Director: Andrew Pugsley
Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes they wear spandex or glitterati bangles. Often, they wear trench coats and sunglasses. But truthfully, they wear scrubs, PPE, and uniform. In aid of the Care Workers Charity, The Showstoppers’ Alternative Eurovision returns to provide the comradery and camp entertainment we all so missed over the last year. Their previous show saw German entry Rama Stein take the crown – will your favourite claim victory this year? Or will they become enraptured in scandal…?
Following their tremendously successful 2020 showcase, The Showstoppers return with their brand of catchy, toe-tapping and head-scratching musical numbers for a new round of fresh and familiar faces. Structurally, the production runs almost identically with the Eurovision Song Contest. Acts perform their songs for an interactive audience vote, as celebrity commentators introduce and lampoon each performance, all leading to a nail-biting (and 100% not tactical) voting for a winner.
But who could host such a spectacular evening? Andrew Pugsley and Pippa Evans naturally. Not only directing the live broadcast, but Pugsley’s concept also draws together multiple candidates to perform as various nationalities for a ravenous audience. The chemistry he and Evans share is clear, polite and reminiscent of the traditional ‘safe’ Eurovision style of hosting duties – leaving the jabs for commentators.
A German YouTube prankster, a Turkish bad boy, and a Czech eco-singer all duke it out against the remaining competition to claim the bragging rights of the 2021 alternative winner. And in true Eurovision style, it’s safe to say not all songs work. We have the power ballads, the rock operas, and the pop techno beat – all accompanied with video effects, costumes, and political messages. There’s no question to The Showstoppers’ ingenuity and creativity, and despite the occasional flub, Duncan Walsh Atkins, Chris Ash and Jordan Clarke’s musical arrangement belt out some choice bangers, with a lot of songs running into the backs of one another.
Claiming the top songs though are Joshua Jackson, Mike McShane, Susan Harrison and previous winner Heather Urquhart as Rama Stein with a contemporary classic ‘Social Dis-Dance’. Largely down to having the signature vocal depths, the team capture both the melody of their performances and the balance of composition and musical genre. Even & Juliet and Six-star Grace Mouat gets in on the action as a guest-starring role as Cyprus entrant Melody.
From pasta to yodelling to lederhosen, stereotypes run rampant this evening. Crass? Without question. Offensive? Far from it. If anything, it’s a love letter to the camp comradery of Eurovision and a lampooning of how many acts hark from differing shores to the country they represent (Celine Dion anyone?). But there’s enough artistic diversity and appreciation to cause Farage to spit out his pint. Props to the subject of Brexit; slayer of arts across the continent isn’t tackled with a sense of obvious distaste but rather a sampling of reference. The occasional pie-chart, mirroring those filled with ‘promise’ of trade and opportunity demonstrate the wealth of Europe, with a tiny sliver of the ‘Other UK’.
For any Europhile, the addition of snippets and facts from the charmingly named Tony Cordial (Philip Pellew) stitches weaves of the inspirational powerhouse which Showstoppers draws from. Titbits surrounding Eurovision demonstrate both the respect the production has for the original, as well as a tasteful willingness to poke fun. From political voting, Swedish songwriters and the infamous “Nil-Points”, Alternative Eurovision only differs in budget and maintains the heart of inspiration.
Attracting celebrity judges Les Dennis, Russel Kane, and London Hughes, along with commentators Markus Brigstocke and Rachel Parris and the sinfully delicious Le Gateau Chocolat, the alumni of The Showstoppers not only demonstrates their good cause but the character of their production. The Showstoppers Alternative Eurovision captures all of the hope, insanity, joy and community of its parent show.
Reviewed on 15 May 2021 and available here