It’s common practise when reviewing musical theatre to review the production and not the show.
This is because musical reviews are generally written for musical fans and not for anyone else. This seems kind of ridiculous, so I’m going to review both.
Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision is a mock Eurovision competition. It contains almost everything you expect from a Eurovision final. Key changes, costume changes, ridiculous dance movies, awkward judges, and some moments of complete cultural confusion. Also like Eurovision it works best if you go prepared to laugh, cheer, and get into the spirit of it.
I am a massive fan of Eurovision. I hold Eurovision parties. I upset all my less enthusiastic friends by filling Facebook and Twitter with a constant running commentary of the night. I have the songs of previous winners sitting on my phone right now. I really like Eurovision and I really wanted to like Eurobeat.
SUPA Productions have been pumping out musicals in Canberra since 1996 at an astounding rate, and they know how to put on a production. A small audience were assembled to view the final dress rehearsal and everybody was excited. On our way into the theatre we were handed a small voting sheet. Mine informed me that I was Hungary, and let me know which countries I would be seeing tonight. The stage was simple, but effective. A staircase with lights built into the steps, a large screen displaying the cheesy trashy logo, and more coloured lights than was strictly necessary. Perfect.
I found myself getting rather excited. The lights dimmed and a ridiculous light show opened the night. It was fun and fruity, and for a show all about Eurovision it was definitely a step in the right direction. I was getting into the swing of it all, and rummaging around in my bag for a pen and paper so I could take notes on which acts I wanted to vote for.
Our hosts, Sergei and Boyka, appeared and we got our first view of the costuming for the evening, which was largely fantastic. A few of the outfits did look a little cheap (Norway’s Mum must have stayed up late last night getting all those tunics ready), which is a shame because otherwise the performers looked great.
A very capable cast swapped Nationalities at high speeds, switching accents and costumes at high speeds as they leapt from song to song. A few misplaced or dropped accents aside, most of cast held it together admirably.
Special mentions must be made to Eliza Shephard’s intense Icelandic Bjork parody, and Cameron Gill’s Irish crooner, which were early highlights.
In the lead up to the intermission we were given instructions on how to vote for a winner in the show. Our voting forms had a QR code printed on the front, and our hosts informed us that Android users could scan the code to take part in online voting. They followed with a joke making fun of iPhone users claiming that they could not do it this way.
This was a little confusing. Interval started and I pulled out my iPhone, scanned the QR code, and voted with no issues at all. Then I spent the remainder of the break watching stage hands ran around helping half the audience work out how to scan a QR code on their phones, Android or otherwise. For those without a smart phone, or those of you who simply don’t know what a QR code is, you could just fill in your voting slip.
The jokes and songs flew by at high speeds. This show is all about straight entertainment. Have a drink before the show and bring along a group of friends who aren’t afraid to cheer, clap and laugh out loud. This isn’t the kind of show that requires a little polite applause during scene changes. The more fun you bring to this show, the more fun you will have.
The inclusion of voting, with the audience actually being able to determine which song wins, is brilliant. While the tension doesn’t quite build to actual Eurovision levels, this does go a long way to keeping you involved and during the second half I got all excited over who would win.
SUPA Productions made an admirable effort creating something big and flashy within the technical limitations, they had to work within, and it’s easy to forgive the somewhat dodgy green-screened backgrounds during the judging section and the cheap decorated blocks.
Less forgivable is the play itself.
Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision claims to be a celebration of what we all love most about Eurovision. I don’t remember so many cheap gay jokes, bickering performers, and jokes about the hosts being promiscuous during Eurovision.
Parody is a very tricky thing to do well, and Eurobeat struggles with it. At times it gets it right, at others it crashes and burns terribly.
When it works, it really works. Hungary’s Molnar dancers are suitably confusing and bizarre. Playing on the general confusion felt when you come across one of those pieces that is so culturally different that you have no idea what to make of it. The Russian boy-band the KGBoiz had the audience rolling with laughter without resorting to cheap gags. Sadly for every moment where the parody works there are many more where it falls apart. Estonia’s Toomas Jerker & The Stone Hard Boys is a large loud and poorly told gay joke. The Ukraine entrant sings “Bang me bang me!” over and over. A running gag of the various characters broken English causing them to make accidental sexual innuendos is driven into the ground by the hosts acknowledging the joke, shouting out the gags again, and waggling their eyebrows at me in what I assume is an attempt to help me understand that a joke had just been made.
It’s ok guys, I worked out that he was referencing a penis. I got it.
The UK entry was a brilliant step towards getting it right. A cutting nod towards the general poor quality of the UK’s Eurovision entrees. Two musicians come onto stage, a man dressed in black and a woman in a ridiculous sequined hat for no real reason. So far so good. They kick off into a hilariously sincere and terrible song with suitably awful lyrics about ‘loving to love love’ and all is going well. Sadly in one of the placest where the script got it right, SUPA Productions had to add needless gags.
Gestures made by the singers ended up bumping into and jostling the other performers around. Little ‘comedic’ annoyed looks were shared. I stifled a groan. This specific gag was stuffed into almost every song, and was constantly used by the hosts in between the songs. I’m not sure how many times I was supposed to find this gag funny.
The song was funny. The parody was funny. It was funny because it was true. Performers bumping into each other and looking irritated honestly seems like a gag that would ring more true in a parody of amateur musicals than in a parody of Eurovision.
Nobody seems to trust the audience to get the parody, or the parody to stand on its own. Cheap gags and loud jokes are stuffed in over the top of everything, and I can’t help but wonder if the intended audience for this show is people who have never actually seen a Eurovision.
At least the gags were performed well. The cast showed a great aptitude for comedy. Sarah Golding and Lachlan Ruffy in particular did a fantastic job with the hosts. Managing to deliver some real laughs, often in spite of the lines they had to say and the somewhat inconsistent dynamic between their two characters.
The night was a bizarre mix of things I loved, things I didn’t understand, and things I thought were terrible. There were bright costumes, and flashy lights, and accents, and gorgeous people singing and dancing. When I look at Eurobeat that way, I guess it’s a pretty successful facsimile of Eurovision.
My issues with the poor parody aspects aside, SUPA productions have pulled together a solid night of singing and dancing. If this sounds like something you’re into then grab your friends and head on down. Expect some very talented singers wearing sparkly shirts and singing some amusing songs. Expect to hear silly fake accents and cheer and get emotionally involved in who wins and you will have a wonderful time.
Just don’t expect a brilliant parody.
Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision runs from tonight (April the 5th) until Saturday April 20th.
Bookings available here.