Though we may never possess the good fortune of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest ourselves (although there is now a good possibility we will host the Asia-Pacific equivalent), one Melbourne-based troupe tries to defy fate, producing what can only be described as the closest thing we have at present to the lycra-loving, glitter-filled European song competition.
Song Contest: The Almost Eurovision Experience is a Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) stage show that mimics the format of the real Eurovision. Theatregoers are rewarded by an interactive two act musical show, where audiences are asked to identify with a home country, and are able to cast real electronic vote.
"It's like an homage-stoke-parody of Eurovision," says director/producer of Song Contest, Glynn Nicholas.
Below is a promo video about Nicholas's involvement in the show:
Nicholas, whose love for Eurovision is as boundless as ours here at SBS, is no stranger to the song contest parodies. His past production even got him on the European Broadcasting Union's radar back in 2008.
"They are aware of me, I did another incarnations of the Eurovision. I took it to the West End. That was called Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision and was directed, produced, and co-written by me, along with Kirk Kristy and Andrew Patterson.
“And the powers that be, they invited us to perform at their annual conference for 600 delegates."
But with this new production at MICF, Nicholas hopes to creates, share, and achieve so much more.
It's just like the Eurovision final, only smaller and louder.
"I want to make the loudest musical in the world!" Nicholas jokes as he explains how on arrival every guest is assigned a home country and given a horrendously loud clacker.
The audience are assigned one of 11 country, who have made this year's (fake) Eurovision finals, hosted in Belarus who "by some chance of fate" won last year. The first act will feature all 11 countries and their songs, while the second act will be live crosses to different countries as votes are tallied.
“They really become tribal,” says Nicholas about the audience. "Like, if they're assigned Greek, they become Greek, and really take it seriously.”
To further emphasis this international spirit of camaraderie, Song Contest opens with number called "Beauty, Understanding, Music, and Song", performed by the host and all the finalists.
Where does Australia fit in?
Unfortunately, Australia doesn't feature as a contestant in this production. But Nicholas hopes for that to change once they take this show on the road.
The team were, however, able to allude to Australia's Eurovision involvement over the past two years with this personally-recorded message from Guy Sebastian, which is screened before the stage show commences each night.
They almost used a leaf blower instead of a wind machine. Almost.
"Wind machines are mandatory and we even considered upping the ante using leaf blowers at one stage," says Nicholas, "but they were too noisy."
But when it comes to other elements of costume and stage design, Nicholas assures us Song Contest strongly rivals the real deal in gaudiness and sex appeal.
"The costumes (and the set) contain as many reflective surfaces as we could find, so yes, lots of sequins, sparkly things, lycra and so on. The lighting is pretty spectacular too," he says. "It’s all pretty sexy, except for Poland and Germany. They’re just bizarre."
There's a voting app and everything
The audience is given the opportunity to vote for the countries they most like, through a free downloadable app created just for the stage show.
“We’ve developed a fairly simple app that people can download on the theatre. But we also hand out ballot papers for kids or for people without smartphones," says Nicholas.
The voting page is also accessible online.
The most important feature of the app is it allows the votes from the audience to be tallied immediately, and projected on a live scoreboard, just like in the real competition.
"We've even worked out a way to make sure our [pre-recorded] live cross is to the first country to earn 12 points."
Nicholas calls the votes that are screened "exciting votes", meaning the true votes are compressed and delivered in an exciting way, so that no audience member is sure which country has won until the very last country has given their votes.
"Remember how we knew Sweden had won last year, well before all the countries' votes we tallied? That won't happen."
There's potential for local schools to write songs for the show and earn royalties
“It’s an opportunity to build up communities," says Nicholas, as he explains how the production could go on to help high schools across Australia.
Ultimately, Nicholas hopes to take this show on the road. And in each state his troupe visits, he hopes to establish a song writing contest for local high schools in the area, with the winning song being featured in that regions run of Song Contest.
"These kids write the song, choreograph the dance moves, and staging," he says. "And if we think we need to improve elements of it, we'll work with them to change it up. That way they get something out of it, and they learn through the process."
His vision goes further, with plans for the schools to profit financially from their involvement with Song Contest.
"[The winning] song will earn royalties, which will go into musical development programs for that school," Nicholas says.
Nicholas is currently speaking to a few organisation to help him with the ambitious endeavour, including a community theatre not-for-profit called Big hART, who've used the power of performance art to help Indigenous and refugee communities.
To the future: the world is Song Contest's oyster
On one hand the troupe is planning for a national tour, but on the other, Nicholas aiming for the international stage.
"From a commercial aspect, I’ve always want this to be overseas. I'd like to take it to Berlin," he says.
But the greatest struggling of taking the show on the road, especially overseas, is finding venues to house the production. The task becomes an even greater one when you consider how each regional performance could feature a uniquely staged song.
But Nicholas has a completely genuine solution:
"We'll take our own venue on the road, made of containers," he laughs. "It's been done before."
Nicholas hopes this show can also bring a little joy in people's lives.
When it comes to people and cultures abroad, Nicholas says, "all the politicians, they want to have us running scared. I‘d love for this show to be an antidote to that."
Song Contest: The Almost Eurovision Experience will play in Melbourne's Alex Theatre in St Kilda until 1 May. For more information, visit their website.