Friday, 8 April 2016

Song Contest: The Almost Eurovision Experience, April 7, 2016 ****

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Written by Glynn Nicholas & Bev Killick, produced by Glynn Nicholas
Alex Theatre, St. Kilda until May 1, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 7, 2016
Stars: ****
 Review also online in Herald Sun Arts/Comedy Festival Reviews, Fri April 8, 2016. KH
Sweden entry: Kyssa Minlodis sing Save The World

Trashy Europop songs, conceited singers, glitzy costumes, gratuitous dancers, cultural pride and wind machines.

Song Contest: The Almost Eurovision Experience has many of the idiosyncratic ingredients of real Eurovision – without Guy Sebastian muscling in on that northern continent competition.

Writer-director-producer, Glynn Nicholas, wanted to make the loudest musical ever and Song Contest, with its hand-held clackers, cheering crowd and amplified music, is as noisy as a pop concert mashed with an AFL game, but with more sequins.

Eleven countries compete in this contest that takes place in beautiful Belarus, and Bev Killick plays the patronising and extravagantly but tastelessly dressed host, Bettina Bitjakokov (say that aloud to get the naughty allusion).

Audience members, pumped up on booze, music and faux national pride, swig drinks, clack clackers, wave the flags of their designated countries then vote on their phones or on old-fashioned paper.

It’s a licence for rampant partisanship, bribery and enthusiastic participation.

The songs may be parodies with mischievous lyrics, but they are all singable and some are hilariously memorable, including the mock-inspirational opening chorus of Beauty, Understanding, Music and Song, written by Nicholas.

A different country wins each night but Sweden, that bastion of Eurovision winners including ABBA, won opening night with its sassy, tightly choreographed quartet of Little Mix lookalikes (except for the gal with the beard) in their sequined mini-dresses and garish wigs.

This reviewer voted Sweden second but voted #1 for Poland’s nostalgic love ballad that epitomised old Eurovision in its sweet-voiced, naive and awkward couple wearing traditional costume and backed by two achingly funny, leotard-clad mimes wearing white neutral masks. Hilarious!

Italy’s Italian Stallion was suitably vain and obsessed with his mother, Germany blended cowboys with a Bavarian slap dance and the UK’s entry had plenty of pelvic thrusting on a motorbike.

Iceland’s costumes of white fur, silver lame undies and feathered doves stretched the limits of sanity while Russia’s traditional-looking babushkas stripped off their skirts to reveal the new Russia – and their bottoms.

Jason Coleman and Yvette Lee’s choreography ranges from provocative contemporary moves to the totally absurd while evocative lighting effects (Stephen Hawker) complete the Eurovision picture.

The more over-the-top it got, the funnier it became, but the songs are crying out for more mid-song key changes, extra sexist costume reveals/strips and additional silly dancing.

The intro could be tightened and the voting needs to be streamlined, but Song Contest will tickle the fancy of Eurovision aficionados and newbies alike.

By Kate Herbert
 Poland's duo haunted by mimes L & R. This is not, sadly, a pic of the song on stage.

Director, Glynn Nicholas
Jason Coleman, Associate Director (and choreography with Yvette Lee)
Richard Jeziorny, Costume & Sets
Daniel & Gideon Frankel – music producers  - details of the songs below
Stephen Hawker - lighting

Music for “Song Contest – the Almost Eurovision Experience”

‘Beauty, Understanding, Music & Song’ Written by Glynn Nicholas.
This is the inspirational opening number of the Song Contest. It is a rousing ode to the values of  Eurovision with a pageant-style, ceremonious  arrangement complete with trumpet fanfares. Performed by Jem Nicholas and the ensemble.

1) Hungary - ‘Save Me’ - Written by Anthony Clark
The entry from Hungary is a brooding, arena-rock power-ballad with an anthem chorus and stirring female lead by Elise Brennen, John O’Hara, Tom Oliver, Jem Nicholas. 

2) Germany - ‘Knutschfleck’ - Written by Mark Nicholas 
This is a folky up-tempo number with an infectious beer-hall rhythm and slapstick vocal arrangement. The lyrics are about a lover’s quarrel - The German title Knutschfleck means ‘love bite”. Sung in German by Vincent Hooper, Jacob Darby, Sophie Wright, Tehya Nicholas

3) Sweden  - ‘Save The World’ - Written by Jason Coleman 
Sweden’s entry is a sexy electro dance-pop girl group number - built on big bouncy beats with cheeky female vocals. Performed by Julia Grenda, Kimberley Hodgson, Jessica Lindon, Djon Alexander

4) Poland - ‘He Taught Me How To Sing’ Written by Peter Sullivan
Poland’s entry is a wistful love duet waltz with bitter sweet lyrics and a dreamy and nostalgic melody. Performed by Sophie Wright, Vincent Hooper.  Mime Artists: Tehya Nicholas and Jem Nicholas

5) Greece  - 'You are Soul' written by Glynn Nicholas and Dare
This Bouzouki-tinged tune evokes both the sweetness of summer romance and the bitterness of heartbreak building to an irresistible sing-a-long climax. Sung by Kimberly Hodgson, Elise Brennan, Julie Sharpe, Jessica Lindon, Djon Alexander

6) Italy - ‘Nothing more Beautiful’ Written by Anthony Clark 
Italy’s entry is a soft, almost country style rock piano ballad that builds to a passionate chorus, John O’Hara.  Dancers: Jacob Darby, Jessica Lindon

7) Iceland  - ‘Born for the This’ - Written by Dare and Mikelangelo 
An extravagant keyboard-laden dance track. An exciting hybrid of Europop, latin and tribal elements.   Performed by Djon Alexander, Julia Grenda, Kimberley Hodgson, Vincent Hooper

8) UK - ‘I Wanna be Scene’ - Written by Dare 
A fresh synth-pop blend mixing a 60's pom-pom queen go-go feel with a  hint of Iggy Azalia. The biting lyrics are a satire on the desire for fame..Performed by Jacob Darby, Elise Brennan, Jessica Lindon, Tehya Nicholas

9) Ireland - ‘Plastic Heart’ - Written by Denis Aubrey 
A quirky blues filled with heartache with a New Wave twist and a good measure of Irish folk. Filled with catchy Analogue Synthesiser riffs and foot stomping celtic breaks.
Performed by Tom  Oliver, Vincent Hooper, Julia Grenda, Jem Nicholas

10) Russia - ‘Vagabonds’ Written by Denis Aubrey 
Free spirited Russian folk number sung by a foxy girl group. Arranged with evocative gypsy instrumentation and rhythms. Performed by Elise Brennan, Kimberley Hodgson, Sophie Wright, Julie Sharpe

11) Norway - ‘Haircut for a Revolution’  written by Dare
An energetic anarchic Punk rock rallying-cry with hard-edged anti-establishment message. Performed by Jessica Lindon, Djon Alexander, John O’Hara, Jacob Darby

Belarus: Host Country Interval song: "Come Alive in Belarus!" (Party in Belarus) 
Written by Dare and Glynn Nicholas – This is a tongue-in-cheek  invitation from the Belarus ministry of tourism to visit Belarus  and PARTY! Extolling the virtues of Belarus to a tawdry yet irresistible, Eastern European disco groove!  Bev Killick with the full Ensemble.

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