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From Eurovision to the Stage  
It might not always be in a performer's CV in the back of the show progamme but many West End and Broadway stars have bestrode the Eurovision stage - some even twice!
Eurovision Song Contest Moscow 2009 logo

Patricia Bredin was the first UK entry, in 1957, coming 7th out of ten songs with All. She replaced Julie Andrews as Guinevere in the Broadway production of Camelot

Samantha Janus played Miss Adelaide in the recent West End production of Guys and Dolls initially alongside Patrick Swayze and then Don Johnson, but in 1991 she also performed A Message to Your Heart, a song about hunger, wearing a basque-type creation. She came 10th.

Frances Ruffelle sang Lonely Symphony in 1994 (10th place) nine tears after originating the role of Eponine in both the London and Broadway productions of Les Miserables

James Fox came 16th in 2004 with Hold on to Our Love and then starred as Piano Man in Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out at the Apollo Victoria

Javine Hylton came 22nd in 2005 with Light My Fire, and later went on to acquit herself on stage in the Boney M musical Daddy Cool

Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson appeared in Stephen Sondheim’s follies in 1987, but before that the husband-and-wife team had famously sung Sing Little Birdie way back in 1959, coming second

Cheryl Baker appeared in Footloose on stage and twice in Eurovision, with Co-Co in 1978, singing The Bad Old Days (11th) and, of course, with added Velcro, in 1981 for the Bucks Fizz winner Making Your Mind Up.

Cliff Richard starred in Heathcliff in 1997 and appeared twice in Eurovision – with Congratulations in 1968 (second by one point, though it has since been suggested that General Franco bribed juries to get votes for winners Spain). and Power to all our Friends in 1973 (third)

Lyn Paul has starred in Blood Brothers and Taboo, but as part of The New Seekers she sang Beg, Steal or Borrow in 1972 and came second

Sally Ann Triplett, whose West End credits include Anything Goes and Acorn Antiques, is another repeat offender, having represented the UK twice, as part of Prima Donna with Love Enough for Two in 1980 (third) and as half of Bardo with One Step Further in 1982 (seventh)

Colm Wilkinson, the original Valjean in Les Miserables, represented his native Ireland (wearing matching velvet shirt and pants) with a manic performance of Born to Sing in 1978 and came fifth

Michael Ball, currently starring in Hairspray,sang One Step out of Time in 1992 and came second. Asked whether he would do the contest again, he retorted “I’d rather stick needles in my eyes”

EUROVISION PRODUCTIONS

Playwrights have sought to use Eurovision as a basis for a play, though with mixed results!

The most recent, and probably the most successful is Eurobeat The Musical, which started at the Edinburgh Festival before touring the country and hitting the West End last year. Written by Aussies Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson, it was a spoof on the contest with tacky hosts and ten stereotypical songs, from which the audience chose the winner using their mobile phones.

Eurovision, by Tim Luscombe, is the most notorious production to try making a drama out of the contest. Combining gay fans, notions of being European and the Roman emperor Hadrian, the show did well at the London fringe venue The Drill Hall in 1993 but was savaged by the critics when a souped-up version with Anita Dobson transferred to the West End. It did, however, make a star of James Dreyfus, who went on to star in The Producers and Cabaret.

In 2005 Tim Luscombe had another go at The Drill Hall with The Death of Gogol and the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest. This one-man play was a hidden gem, concerning an increasingly d isturbed fan obsessed with the 1969 contest in Madrid – where the top prize was shared by four songs and the Dutch contestant Lenny Kuhr.

Jonathan Harvey, who wrote the play and film Beautiful Thing and the TV sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme, penned a farce-like comedy, Boom Bang-a-Bang, for the Bush Theatre in Shepherds Bush in 1995, set at a Eurovision party where the drink flowed and the guests got frisky. It all ended in tears – just like the real Eurovision.

Mark Cook (watching Eurovision since 1967)

Mark Cook is a journalist and theatre critic for the Guardian Guide and The Big Issue

Posted on: 30th December 2008

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