How do you send up something that is already a self-parody? In Australia at least, the Eurovision Song Contest is mostly enjoyed as a cavalcade of kitsch but Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson's musical Eurobeat - Almost Eurovision has bravely taken on the task of spoofing it. For those who can't wait until the return of the real thing, Supa Productions is mounting the show that revels in the contest's notorious characteristics - the awkward banter, the cheesy songs, the over-the-top costumes and dance routines, and takes them even further, if such a thing is possible. It satirises different countries' singers, songs and styles, and adds a participatory element: after all the numbers are performed, members of the audience are assigned a country to cheer for at each performance and get to vote for the winner.
Emma Tattam has performed, choreographed and sung in shows for 13 years and is now making her directorial debut. She choreographed a production of Eurobeat in 2007 but this time is leaving that side of things to Jordan Kelly while she focuses on the big picture.
''I love the show to pieces,'' she says. ''The best thing about Eurovision is anything goes.''
In Eurobeat, Bosnia and Herzegovina somehow emerged victorious at the previous year's contest so, as per tradition, it is presenting the event. The hosts are Sergei (played by Lachlan Ruffy) and Boyka (Sarah Golding), a decidedly odd couple.
Ruffy says of his character, ''He's Bosnian … a former child star who's gone on a bit of a bender. He used to be the star of a TV show, Wake Up With Sergei.''
And Sergei - who Ruffy says is a blend of Neil Patrick Harris and Charlie Sheen - has, like so many former child stars, gone off the rails. The closest thing the country has to a celebrity, he's hosting the contest as part of his community service for an unspecified offence (''There's a gag order: I'm not at liberty to divulge that information.'')
He's an extremely reluctant participant and doesn't hesitate to make his feelings known, whereas Boyka, a pole vaulter turned cabaret performer, is ecstatic.
Golding says, ''This is the peak of her career.''
She gets to lead the host city's big production number, I'm Sarajevo (Taste Me). ''It involves turnips.''
She says she and Ruffy have had a lot of fun playing with the script. Sergei finds it necessary to fortify himself with liquid refreshment to get through the night and Boyka spends the show trying to get him to sober up, while the performers spend the evening trying to crack each other up, ad-libbing in character.
There are a dozen countries competing in the contest. Russia is represented by the KGBois, ''a very cheesy, very '90s backyard boy band that I don't think ever made it big,'' says Joe Brocklesby, who plays ''the token sexy one''.
Calen Robinson says his character is ''the bad boy'' of the group, Ben Trabinger says he's ''the serious one'' and Jack Whiter is ''the smiley one''.
And while we're dealing in stereotypes, Greece is represented by Persephone (Miriam Rizvi), who sings the culturally appropriate Oh Aphrodite.
''She's arrogant and superficial,'' says Rizvi, who is performing her first solo number in the show after a lot of chorus work. ''I'm very excited and a little bit nervous as well.''
Max Gambale plays Germany's Franc Gonemeyer jnr, who sings of the simple pleasures of beer; Estonia's Toomas Jerker, who, with the Stone Hard Boys reveals the country's hitherto unsuspected homoerotic side, and a Viking in Norway's group Hammer of Thor.
Last time he was in the show, Gambale played Sergei and is glad to be doing Eurobeat again and to have a part - well, parts - where he gets to sing and dance.
Eliza Shepherd is also seen in different guises in the show. She's a ''sexy Viking'' for Norway, a dancer in the lyricless number from Liechtenstein, and plays the Bjork-like Icelandic singer Gert Grollsmadetter. ''She's a crazy performer, a scary woman,'' who sings a song called Love Ballad (''It has nothing to do with love at all'') - and also sings the upbeat Ukrainian number Bang Me (''four couples hold me, which is awesome''), Shepherd says.
And there are more countries, and numbers for audiences to discover.
Shepherd is also a fan of the real Eurovision Song Contest.
''We very much enjoy watching it as a family,'' she says.
She's not the only one. And she and her castmates hope Eurobeat will have a similar appeal for audiences. Who will win your vote?
■ Eurobeat - Almost Eurovision is on at the ANU Arts Centre on April 5-6, 10-13, 17-20 at 8pm with 2pm matinees on April 13 and 20. Tickets $40 adults ($35 Wednesday night and Saturday matinee), $35 concessions, $25 children under 16. Bookings: 6257 1950 or canberrarep.org.au. Or for dinner and show packages from the Teatro Vivaldi, phone 6257 2718.