Edna Turnblad … It is through Jones’s endearingly earnest Tracy, who dances with a lightness belying her size, that links between love, comedy and radical politicsare forged … Marc Shaiman’s urgent score, with clever, often witty lyrics written with Scott Whitman, keeps Hairspray pulsating with musical excitement as well as political anger. And Leanne Jones, as smitten, adolescent lover and Miss Teenage Hairspray, effortlessly commands the stage. She will hearten all actresses who imagine that only the pencil-thin can inherit the lead dressing room.”

Simon Edge in the Daily Express (five stars) – “Tracy herself is played by newcomer Leanne Jones, on stage for most of the night as the compulsive dancer whose natural padding cannot spoil her lust for life – or for Link. It’s an impressive, exuberant performance and you can see why the director says she was instantly right for the role. She is well supported by a large cast, including fellow newcomer Ben James-Ellis – a semi-finalist in TV’s Any Dream Will Do – as Link; the ever-wonderful Tracie Bennett as the vicious Velma Von Tussle; a gob-smacking Johnnie Fiori as the black record shop-owner Motormouth Maybelle; and the rubber-faced Mel Smith as Tracy’s salt-of-the-earth dad Wilbur. But the stand-out turn is Ball, scarcely recognisable in the drag role as Tracy’s mother Edna, complete with 54EEE bust … Don’t expect fancy effects or clever spectacle. This is good, honest song-and-dance fun, where the riot of period pastels in the costumes and sets matches the relentless up-beat of the lyrics and tunes. “Prepare for something big!” say the posters: “Big musical, big comedy, big hair!” But the biggest thing about it, apart from Michael Ball’s falsies, is its heart.”

Benedict Nightingale in the Times (four stars) “The musical is as delightful as I recall it being on Broadway three years ago and more immediate than it could ever be in the cinema. True, the tale of chubby, chunky Tracy Turnblad, who wears what looks like a lacquered wolverine on her head and thinks she resembles Jackie Kennedy, is unashamedly and, at times, absurdly sentimental. But when Leanne Jones’ Tracy is bounding about the stage exuding all-American resilience and optimism — well, she brought out the inner cheerleader I didn’t know I had … Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s book is a salute to difference. That’s defined both as being fat, like Jones’s Tracy or Michael Ball as her gloriously bloated mother, and, more seriously, as being black in racially divided Maryland. So our heroine’s aim isn’t only to do well on the dance floor, beating her plastic-doll schoolmate Amber, but to integrate Corny Collins’s show, besting Amber’s ruthlessly ambitious, racially bigoted mother, Velma.”

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Grease the Musical Reviews

Grease was always supposed to be about an age of innocence tinged with sexual awakening, a paean to first love and first cigarettes, Cadillac cars and dance night in the school gym. Once upon a time in the West End, this seemed like a good idea; Richard Gere was the first, very good, UK Danny at the New London in 1973 (Elaine Paige had a small role).

Somehow, with the passing years and the iconic elevation of the very bad 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton- John, the fun has been squeezed out of it, and any residual charm in Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s ersatz rock and roll musical flattened in a rush to the finale of selected highlights.
As at the opening of this production by David Gilmore in 1993, I feel defeated by decibel levels and churlish with disappointment. The amplification has a tinny, invasive quality that’s the enemy of musical enjoyment, and when things quieten down a bit in the second act – you can actually hear some good rhythm guitar in “Sandy” at the drive-in movie – the songs are less good than the frantic ones.

For those who could bear to watch the entertainment abomination that was Grease Is the Word on ITV earlier this year, a verdict is required on the performances of 19 year-old Danny Bayne as Danny Zuko and 24 year-old Susan McFadden (sister of Brian McFadden, the Westlife pop singer) as Sandy Dumbrowski. That verdict is mixed. It’s impossible to isolate acting talent, or even personality impact, in the first half because the entire cast is encouraged to squeal, squawk, face-pull and cackle like a cage full of angry baboons in the zoo. No one bears even a passing resemblance to a human being.

But as Arlene Phillips’ whiplash musical staging (re-created by Stori James) kicks in, you can see that Bayne does indeed have a powerful stage presence and his command of the moves is total (it turns out he’s been British champion in hip-hop, freestyle and Latin American dance for years). McFadden’s Sandy, however, remains a dumb cluck even when she dons the black leotard and says goodbye to the wholesome image of Sandra Dee that has hampered her pulling progress. She’s sweet enough, but nothing special, and her singing lacks depth or resonance.

Terry Parsons’ design remains as colourful as it was, though the floating Cadillacs have gone and the sun shines with far less golden intensity on the bleachers. Thin strips of red neon light make a good design link between the local DJ’s recording studio and the high school, where everyone seems to be about 35 years old.

Jayde Westaby makes a mark as the suddenly pregnant Rizzo and Charlie Cameron is a prettily pneumatic Marti. Siobhan Dillon, one of the best of the runners-up in the BBC search for Maria programme, whom Grease co-producer David Ian slobbered over in the adjudications, is rather hidden away as Patty but will surely have a second chance in the near future.
– Michael Coveney

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Dirty Dancing Reviews

Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com (2 stars) – “It’s admirable that the show follows the 1987 film so faithfully, because Eleanor Bergstein’s story is a good one… The ensemble dance numbers come thrillingly alive in Kate Champion’s choreography, and the central couple of Josef Brown and Georgina Rich are much more attractive than Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the movie, Brown especially taking Johnny on to a higher level of sexual intensity and technical dance ability. He also doesn’t have too annoying a hairstyle. The score is a jukebox of the Chantels, the Drifters, Tina Turner, Otis Redding, and so on, but it doesn’t have the coherent texture of a ‘proper’ musical and often seems quite arbitrary. In the end, you feel as though you’ve been cudgelled by a brand product, not gone through the genuine experience of musical theatre.”

Benedict Nightingale in The Times (4 stars) – “This makes Hans Christian Andersen look like a kitchen-sink realist. But who cares when Brown is on the dance floor or (inevitably) in his bedroom…. When he and Rich’s Baby are at their sinuous best, you feel what that movie suggested. Dancing isn’t almost as good as sex. No, sex is almost as good as dancing – or, rather, both are indivisible. Maybe that’s enough to justify a show which adds so little to the original…. All this is brilliantly staged, but raises an obvious question. Why not get a DVD of the movie…? Yet I found myself warming to Bergstein’s modern fairy story and to the principals: Brown, elegant of mind and spirit as well as body, and Rich, growing in assurance, skill and beauty as she takes her life into her own hands – and, of course, her own feet.”

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail – “…. Dirty Dancing is a night of good, jiggly rubbish, blameless silliness which ends with an uplifting finale. It’s hard to dislike it, but it’s also hard to call it memorable art. It’s a product, and it shows.”

Paul Taylor in the Independent – “The dancing… is the delight of James Powell’s attractively staged and happiness-spreading production of the nifty theatrical adaptation by Eleanor Bergstein. True, as Johnny, the chippy dance instructor at the up-market American Butlins, Josef Brown does not have the balletic dynamism of Patrick Swayze in the movie, nor does he have the latter’s capacity to make you root for the little man, as he’s a tall, strapping mass of muscle. But he and the well-cast Georgina Rich – who brings light physical grace and just the right kind of unconventional attractiveness to the role of doctor’s daughter, ‘Baby’ Houseman – radiate an infectious pleasure in their dancing together. This is a show that will give keen pleasure to Dirty Dancing addicts and to newcomers alike…. The music is a mixture of recorded golden oldies…. in general, this is a very enjoyable evening.”

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Billy Elliot The Musical Reviews

“…Billy Elliot strikes me as the greatest British musical I have ever seen, and I have not forgotten Lionel Bart’s Oliver! or Andrew Lloyd Webber’s  Phantom of the Opera. There is a rawness, a warm humour and a sheer humanity here that is worlds removed from the soulless slickness of most musicals. Yes,
there are rough edges that would give Cameron Mackintosh a fit of the vapours, yes, there are occasional scenes that are not as powerfully played as those in the film. But there is so much more that is big and bold, imaginative and great-hearted. The emotion always seems real and spontaneous, rather than
cunningly manipulated to pull at the heartstrings… The whole cast is blessed with a freshness and sincerity I have rarely seen equalled, and one leaves this triumphant production in a mist of tears and joy.” The Daily Telegraph

“Turning small-scale movies into big musicals is a treacherous business. It failed with The Full Monty, which lost all of its gritty truth when musicalised. But Billy Elliot succeeds brilliantly because Elton John’s music and, especially, Peter Darling’s choreography enhance Lee Hall’s cinematic concept. The musical, even more than the film, counterpoints Billy’s personal triumph with the community’s decline… Stephen Daldry’s production is a model of fluidity and intelligence. He constantly reminds us that the special power of the musical is that it can express a lyrical idea through physical action…” The Guardian

“…Together, Stephen Daldry and Lee Hall have concocted a piece that’s tougher, bolder and, as my tear-ducts can attest, more moving than its admittedly admirable celluloid precursor. With its rags-to-riches, or rather poverty-to-piroutte, story, the piece invites sentimentality. But that’s almost entirely missing in the Geordie pit village where young Billy discovers he has a gift for dance… Moreover, the action exactly coincides with the 1980s miners’ strike — and this comes across far more emphatically than in the film…” The Times

Billy Elliot The Musical, based upon Stephen Daldry’s classic movie, is just irresistible. It catches you
– or at least me – in its fervent grasp, and pins you down with all the artfulness of a vintage seducer, right to the misguided, sentimental finale… This is an evening which throws a fierce political punch as well as an emotional one. No modern musical has struck such rebellious, old Labour, workingclass conscious notes… Stephen Daldry, always at his best on the grand scale, deftly marshals a throbbing mixture of angry miners, threatening policemen and little girls in tutus – all singing. Ian MacNeil’s versatile designs set the changing
scenes…” The London Evening Standard

“BILLY’S A WHIZ! He’ll lift your soul, make you cry and send you home high with hope. Quentin Letts dances with delight at the first night of the £5million musical adaptation of Billy Elliot. Only its heavy-handed politics take the shine off the show. DREAMY dancing, full-rip staging, stonking songs and terrible politics. But for its dismally trite, Socialist Worker angle on the miners’ strike, Billy Elliot the Musical would stand tall this morning as a production of the most searing quality. Even with that significant flaw this is
a glorious show. It’s a weepie, funny spectacle married to a super score by Sir Elton John. The beautiful blond boy playing the lead last night, Liam Mower, will surely become the biggest child star since Mark Lester played Oliver Twist…” The Daily Mail

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