Saturday, 31 May 2008

The final countdown - it's a Nancy liveblog!

Carrie and Georgi have stocked up on spirits and are here to liveblog the I'd Do Anything final for you. Remember, kids, keep the Bailey's AWAY from the laptop.

Thousands auditioned, and one by one they fell. Three remain - Pirate Jessie, lovely Jodie and beautiful Samantha. A new West End star will be born. Fucking hell, that's Liza Minnelli in the pre-titles montage. Who will we choose as our Nancy?


Graham Norton macro. Purple suit, yellow shirt, and the Nancys are wearing red Nancy dresses. [Does that mean Niamh was Nancy all along? - Steve] Lewis notJoseph is in the audience. The panel are there, as is ALW, even though what they think matters for fuck all any more. The final 12 Nancys perform I'd Do Anything with the final 12 Olivers, and Norton has a little cameo with the "and back again" line. Dear God.

After tonight, life for one girl (woman?) will never be the same again. Norton tells us this is not a talent show, but a casting competition, and the prize is a West End role that carries with it great responsibility. He struggles to keep a straight face, but manages it. One girl will be knocked out shortly, and then the final two duke it out. Barry Humphries is wearing a white tux. CamMac is we're-not-worthy-ing. Instead of the Phantom music, we get Power to the People. Norton dances. And the girls will meet up with the ACTUAL Liza Minnelli.

VT - the girls need to think about their journey so they get sent to Paris [on an Actual Journey? - Georgi]. Jodie talks to the birds, like Mary Poppins. All three girls cry. If you want to vote for Jodie, and let's face it, you should, you should ring 0901 121 2001. CamMac talks about usually having the final say. We don't really care what he has to say, because he has been a great disappointment to us. ALW says Sam is a heartstopper, Jodie is a heartwarmer and Jessie is a heartbreaker. What. The. Fuck?

First up, Blackpool's Jodie Prenger! Vote Jodie! She VTs about being fat and not getting any roles, and how it doesn't happen to people like her, and how she thought she got through because she was "jokey Jodie", but then 'Send in the Clowns' blew everyone away, including ALW. She wants to really prove she can do it, getting the role would be "the ultimate dream", she can't believe she's in the final, etc. Get on with it already. Graham asks ALW what her strengths are, and he says that she has never wavered, and that she took criticism in her stride.

Jodie is singing 'Son of a Preacher Man', in a purple dress that is verging on being a nightie. We're not sure how this song is supposed to prove that Jodie would be a good Nancy, but whatevs, she's still awesome. Jessie could never get away with that song. Remember, you can VOTE NOW (for Jodie). Graham asks Jodie if it hurt when CamMac said she couldn't be Nancy, and she is like: yes, duh, but she is going to prove to him that she could be Nancy. Over to CamMac, and he says she has proved it - just through that song, obviously. John says that as a Leading Man, he wants his leading lady to be "believable, believable, believable", like Jodie, and wants to star opposite her in the West End - yeah, like that will happen. ALW says Jodie has "an outsize talent", but he's not sure it will be quite enough. Fuck off, calling her a fat cow. Gah.

Sam is next. We see the VT from last week's sing-off, and she talks about showbiz being "a world of rejection", despite the Nancy audition being her first ever. She giggles about having to wear hotpants. She cries, and thanks the public for voting for her. Except for last week, obviously. Working with John did a lot for her, apparently. Various clips of performances, voiced over by weepy platitudes. ALW says that a lot will depend on the directorial team if Sam wins - everything is there, but it depends what can be fashioned from her. I think he's just called her insanely vapid.

Sam is singing Anyone Who Had A Heart, and wearing a blue dress with a diagonal sequinned strap, which as Georgi points out makes it look like she's got a handbag slung across her. She uses the second verse to do Acting into the camera, and as Barrowman pointed out last week, she does Angry very well, but she's not good on the simple emotional stuff. Agreeing with Barrowman puzzles me slightly, but he's right. [I really didn't expect to agree with Barrowman as much as I ended up doing this series. - Steve]

Sam talks about meeting La Minnelli, and is dull. Denise says that Sam has the voice of Nancy, and out of all the girls, she has had the most incredible journey. Drink! [Aye, the boat crossing from Man can be choppy at the best of times. Pass the sick bag - Louise] Then Denise's microphone breaks, and Barrowman leans across to lend her his. Barrowman is incredibly professional. [Which he ought to be, considering that he is on every TV show in the world! - Georgi] Denise talks about needing a good director to make something of her. Barry leers at her [no change there, then - Louise]. ALW says his question is whether or not she would be able to take the direction she needs and could she build up the stamina to do eight shows a week. Drink! [Your bitching team have just been checking the price of tickets, and discovered that the winning Nancy is actually scheduled to perform on Monday and Tuesday evenings, Wednesday matinees and Friday evenings. Our maths isn't the best, but we're pretty sure that only adds up to FOUR SHOWS A WEEK, YOU FUCKING LYING SCUMBAGS! If they hire the losing Nancy for the other four shows, I, for one, will be demanding my voting money back from the Beeb. - Georgi]

Finally, the "only remaining Irish Nancy of the competition", Pirate Jessie. She says she is "no longer Jessie - I am Nancy". Yes, whatever. She is overcome by Andrew believing in her. John has been criticising her more and more, hee hee. She "lost Jessie", ohnoez! Footage of ALW fawning over her, ugh. Jessie: "No matter how many times you get put down, if you can pick yourself up, you can do anything." Yes, whatever. [Tell that to my childhood pets. - Steve] ALW says she "delivers a ballad as well as any young girl" he's seen, and he is "touching everything tonight for her" - WTF?!?!?

On the plus side, Jessie is wearing the ugliest dress so far, like a long green curtain. She has a stool, so perhaps they will get it right this week and she'll stand up on the key change, or maybe they thought it was a good way to stop her waving her tomboy arms. She's singing 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face', or "The Foist Time", if you're Jessie. Bored now. Does Jessie think she's ready for this part? Obviously she does. John was bored by her last week, but he says she captivated him tonight, but he's worried about her consistency. She is like a baseball player - sometime she hits a home run, sometimes she strikes out. Thanks for that metaphor. He is right though. CamMac wants her to be Nancy, and says it's not about the delivery [Eh??? WTF??? - Louise]. Stupid CamMac. ALW says he never thought he would sit in a chair anywhere in the world and entirely agree with CamMac, but Jessie has "the sacred flame of star quality". Shame she CAN'T FUCKING ACT. He points out that she hasn't had training - because she hasn't been to drama school because she CAN'T ACT! And then says it will be okay because they have six months to train her before the show opens. What is the fucking point of this show?? [Sun readers today will have spotted that ALW and CamMac fell out last week because CamMac wanted Rachel in the final. Hee! - Louise]

The Nancys go to meet Liza Minnelli. She takes the piss out of Jodie's accent. Oh, we're not going to see the VT now, we're back to the studio, and Norton is with Bullseye and the three Olivers. The boys are going to perform with a Nancy each, apparently because they have "chosen their favourite". Mysteriously, that has worked out evenly - Laurence and Jodie are singing Getting To Know You first. There is some bizarre choreography where they throw their legs into the air. Jodie is Maternal. Afterwards, she gets to talk to the camera, and she says that she has the motherly instinct and the oomph to perform Nancy "as a woman". Awww.

Now, Sam and Harry are going to sing Singin' In The Rain. They have prop umbrellas. It is difficult to work with props, as we know. Harry sings out of the side of his mouth. WHY, GOD, WHY? [Ghastly. No chemistry. Sam could barely look at Harry. Bring back Chester. - Louise] [Agreed. This one was painful to listen to. - Steve] Sam gets to talk to the camera, and says she is the right girl for Nancy, she has taken all the criticisms on board, she has a raw edge, and she won't let us down.

Jessie and Gwion are singing Truly Scrumptious. OH MY EYES, MY EYES. Ewwwwwwww. There is inappropriate touching and too much skirt-swishing. ZOMG and a piggy-back - and THE AUDIENCE APPLAUD. Why are you clapping a piggy-back, you fucking morons? And HAND CLAPS. Oh, I can't look any more. Rachel is in the Nancy bleachers, crying presumably with horror. Or maybe she poured acid in her eyes in an attempt to stop looking. Jessie says she has been on a journey, and has journeyed into the very heart of Nancy. Drink and drink, kids. CamMac says Jessie and Gwion were the best ones. He is wrong. ALW agrees. He is also wrong.

Time for a reminder of all three Nancys' performances: Jodie was awesome, Samantha was dead behind the eyes, Jessie looked vaguely confused and did nice singing but bad acting; all the duets were pretty terrible, but Jessie and Gwion were truly awful. The lines are still open.

In a moment, the Nancys are going to sing 'Maybe This Time', having been coached by Liza Minnelli, an old friend of Andrew's. Jessie calls it an "opportunity of a lifetime to sing in front of Liza Minnelli". Yes, just to meet her would be nothing. Liza tries to teach Samantha to act. "Yes, you will! You will win!" Hee. She stops Jessie fairly quickly to teach her to enunciate. It's not working. ALW tells Liza that Jessie's comfort zone is that sort of material - would be if she could pronounce her Ss. Liza tells Jodie it has to come from inside, which she did, because she knows more about that kind of emotion, and she is "just wonderful". Jodie cries, and says "that woman" is fabulous. Liza observes that "it's hard when they're all up for one part". No shit.

For 'Maybe This Time', the Nancys are wearing white tassley dresses, for no apparent reason than to make Jodie look awful. Good shoes though. Jodie goes first, and inevitably Jessie gets the money note. Then, after the key change - drink! - she shouts to show us how emotional she is. The audience is going crazy. Jodie, naturally, is the best one.

OMGZ! THE LINES ARE FROZEN! One Nancy is about to be gone for good! But first, Lee Mead, who knows what the agonising wait for the results is like. He is singing 'Any Dream Will Do', with accompanying Olivers. We're quite bored with this song. I, for one, want to hear 'Paint It Black'. [Whereas I for one would rather disembowel myself than have to sit through his insane overrated jazz-handsy rendition of that song one more time, but different strokes for different folks and all that. - Steve] He has golden shoes - they must be the Barrowman's Leading Man Shoes, we conjecture. Lee shows Jessie how to do hand movements. We heart Lee Mead. Lee says that the Nancy who wins will have "a lot of hard work" ahead of them - more for some than others, though. Graham asks who his money is on, and Lee backs Jodie! Hoorah! Then Lee has to go back to his theatre - "Go, go, go Joe!" quips Norton. Hee.

More VT filler. We see Sam's mum, who is black - who was expecting that? Have they been hiding her away so that the racialist British public didn't vote her off? Other than that, all their relatives cry and stuff. Blah.

Here are the results. One Nancy will be voted off in, like, 20 seconds. Jessie could still be Nancy. The rejects hug her. It's between Jodie and Sam for the final place...and the Nancy in third place, and out of the competition, is Samantha. Awww. She is lovely, and beautiful, and has a gorgeous voice, but it is not really a surprise, is it? Jodie screams, and hugs her mum and a gay who is wearing a Team Jodie t-shirt. Sam witters inanities, and Barrowman cries and gives her a standing ovation. ALW says this is the result he was expecting. The audience boo. Why? "Sammy, I think you did wonderfully well," he says.

So Sam and the final two sing us out, and Jessie and Jodie fumble taking the locket off. Shockingly, Jodie then bursts into tears. It's a good sing-out, but now, bitches, it is time to vote for Jodie. 0901 121 2001. We'll be back in a bit for the results.

Results show

Welcome back, bitches! Hopefully you have all been using the last few hours profitably and voting for Jodie. Now they go head-to-head for the role of a lifetime, but who will walk away as Nancy? Fingers crossed for Jodie!

Earlier tonight, Samantha went out - not a surprise to anyone, to be fair - and backstage she says she is disappointed, but Barrowman tells her not to let it knock her back, bless. Usual stuff about it being an amazing experience.

As though it were necessary, Graham welcomes back the panel. For some reason, ALW's music changes to Snap's 'The Power', which coincidentally was probably in the charts when he last had a good musical in the West End. Quick reminder of what happened earlier - vote Jodie, 0901 121 2001. Backstage, she says she will fight for it - that's a fight we'd like to see. Jessie can't believe she's in the final two - neither can we. She says she believes 100% that she can go all the way in the competition.

Graham speaks to CamMac about Jodie and Jessie. He says "the winner is me, because I'd be happy with either of them". Except Jodie, who he hates. He says Jodie would be traditional, Jessie would be raw, which: if he means talentless, that would be correct. ALW reminds us that Connie sang 'As Long As He Needs Me' in the final of Maria, which is what Jodie and Jessie will now be singing.

Jodie goes first, and I'm not sure what she makes of the key change because the studio audience are too busy going mental and drowning her out. Also, they're not getting to sing the verses. Jodie's fiancé cries. Aw, he seems lovely. "Ash long ash he needsh me," begins Jessie, and she continues with her usual Cockernee accent, shouting to convey emotion, and flapping her arms around like an epileptic penguin. [Jessie's Cockney accent is actually improving, to give her credit, and given that she'd have about five months to work on it even before rehearsals begin, I think she'd be able to pull a decent one off in time for opening night. Her limited emotional repertoire is still a problem, though. - Steve] On the last note, she leans backwards and almost falls over, but Barry and CamMac are delighted. For fuck's sake. ALW says nobody could sustain the intensity that Jessie just showed. Sigh. [That'll be the intensity of Awfulness, then - Louise]

This week, there have been special Nancy events across the country, but we don't get to see much of that. Instead, we get to see the reject Olivers and Nancys sing Never Forget, presumably because it is from the Take That musical ["musical" - Georgi] Never Forget. The Nancys strut down the stairs, and various pairs of breasts are wobbling about all over the place. Sam sings the line about it being someone else's dream, and Ashley appears to kick her as she takes her place next to her. They end on a really fake group hug, and that was excruciating. Yet again, Barry and CamMac look delighted.

Madeleine and Marty are Jodie's parents. Her mum says she is a Northern star, and it's now her time to be a West End star. [It did not sound scripted At All. - Georgi] Then she cries. I don't catch what Jessie's parents are called, but the mum manages to shoehorn in a reference to them being FROM IRELAND. Gosh.

The lines are closing in a few minutes. VOTE JODIE. QUICKLY.

The Nancys have one final chance to impress us with the song from the series they think can win it for them. Jodie has chosen 'I Have Nothing', while Jessie predictably has gone for 'The Man Who Got Away'. Jodie is on first, perhaps trying to prove that she isn't cabaret-with-a-small-c. Carrie predicts a key change, and fills our glasses just in time to Drink! Jodie just does emotion (all kinds) much better than Jessie, probably because she has the requisite life experience. She looks like she's about to cry at the end. Her fiancé is crying, awww.

Jessie's dress has a weird one-shoulder thing going on. When she sings "got away", she looks over her shoulder, to demonstrate what she means. Thanks for that. Her enunciation is as bad as it ever was, and she is shouting at us again. Apparently that and breathiness are all you need to communicate the whole gamut of emotions. Sorry, but HAAAAAATE.

THE LINES HAVE CLOSED! The audience boo, which: what? Jodie is about to cry, and Jessie is hyperventilating. The final panel votes are: John - Jodie; Denise - Jodie; Barry - Jessie; CamMac - Jessie; ALW - Jessie. Fuck off. CamMac says that Jessie "is Nancy", suggesting some phone-vote fixing going on. Before the results, time for a look back at the Nancy journey - drink! Dreadful dance routines, ALW having a tantrum, Olivers being adorable singing songs from Bugsy Malone, Laurence, Gwion and Harry winning, Niamh battering Sikes to death, the girls snogging the face off Ben James Ellis in front of their dads, Jessie doing a dreadful accent in an East End pub [and Babs Windsor judging it with her Face of Truth - Georgi]. Aw, it's been a good couple of months. What will we do now? [Pub, anyone? - Louise]

It's time to announce the winner! Blackpool's Jodie and County Kerry's Jessie hold hands and skip down the stairs. Jessie looks like she might be having a heart attack or alternatively an embolism. The nation has decided that the winning Nancy is - Jodie! She goes apeshit, as you may imagine, and the only people who look happier than Jodie are Denise and Barrowman. [I think they high-fived. That was cute. - Steve] ALW looks vaguely pissed off. Norton takes Jodie's hand, and she wails at him, throwing her arms round his neck. Jodie thanks everyone for their support, and Barrowman and Denise look ecstatic. ALW says it is the people's choice; CamMac says he is thrilled for Jodie. Not so thrilled for himself, obviously. HA! Take that, CamMac, you fucker! Norton thanks the panel, and us, for creating a new West End star. Jodie sings us out, and Denise's microphone has fallen off in all the excitement. The Olivers are gathered together and look really happy. Aw. She's getting to sing all of it, mind, ALL THE VERSES, and Jessie is sitting in the audience weeping. Confetti explodes everywhere, Jodie gets a bouquet, and then she waves her arms manically.

Well, that's it, bitches. Congratulations to Jodie, and to us for picking a deserving winner. We'll be back in August with The Bitch Factor, and then in the autumn for Strictly. See you then!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Right this way, your table's waiting...

The announcer lady sooo says, "Which of the Nazis are going through to the final?" She means Nancys, of course, and it's results time!

Norton, yellow suit and blue shirt, Nancys and Olivers perform Food Glorious Food again, Jessie does "hungry" acting. Blah.

Gwion, Laurence and Harry give a big thumbs-up to the camera, and Norton tells us they'll be singing Where Is Love? later. This is the last chance ALW has to save any of the Nancys, and then it's all up to us. VOTE JODIE. The panel are introduced, and CamMac is back again. For the goldfish among us, Norton reminds us again that next week the result is entirely dependent on our votes.

Recap of "last" "night's" "backstage" "action". Rachel was bizarre, forgot her lines in one verse, and did a spot of self-aggrandising improv; the judges were delighted; Rachel was shaking backstage; Jessie sang reasonably nicely, but once again mistook shouting for acting, and Barrowman spoke the truth while Barry Humphries watched some other performance; Jessie says that she performed from her heart (drink!) and seems to be undergoing a Brooke White-esque breakdown [which does lend some credence to John and Denise saying she's not emotionally ready - Steve]; Samantha sang a dreadful song out of key; Jodie was stunning and got slagged off by CamMac. I want him to go away again now. Although I did laugh when he suffixed his criticism with, "That might be what Barry's talking about." Yes, it might be, but who knows? The Olivers sang Tomorrow; Sam and Jodie rocked Jesus Christ Superstar; Rachel and Jessie were a tad shambolic on Buenos Aires. [Dame Barry has been watching a completely different show over the last 9 weeks, in which his role has been to perve over teenage wannabes young enough to be his great-granddaughter - Louise]

Norton says the votes could go any way at all. Jodie says she speaks on behalf of "the girls" when she says it would mean the earth to all of them. Rachel says they've all shown Nancy traits. Norton wishes them all luck, and leads into their mission VT - they've been sent to a miserable Victorian hovel, which still looks a bit clean and spacious for an alcoholic slut and her murderous bit of stuff. Sam is bewildered by the concept of making dinner without a ready meal or a microwave. [Sheesh, someone teach her how to boil a spud - Louise] Rachel says the mission is bringing them closer to the heart of Nancy. LULZ. The next morning, they have to recite As Long As He Needs Me to Barry. He is expecting a Very High Standard. Jessie seems to have developed some kind of speech impediment as she cannot say anything sibilant any more, but interestingly she is still attempting a Cockney accent [and sho shay all of ush - Louise]. Rachel is overwhelmed at having to speak with no piano, but actually just manages to speak the words in rhythm rather than acting them as prose. Barry liked it, though. Jodie looks like she's about to cry, and Barry says it is an emotional performance, but he didn't get the same sense of courage as he got from the others. He felt that Sam was parroting the words at the start, but when she knelt down in front of him (snarf!) he thought it improved, and he thinks it's a very close contest. Well, thanks for that. [proof that he's a dirty old man - Louise]

Now the "fab four" Nancys are going to perform A Hard Day's Night (ha, do you see what they did there?). Rachel and Jessie are in white, Jodie and Sam in black. Jessie keeps watching her feet; Sam keeps moving her eyebrows too much.

Time for more of the Olivers, and footage of the moments the boys were told they had WON, plus ALW and CamMac's comments. Harry is apparently a fantastic actor; Gwion is loveable and very strong; Laurence has a wonderful voice and CamMac reckons it is very emotional when you watch him sing, and he is proud of his journey (double drink!). The three boys sing Where Is Love?, which is a hideous dirge. And Chester's singing is better than all three of these. There is tender applause at the end rather than a proper ovation, and Sam, bless him, is whooping from the bleachers.

Why do the Nancys think they should be Nancy? Well, Rachel thinks she is ready for the part and it is her time; Jodie puts her heart and soul into every performance, and promises to give us 110% (wrong show, sweetheart); Sam says she deserves to be Nancy because she is ready and would make a raw, edgy, slightly different Nancy; Jessie says she would redefine the role of Nancy [She is confusing herself with Niamh, surely? - Georgi] because she is fresh, youthful and as strong as an ox, and ready for NINE SHOWS A WEEK, never mind EIGHT. I want to like her and feel sorry for her, but she makes it very difficult. [I don't know, I'm kind of finding Jessie On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown almost endearing. At least she's funny this way, albeit unintentionally. - Steve]

The judges are asked who is not Nancy. Barrowman says Jessie's emotional content isn't there; Denise says Jessie isn't ready. There is not a PEEP from the audience. Barry says it's an agonising decision, but selects Jodie [too old for his fantasies? - Louise], and CamMac agrees that she doesn't have quite the grip on the role [the fool - Louise]. There is BOOING from the audience. CamMac is proving a real disappointment to me.

Norton explains the concept of the sing-off, like we haven't been watching it for the past billion weeks. He does a Dancing with the Stars-style summary for each contestant - Rachel has worked hard and wants to make her family IN BELFAST proud; Jessie wants to be accepted; Sam's confidence has grown; Jodie has become a serious contender. Pointless tension-building, but here are the results. Jodie could STILL BE NANCY, and goes loopy - bursts into tears, screams, and runs to her mum, bawling and wailing. Rachel is in the sing-off. Barrowman and Denise are holding hands and looking perturbed. Jessie could STILL BE NANCY, and punches the air in a really ungracious and inelegant way. She rushes over to Jodie and they hug. [Are the public deaf? Blind? Or has Eire suddenly acquired a massive phone bill? - Louise] [A very small part of me actually wants Jessie to win now. The panel have made their bed, and now Jessie can lie in it - slurring, pirate arm, inability to dance and all. That'll learn 'em. - Steve]

Sam received the lowest number of votes, making her the LEAST POPULAR NANCY. She and Rachel have to sing Memory, and ALW recommends, and I quote, "What you have to do now is be a star, show that sacred flame a star must show in a moment like this." Right, that's really helpful. And AGAIN the key has been bumped up a bit for them. To be honest, I prefer Sam's voice, but Rachel certainly acts this better. [Definitely. I thought this was the most impressive Sam's voice had ever been, but she just looked like she was reciting a shopping list. Rachel was acting her little socks off. - Steve] ALW doesn't appear to be watching or listening, just sitting in his chair looking really pissed off. There's a key change into another key that this song doesn't use. Sam sings the last line by herself, complete with huge camera close-up.

Norton reminds them that only one of them can go through. ALW says it is a devastating moment and yabbers on about Cats being the first show he did with CamMac. [Doesn't he also say that 'Memory' is sung by a young cat to an older cat, when actually it is the other way around, thus proving that he doesn't even have a clue about his own fucking musicals? - Georgi] He says Sam has everything ahead of her, and Rachel did a fabulous performance of Cabaret. He is thinking about where CamMac is ultimately going to go with the show, and then stutters a bit, before saying he's going to save Samantha, who seems surprised, thanks him, then runs off to hug Jodie and Jessie. Rachel says the three finalists are all amazing, and they shout back that they love her. Aww. [Looks like she and Sam have resolved their differences, then. - Steve] ALW says he knows she has a huge career ahead of her, and Rachel thanks the panel and everyone in the world.

So she sings us out, and this is certainly the most-acted version of this we've seen, though she does stray into arm-flinging slightly too much for my tastes, and then proceeds to distort her own vocal by singing the last three bars in a high-decibel chest-belt. [Aw. I hope someone casts her in a West End show, I think Rachel's ace. She and Sarah were the only people who genuinely managed to give me chills during their respective sing-outs. - Steve][Here's betting Rachel is the "safe pair of hands" they call to fill in when Jodie wants to go on holiday. - Georgi]

Next week's the final, bitches. Join Carrie and Georgi for liveblogging and vodka [in no particular order - Georgi] for the final time this series!

Just a little bit of starrrrrrrrrrrr quality

Ninth live show: 24th May 2008

We open with the usual scenario: Graham trooping along the indoor balcony to the strains of 'Consider Yourself'. Norton Suitwatch: Scarlet with red piping and a purple shirt. I've seen worse. It's the semi-final, and our four remaining Nancys will be fighting it out to land a place in the final, and the three Olivers who will alternate the role in the West End will be crowned. I for one can barely contain myself! The Nancys and Olivers perform 'Food Glorious Food'. Jessie appears to have gone to the same "displaying signs of hunger" acting class as Joey Tribbiani. Jodie's still the only one with any kind of maternal relationship with the kids. For some reason, the Olivers who didn't make the final eight shortlist are still performing, but the previously eliminated Nancys have not come back. I don't really understand the logic there.

Graham reminds us that this is Andrew's last chance to save a Nancy (read: last chance to eliminate someone he really doesn't want to win), and the prospect of the voting audience picking the wrong girl for the part is weighing heavily on his mind. I'd feel sorry for him, but he was singing Jessie's praises as loudly as the rest of the panel until a couple of weeks ago, so no dice. Tonight the expert panel have been joined by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, future boss of the winner. About time he had some say in the proceedings, really. Cameron is the only member of the panel who doesn't bow to Andrew, interestingly. [Perhaps he has some semblance of self-esteem and doesn't feel the need to prostrate himself in front of someone who hasn't written a decent song in 20 years. - Carrie] [Funny, could have sworn I saw CM do a very toned-down version of ALW worshipping. While the Olivers hammed it up embarrassingly - Louise]

Since there is still no clear frontrunner (the show's words, not mine), Andrew invited the panel over for crisis talks to discuss the remaining girls [similar to the judges' secret dinners on Dancing on Ice - Carrie]. Cue montage of feedback where no names are given, but we hear such phrases as "awkward when she moves" (Jessie, presumably) and "it would be a disappointment for this show if she didn't go through" (Jodie, hopefully). Cut to Andrew lecturing the girls, telling Rachel to sing from the heart, Jodie to tone down the cabaret-with-a-small-c, and Samantha to believe the words. We don't see what he says to Jessie, but we see footage of her emoting with her arms while Andrew tells the camera that she has a great voice, but he's not sure about the rest of the package.

Back in the studio, Graham asks Andrew what the girls need to do in the semi-final. Andrew says he needs to deliver Cameron a star, but he was worried about finding "the bland leading the bland", which is why he went to work with the girls. Cut to reaction shot of Jessie, Jodie and Sam, which means Rachel's obviously on first. He says the question will be for him whether he can get the girls to deliver for Cameron tonight the same standard of performance they gave him during the week. If they do, he says, he'll have serious trouble "tomorrow night" deciding who will go home. Graham asks Cameron if he's been having sleepless nights, and Cameron says he always has that problem when he's opening a new show, but he thinks these girls have been excellent so he isn't worried. He adds that he's always looking for a raw, untried Nancy (aaarrrgh) and that the public need to pick someone with great star potential who can play opposite Rowan Atkinson in six months' time.

Seven minutes into an hour-long show, and no one's fucking sung yet, but finally we're ready: Rachel will be singing first. Rachel's VT tells us that she is singing from her heart, and it's hard for her if people don't feel that. Rachel cries. Rachel says that everyone has their favourites, she just hopes she can still be one of them. Andrew says he has no worries that Rachel can keep the curtain up (I didn't realise we were recruiting for stagehands) and Cameron agrees, but he's concerned that Rachel is yet to deliver a performance that blows the audience away. Denise disagrees and thinks Rachel did that when she sang 'Beautiful'. Barry thinks she's giving it everything, and doesn't see there's another dimension to reveal.

Rachel is singing 'Cabaret', and has dancing boys. She sings the intro in a very clipped, breathy way which sort of works but is a rather brave choice, given how easily it could've backfired. The performance is quite awesome, however: you can tell she knows that it's do-or-die this week and there's this steely all-or-nothing determination in her eyes which frightens me quite a bit. She really belts the middle eight and changes "I'm going like Elsie" to "I'm going like Rachel", which does not rhyme but is still hilarious, so I'm going to let her off. [To be fair, the lyric makes no sense when you cut out the verse about Elsie anyway, so I'm not sure it really mattered. - Georgi] The whole thing is bizarre, but fabulous, and persuaded me to vote for her twice last night. There's a tint of darkness to the whole performance which I like, as well, though I'm not sure how receptive your average BBC1 Saturday teatime audience will be to that. At the end Rachel is out of breath and jokes to Graham that she doesn't think she could do that every night, which is essentially Rachel handing the panel a rod to beat her with. [I really, really didn't like this performance at all. Incidentally, about an hour before Rachel sang this, I saw Amy Nuttall sing it in London's Trendy West End production of Cabaret. Neither Rachel nor La Nuttall hold a candle to Minnelli, obviously, but still, Nuttall outsang and outacted Rachel, who's taken on Jordan's air of utter desperation, by a country mile. - Carrie] [I also didn't like Rachel's performance, it stank of desperation to me. And if she's out of breath after one song, how the hell does she expect to get through eight shows a week? - Louise] [I loved it. The first time she actually seemed to have energy and not be dead behind the eyes.-Joel][I have to go with the boys on this one - I think it's the first time I've actually enjoyed Rachel's performance. And Cabaret does have an air of desperation about it. - Georgi]

Denise is ecstatic and tells Rachel she was fantastic, and that they all gave her a standing ovation, because it was everything they wanted from their leading lady. Barry says that Rachel was the best performer on the mission they did this week working in the West End, and she was a star tonight. Barrowman says it was RACHEL RACHEL RACHEL (is that the new Judy! Judy! Judy!?) [DRINK!- Louise] and tells her that she is an actress who can play any character, and he wants to see her in the final next week. Cameron says that she infused the song with her personality and rose to the challenge, and he would love to see her as Nancy. Graham points out that Andrew led the standing ovation, and Andrew discusses the lyric change and how he couldn't find a rhyme for Rachel because he's not a lyricist (of course Phoebe Buffay has already established that there are no words which rhyme with Rachel, so they would've been wasting their time anyway), but he says that it's great to see her come through like this and says he's proud of her. D'awww.

Cut to the three remaining Nancys, and Jessie is obviously next because she's got changed into a sparkly silver number. Way to ruin the element of surprise, show. We see Jessie's underwhelming butch performance from last week, and Jessie says that she's frustrated with herself. At the crisis meeting, Andrew says he believes Jessie has star quality (or starrrrrrrrrr quality, given that she's a pirate) and that 'The Man That Got Away' was the best performance of the series (cut to Jessie waving her arms around in middle of said performance in order to convey "emotion"), and Cameron says he'll never forget her singing 'As Long As He Needs Me' in Andrew's sitting room. John Barrowman, who is on my side [and mine! - Carrie] throughout tonight's show and I love him for it, says that they must be on different pages because he finds her awkward. Denise says that she's emotionally fragile, John counters that she's emotionally NOT READY. Hee. Cameron says that what frustrates her is that she knows what she wants to do and hasn't figured out how to do it. And, well, isn't that pretty much the distinction between someone who can act and someone who can't? Andrew says that it's about her proving that she has the ability to "really bust through again". Ewww.

Jessie is singing 'What I Did For Love' from A Chorus Line in the weird, over-plummy voice she does to hide her lilt, but it's still there on the line "the sweetness (h)and the sorr-ooorrrrrw". I note with interest that Jessie is sat down for this performance with her hands in her lap, presumably to avoid arm-emoting. The singing is great, I'll admit, and she's done a fair job of getting the right emotion behind it, but the expression on her face is fixed throughout at some combination of disbelief and affirmation, which isn't really right for this song. She gets angrier and angrier as the song goes on, which is an interesting (read: wrong) acting choice and gets up in the middle eight to wave her arms about. Sigh. The Co. Kerry accent seeps in as the song goes on, too. The song ends on a close-up of her face as she shouts about what she did for love, and it's hilarious, but not in the good way that Rachel's performance was hilarious. [Also, they don't put in the key change. Why sit someone down if they don't get to stand up at the key change? Sigh. - Carrie]

Graham asks what's going through her mind now that she's so close. Jessie says that looking back on her journey (drink!), she's from a small town in Ireland (drink!) and she was rejected from drama school twice (liver failure!) and is now so close to victory. Just for the record, I was rejected from drama school twice too. Know why? Because I can't act. Something Jessie might want to have a think about, is all I'm saying. John says it was a good vocal, but it bored him a bit and the emotion wasn't really felt because she was indicating "with the same old Jessie-isms" and he's not convinced she's Nancy. Jessie asks "what can I do to excite you?" and John attempts to reply before the audience all start giggling like children and he can't resist quipping "that's a question a lot of women have asked". He repeats that he's not getting the conviction and the emotion behind the words, which: fair point, but she was asking for how to improve, and it would've been nice if he could've told her what she should've been doing rather than what she shouldn't be doing. [I don't think Barrowman actually knows, to be fair, which is why he's not a director, but it makes one wonder why he is a judge. - Carrie] Barry disagrees strongly, and claims Jessie has an "emotional directness" and calls the performance "heartfelt". Denise thought it was a heartfelt performance but thought it was too aggressive and tells her to stop it with the arms already; John agrees that that should've been fixed in week three. Except in week three you said she was flawless, John. I don't mean to keep on about this, but the panel only have themselves to blame for not nipping all the Jessie-isms in the bud in the early stages. [I can't help but feel that Barrowman's aggressive anti-Jessie stance over the past few weeks is encouraging people to sympathy-vote for her, much as I agree with him. - Georgi] Graham asks Cameron if he can see her playing Nancy, and Cameron kind of sidesteps the question, but says that she did a number on a song which "doesn't have a lot of narrative drive", apparently, and I think he says she "kicked arse" at the end of it, and (a) can you say that at this time of day? and (b) it's a long time since I've seen A Chorus Line, and it's not a show I particularly like, but I'm fairly certain 'What I Did For Love' is not really a song about kicking arse. [Depending on the way you read it, it's about a woman talking about her lost love, whom she had to give up because of ZOMG their conflicting desires, or a woman talking about her love of performing and having to go right back to square one simply because she doesn't know how to do anything else. - Carrie.] Jessie exercises her right to reply by blabbering on (waving her arms, natch) saying that this is her beginning, and she can only get better, which doesn't explain how she's either stagnated or got worse since the competition began. Graham throws to Andrew, who says we need to think about "star quality" and refutes Cameron's assertion that the song has no narrative drive. He says that he didn't need to direct her in this because she decided she wanted to do the performance her own way. Hmm. When Daniel Boys came in last week, did he bring the Bad Idea Bears with him? "The panel's feedback in recent weeks totally implies you don't need direction! Do it the way you think it should be done! YAAAAAAAAAYY!!!"

Tonight there will also be duets of ALW songs, and the girls have been split into Northern Nancys and the Celtic Contingent, which is about as relevant as the old/young split from two weeks ago. In rehearsals, Jodie and Sam seem to be doing well and are determined to shine. They're singing 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and enter looking like asskicking alien warrior princesses. Jodie is putting everything into looking intense, and Sam keeps doing that dip-down-and-weave thing she does every week. On the whole, however, their voices go well together and it's a good performance that reflects well on both of them. Also, Jodie demonstrates to Jessie exactly how you improvise a run. They get a standing ovation from the audience and the panel. Graham goes to Andrew for feedback, but what he says is of little consequence so I shan't recap it. Oh, and Rachel and Jessie's duet will be from Evita, if anyone's wondering.

Now the top eight Olivers sing 'Tomorrow' from Annie. Gwion does that look-straight-ahead-and-bellow thing, Chester's mic doesn't get faded up in time, Kwayedza's voice is kind of shaky but still awesome, Harry can neither reach nor support the high notes, Jonny looks terrified and the final note that they all sing is kind of ropey. Hmm. Not really selling me on the show, I've got to admit.

The final musical task was to see who could hold his own on the West End stage. We get some vox pops from the boys, all basically going on about how cool it is to have got this far. They get some last minute advice from actor, former West End Oliver and former member of S Club Jon Lee. Gwion asks (in a totally spontaneous fashion, of course) if Jon has any tips, and Jon says Oliver isn't an expressive boy so there's no need for big gestures. Admittedly I have never played Oliver, but I'm not really sure that essentially telling them to stand there and do nothing is the best advice at this point. They all sing 'Where Is Love?' individually. At the end, Andrew says there are definitely three Olivers there and they know who they are. Graham reveals the final Twist in the tale: the three Olivers are Gwion, Laurence and Harry. No Chester? What a fucking gip. They all basically express how awesome it is that they won, and how much they're looking forward to being on a West End Stage. Cameron says he's very pleased with his Olivers, and that all the finalists deserved to win. [Chester was ROBBED. Also, bearing in mind they seemed to have transposed 'Where is Love?' down by about a third for Kwayedza, I am wondering if they were worried about his voice breaking by the time the show opened. - Carrie] [How could they pick smug Gwion over Chester? - Louise][Team Kwayedz..oh.-Joel]

Back to Nancy: Sam is next, and we flash back to her good-but-contextually-inaccurate performance of 'Defying Gravity' from last week, and Sam can't believe she made it to the final four. At the crisis talks, Andrew asks "how do you solve a problem like Samantha?" which: wrong show, and says that he didn't expect her to get past round seven. John says she does anger and aggression well, but he's not sure he can do the simple emotional stuff yet. Cameron says she hasn't moved him yet, and if Nancy can't move you, you can't do Act II of the show. Andrew says she has to show her vulnerable side.

Samantha will be doing 'When You Believe' from The Prince of Egypt. Has this ever been an actual musical, or is it just a Disney film? [Dreamworks film. Sorry.-Joel] I'd say it's cheating, but since she was the only one to do actual musical theatre last week, we can sort of let her off. Samantha's face is kind of angry still, but it's mainly tuneful although it goes a bit off near the end [a bit? A BIT? It was pitchy, dawg. And then she didn't know how to fix it and shoved some vibrato in. Ugh. Sam's weakest performance, for my money - Carrie]. Also, you can kind of watch her counting the duration of the pauses in her head which is really offputting. Sam says she's grown throughout the competition, and she didn't originally see herself in the final four. John says he saw some vulnerability - she didn't break his heart, but it doesn't matter because she's a powerhouse performer, which kind of contradicts what the VT was saying. John then compares her to Jessie - Sam's a shark going straight for the role of Nancy, while Jessie's like a fish out of water, flip-flopping all over the place. The audience boos, but it doesn't stop him being right. Ish. Denise thought it was a wonderful performance with a great vocal, and she thinks Samantha has the likeability factor - men will fancy her, and women will like her because she has something so wonderful in her personality, apparently. I'm not really sure where Denise got her doctorate in psychology from, but I do wish she'd explain her theses a little more clearly. [Also, a doctorate in heteronormativity. Ooh, get me. - Carrie] Barry calls her "the bees' knees and the cat's whiskers" and "a star". Cameron says he saw vulnerability at the start of the song, but she lost in on the money notes, and next week he wants to see a dramatic theatrical song from Sam that shows Nancy's hard life. Andrew says the song doesn't lead her to a great acting performance which isn't her fault. Fine, but it is someone's and that someone really ought to be accountable by this stage in the game. There's only one week left now, for fuck's sake. Anyway, Andrew continues that they've got six months between the end of the series and opening night, and he thinks that's enough time for Sam to learn what she needs to learn.

Finally it's Jodie, who loved John's comments about her being his "perfect Nancy" last week, and never thought she'd be in the semi-final. Crisis talks: Andrew thinks she could be Nancy. Cameron thinks she's powerful and fun and the audience likes her, but he wants to be able to believe in her all the time and he can't at the moment. John wants something like 'Send in the Clowns' again where she can do a simple, beautiful performance. Cameron thinks she goes for gloss rather than grit, and Andrew thinks there are lots of people who would pick Jodie as their ideal Nancy. Barry thinks she would be a very good Nancy. John says that they need to pull her back and show grit.

Jodie is singing 'Out Here On My Own' from Fame. Jodie looks really nervous and stands rather awkwardly at first, but once the song gets going she really starts to act with her face. Her voice sounds lovely this week too, aside from one or two slightly iffy notes. If anything, it's a bit too restrained. I don't want scenery-chewing and pirate arms or anything, but television and theatre are both visual mediums, and a bit more movement and/or choreography wouldn't have gone amiss.

Denise has totally lost her shit and says she wants to run up to Jodie and give her a big hug. She credits Jodie for bringing her life experience to the role [because she is ZOMG SO OLD - Carrie] and she wants to see her in the final next week. John says that she takes direction brilliantly and he wants her in the final too. Barry says she has a beautiful voice and she interpreted the song magnificently, but he thought she was too restrained. Cameron also thought it beautiful but slightly "matronly", and wants to hear those gin toddies of Nancy's in Jodie's voice. Andrew tells Barry it was his fault if she was restrained because that's how he directed her, and he thought she was on the button, and that it will be difficult for him to choose who to send home "tomorrow". [And note that of all four, Pirate Jessie with the mouthful of marbles was the only one that no one on the panel said they wanted to see in the final next week... So it's down to you, the public. Vote for anyone you like except her! - Louise]

Final duet: Rachel and Jessie singing 'Buenos Aires', and the rehearsal kind of sounds like a hot mess. Rachel thinks this will play to her strengths as she has a mature voice [except...this song comes at a point where Eva is about 16, no? - Carrie], and Jessie thinks Rachel's professionalism is amazing, but on the other hand Jessie has "rawness" (read: suckitude), and Andrew tells them to feel joyous. Rachel relates it to the sing-off, and says you have to stand out. Jessie says she wants everyone to tell her she's great. Ouch, this performance is not good. I don't think Jessie has ever been slurrier, more piratey, or more sidegobbed than she is throughout. Rachel is better, but I don't think the song suits her voice. Though I will concede that the harmony on "just a little touch of star quality" is fabulous. But yes, if we were judging on duets alone, Jodie and Sam wiped the floor with these two, though I would say that Rachel and Jessie had the harder song. [Transposed up by a fourth or so, though, because neither of them has the lower range to sing it as written. - Carrie][ I maintain that Sam and Rachel duetting on 'The boy is mine' and giving each other hate-face would have been best.-Joel]

Graham says that he loves watching Andrew because he clearly loves his own songs. Hee! Again, Andrew's comment is of no great purpose, so I'll skip over it. And that's it! VT recap: Rachel being terrifyingly fabulous, Jessie shouting about what she did for love, Samantha being kind of boring, Jodie standing very still but singing brilliantly, Rachel and Jessie's dodgy duet, and Jodie and Sam bringing the house down.

"Tomorrow": the Nancys step back in time for their next mission, which sadly does not involve being Kylie, and the winning Olivers perform 'Where Is Love?', and we close with the loser Olivers singing 'No Matter What', and they all look suitably glum. Maybe they'll form a boyband like some of the loser Josephs did? And out on a group hug. Awww.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

As long as he Niamhs me

Titles! Norton (jade-turquoise, brown)! Premise of the competition! Consider Yourself! Shite choreography! Barrowman clapping along! Drink!

I am getting marginally bored of the formulaic nature of this show. [Maybe we need to make the recaps more interesting by picking a random format for the rest of the competition? I'm going to recap next week in Ye Olde Englishe. Perhaps. - Steve]

Oh, for fuck's sake, Norton is talking about YOUNG NANCIES and OLD NANCIES again. Fuck off! [Aye, fuck off Norton, if it was down to age not talent, you'd have left along with the white dot and national anthem - Louise] Barrowman looks weird. *cough*Botox-a-go-go*cough*.

Recap - Jodie had a really difficult song to sing (drink!), ALW didn't know who sang it originally, the cockhead, and he was mean about her dancing, which made her cry; Rachel was dead behind the eyes; Samantha had a fairly poor song to sing and sang it averagely; Jonny was the final Oliver through, and he and the rest of the mob sang S Club 7's Reach very badly; Jessie sang How Do I Live in pirate stylee, and she claims to want to show the judge that every inch of her is a Nancy, snarf; Niamh sang Don't Speak, and Barry pointed out that she's so tiny that the Olivers will dwarf her; reject Josephs came back to do a Dancing in the Streets routine with the ladies.


Norton talks to the girls. Niamh says they're all actresses (except Jessie, who cannot act, which is why she didn't get into drama school), and then snidely apologises to Barry for not being able to grow any taller. Jessie witters on about EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK.

Time to talk to the final eight Olivers. Roll VT! Gwion would love to be a Oliver. Chester is awesome and we love him, and he has his fingers crossed. Arthur is going to try his hardest. Kwayedza talks about the part he has been working for "for so long", which makes me laugh. Alexander is nonsensically posh. Harry thinks it would be amazing, Laurence would be proud of himself, Jonny is 13, and really excited about being picked, and loves Adele, who he thinks would make a good Nancy. Fair point. The final eight Olivers sing I Have A Dream, which is not one of Benny and Bjorn's best, and certainly not when being sung by urchins. However, the harmonies in this are much better than previous weeks. The reject Olivers are sitting with the Nancies and clapping and swaying along. Aw. Poor desperate Jordan leads a standing ovation at the end. Too late, kid! [Hee! He still has to push himself in front of those cameras... Louise]

Comedy mission, because Nancy is a "good-time gal". Phill Jupitus and playwright Nick Reed are the mission leaders. What? I mean, seriously, what? The girls have to get on the stage and tell a joke. Niamh says, "I'm not funny! We could have a problem here!" She flashes her knickers and runs away. [I loved that, but it would've been even better if she'd done an Ashlee Simpson-style hoedown off the stage. - Steve] Rachel fucks up the punchline of hers. Phill says that he liked all five of them before they got on stage. Next part of the mission is to perform a comic scene from the play Life-Coach with Phill, and unsurprisingly Jodie is amazing. Phill reckons her eyes changed, which either means she's brilliant or very sinister. Jessie is boring. [But looks lovely with her hair straightened. Credit where credit's due. - Steve] Rachel was "most realistic". Sam likens herself to Ricky Gervais. Niamh "went further than the words". In conclusion, Jodie was fantastic and Nick would work with her any time, and Niamh was a "real surprise". Phill summarises that "these are talented young women."

Holy fuck, they're going to sing I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair from South Pacific, and they are sitting in wash tubs. Jessie cannot EVEN DO A GENERIC AMERICAN ACCENT. Niamh is shouting too much. Jodie doesn't have shorts like the others, because obviously she is TOO FAT and is given capri pants instead. Barry says Jessie stood out for him [Am I imagining it, or does he pick Jessie every week? - Steve], Denise says Samantha was the star of the number, and John is Team Jodie. ALW says he wished they really were going to wash their hair, which indicates he has some bizarre shampoo fetish, but says he thinks Jodie carried it [which she did because she usually does and if I were Jodie I'd have beaten ALW round the head with that body brush for his Meat Loaf comment - Louise].

Who do the Nancies think should be next to go? Niamh says Jessie; Jessie says Niamh; Jodie says Niamh; Rachel says Samantha; Samantha says Rachel and HER COLD DEAD EYES. [The apparent fact that Rachel and Sam hate each other is endlessly amusing to me. - Steve] Who do the panel should be next to go? John says Jessie, Denise says Niamh, Barry says Niamh. I really love the Barrowman sometimes.

Results! Samantha could still be Nancy. Jodie could still be Nancy. TEAM JODIE! She bursts into tears and cries at Samantha. Niamh is in the sing-off. Jessie could still be Nancy, and looks like she's about to vomit. So it's a Rachel-Niamh sing-off, and if it were down to viewer votes alone, Niamh would be on her bike. The song they must perform is Another Suitcase in Another Hall, which ALW says is a very difficult song to sing, and has some of Tim Rice's best lyrics. Thanks for that. I can really see Niamh playing Peron's mistress in Evita, actually. Vocally I think she's better than Rachel, but acting-wise I'm not sure there's a great deal between them - just a lot of arm-flailing, as far as I can see.

Denise is crying, because she has taken on the mantle of Karen Barber. ALW gibbers again about it being a difficult song to sing, that he would cast Niamh in Evita, and Rachel "warmed into the song". He says he has to save Rachel, who looks gobsmacked. [Note that as Rachel runs back into the Nancy pen, she is hugged fiercely by Jodie and Pirate Jessie while Sam just kind of stands awkwardly off to one side. Hee. - Steve] Niamh says she is a changed person, and thanks the panel, the production team and the other Nancys (except those bitches who said she wasn't Nancy). ALW says a couple of years to mature is what Niamh needs, and she will be up for a major leading role when she's about 20.

Niamh sings us out, and her sister is bawling in the audience, between bouts of shouting, "Come on, Niamhy!" Jodie is still crying. Niamh is hardcore and tough, as we know, and she is not going to humiliate herself on national television, performing with aplomb, but a little less oomph than I'd have expected. Still, good show.

So our five Nancies are down to the final four. And bitches? Jessie had better fucking go next week. [Ideally, next week Sralan will replace Dame Barry on the panel and fire Rachel too - Louise]

Saturday, 17 May 2008

More cabaret than Cabaret

Last week, the panel pulled no punches! And the Josephs are joining us this week. There's just two weeks to go until a girl's life could change forever. Who will you choose as your Nancy?


Norton macro! Tonight, he's wearing a cinnamon red suit with satin piping on the blazer and a shiny pistachio shirt. The 12 Olivers and five last Nancys sing Consider Yourself. Again. Drink! Pirate Jessie's cockney accent is still rubbish, ditto Emo Niamh's. Jodie looks like she's having a ball.

It's the quarter final today. The big question is will the winning Nancy be older or younger? This is the wrong question again. It's about talent, not age. Or am I in a parallel universe? Plus the eighth Oliver will be selected for the semi final, at which point the three winners will be chosen. Norton tells us again that the Josephs are back for a special performance. We know. You told us two minutes ago. Time to introduce the panel of John Barrowman, Denise van Outen and Dame Barry Humphries. A quick blast of Phantom music to cue in Andrew Lloyd Webber and another tedious round of bowing to his almightiness. Norton warns the Josephs not to cry.

A VT of the last five Nancys. Rachel says, “I believe I should be Nancy.” Jodie says Nancy has to be gutsy, so it can't be Sam as she's too young. Sam retorts: “I can bring an edgy modern difference to the role. Jodie is not Nancy.” Niamh's also not betting on Jodie, who is “stereotypical”. She wants to redefine the role. [FUCK OFF. - Carrie] Pirate Jessie: “I have the stamina and passion to do eight shows a week.” (Yes, but you can't act and you mumble!) Cripes! It'll be handbags at dawn at Nancy School tomorrow.

ALW can't see a front runner. Jodie is a big warm-hearted cockney type. Rachel is a great pro, she'd be a safe pair of hands. Sam has an extraordinary quality, but has not yet shown vulnerability. Jessie has star quality but can Nancy be Irish? [NO. - Carrie] [Why should she even have to be Irish? I refuse to believe anyone is incapable of doing a broad Cockney accent that is generally acceptable to the average West End audience, and I include both Jessie and Dick Van Dyke in this statement. - Steve] Niamh has a great voice but he's not sure she can do eight shows a week.

Jodie's first up. She's dancing this week so we get to see a VT of her being choreographed, then another VT of BBC regional news show NW Tonight, which is filming her support in Blackpool, where she gets a thumbs up from the mayor. Jodie's singing “Holding Out for a Hero” and she has dancing boyz! [As opposed to Rachel, who has Daniel Boys. Sorry, I know we're not at that part of the show yet, but I just couldn't help myself. - Steve] But we're not really seeing much dancing from Jodie while they twirl in the background. It's a strangely flat performance, her voice seems a bit thin.

JB: “you can handle the role. You proved you can move. A perfect Nancy.” The Dame comments on Jodie's very warm and mature performance. DVO says “fantastic performance. You had your breath under control. It was perfect, spot on.” But whoa! ALW says the choreography was Meat Loaf [and seems to be under the impression that it was a Meat Loaf song. For FUCK'S SAKE. What did Lloyd Webber do in the 1980s after he'd written Phantom? Just sit in his theatre and count his cash? - Carrie]. JB has a go at ALW in support of big girls. Hurrah! We know Jodie's no size zero but this is not Britain's Next Top Model. [Also, Barrowman, wouldn't it have been more supportive to point out that her dancing was not shit, rather than implying that it doesn't matter if it was? - Georgi] [Perhaps I wasn't paying close enough attention, but I didn't see anything in ALW's comment that was necessarily calling Jodie fat. And Mr Barrowman, stop reminding us of that hideously offensive Mika song. - Steve]

Rachel is up next. She whines that Barry's comment last week about her being an understudy was a kick in the teeth so she was grateful to get through. Well, get this, Rachel, you need to be able to take criticism if you want to be on stage. Cut to a VT of people on the streets supporting Rachel who make nice comments about her and ignore her previous bad performances. She's doing “I Will Always Love You”. This is a big number power ballad but her voice seems to have disappeared down a mouse hole. Oops, no, there it is, briefly, but her diction seems to go when she cranks up the volume. Dull.

The Dame comments Rachel was very nearly a leading lady but he's still unmoved. The audience boos while he says she has an emotional ceiling to break. JB disagrees, it was a leading lady performance and he would be proud to star with her on the West End stage. He wants to see her back next week, the fool. I wonder if we just watched the same Rachel or if he's been eating alien meat again. DVO: “Rachel should be in the semi-final but I understand what Barry means. You are guarded and lack warmth behind your eyes, which alienates females.” [Why just females? What did that comment even mean? Stop talking out of your arse, Denise. And stop stealing your comments from internet messageboards. I suspect you're paid enough to think for yourself. - Steve] ALW: “I saw warmth, you communicated the lyric to me. But I want to know who you are, let's see Rachel.”

Third on is Samantha. She's off to meet Idina Menzel who was in the original cast of Wicked on Broadway because she's going to sing “Defying Gravity”. The VT shows her being tearful and exchanging hugs. Drink! I haven't seen this musical and don't know the song but she delivers a strong performance. We see ALW hitching his trousers up with a blank look on his face. Samantha gets a standing ovation from the Olivers. [I really thought this was a weak performance. But then I don't like the song particularly. - Carrie] [I do like the song, and I thought it started weakly but got a lot better. All credit to Samantha, I didn't think her voice was up to this song, but I thought she pulled it off very well. - Steve]

JB: “You delivered vocally. Your star is rising. You are so confident, but you can be a bit samey. I hope you're here next week.” The Dame says, “Please Sam, can I have some more?” and that she sang a great hit magnificently. DVO is very happy, she saw light and shade and Rachel should take a leaf out of Sam's book. Hee! ALW: “You must make choices off stage and you did so tonight. You are not quite yet Celine Dion but only because you are not mature enough yet. You are very secure in how you move, the best mover of the last five. I want to see you in the semi.” [But if you are on the West End stage, you don't get to decide what songs to sing - duh. Still, I commend Sam for being the only Nancy to choose a song from a musical, which is what I would do if I was trying to prove that I could be a West End Leading Lady. - Georgi]

We get another quick VT of the Josephs, in which Jodie yelps it was the highlight of her week. Then it's time to choose the last Oliver for their semi-final. Cameron Mackintosh says they all deserve to be on the West End stage. The Oliver/Dodger relationship is so important, so they get an Acting mission with a boy called Daniel who's working in the West End. Norton was mumbling here so I didn't catch the details. Anyway, Sam is rubbish and for a moment when Cam calls him out I'm seriously worried he's going through. [My living room briefly transformed into that scene in The Phantom Menace where Liam Neeson dies: NOOOOOOOOOOO! It was in slow-motion and everything. - Georgi] But phew! It's just to say fat chance... It's Jonny. He gets his cap and rates Jessie as Nancy. Pah. So, Sam, Jordan, Gareth and Joseph all get the boot and are now condemned to life of teenage boozing as they try to cope with failure. Hee! We get a pukesome VT of their highlight moments, then all 12 sing “Reach” by S Club 7. This is quite the mostly ghastly group singalong by the Olivers so far. No one stands out, their voices are thin. Did no one rehearse them? [I did enjoy the bizarre key changes - DRINK! - though. - Carrie]

Pirate Jessie concedes she was pants last week. She goes all gooey over her family on the VT. Yuk. I love her maths – she has twigged that five girls are fighting for four places. Like, duh! Drink! She sings “How Do I Live?” by LeAnn Rimes. We can live quite easily without her as Nancy, actually. It looks as if she is wearing a nightie in a grim shade of acidic lime. Her diction's better tonight but the Irish lilt is still strong – why aren't they testing her on her mockney cockney? I'm not convinced – it's all a bit cabaret for me. [I love how they have realised that her Cockney accent is so shit it's not even worth bothering with, and their only chance is to persuade the Great British Public that Nancy could be Irish. - Georgi]

JB claims he didn't hear her lilt (further proof he's OD'd on alien meat) but he's still struggling to see her as Nancy as her performance has been inconsistent over the weeks. She is vanilla. The audience boos again. DVO: “A good performance, well acted, but you have unfeminine movement. You could be a tomboy Nancy.” Hmm, not exactly a ringing endorsement. The Dame says Jessie touched his heart, but warns her not to take negative criticism to heart, but stay being Jessie. ALW: “You chose a song that I wouldn't have. You need to be more Cabaret (as opposed to cabaret with a small c, methinks). You need to be in a place where you can be in your comfort zone.” DVO interrupts and there's a quick chat over whether she can sing “As Long As He Needs Me” convincingly.

Emo Niamh is on last. She moans about how frustrated she is over the comments on her fragility. “I don't let anyone walk over me.” Cut to VT of Emo playing rugby with the lads to show she's tough. Tonight's she's singing No Doubt's “Don't Speak”. I adore this song so... To her credit, she doesn't do what she did previously and copy Amy Winehouse (or in this case Gwen Stefani) but turns out her own interpretation.

DVO is straight in: “That was not feisty, it lacked punch and you were like a teenager having a tantrum. You might be better cast as Nancy's friend Bet.” JB is unsure that performance would register at the back of the stalls. The Dame says it was gritty but points out that the Emo is physically too small to be playing alongside Oliver and the urchins. It's a major technical issue. ALW: “I worry very much that you are not ready to do eight shows a week. Your voice is not mature enough and you could damage it if you are not ready.”

We get a quick recap of tonight's performances while Niamh dashes backstage to change dresses, then a VT of a whole week backstage to fill up the hour, with clips of the Nancys rehearsing songs and whining about the lack of sleep. Or gloating over blagging red carpet nights out. It's mostly dull stuff but we get a tantalising glimpse of Mission Day but no clue as to what it was. [Am lulzing at the campness of Lewis, and Jessie falling on her arse for no apparent reason and puzzling the hell out of Rob. - Carrie]

Time for the group performance of “Dancing in the Streets” with the Josephs. We get no Lee Mead [but! we do get Daniel Boys! Dancing! And Sam and Ben make a cute couple - Carrie]. There's lots of high energy dancing but the vocals sound flat. Jessie proves again that her dancing is not great. [She spends the routine WATCHING HER FEET, for fuck's sake. - Carrie]

Norton talks out the end of the show, reminding us to vote for our favourite. We get another VT of this week's Mission, which seems to be stand-up as a very hairy Phill Jupitus is sitting in the stalls with Cameron Mackintosh...

Join Carrie for the results tomorrow.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Ashes to Ashley

Results show: Sunday, 11th May 2008

Graham Norton enters to the familiar strains of 'Consider Yourself'. Suitwatch: yellow with red shirt, by far not the most hideous of the series. The nation has voted and the results are in! Who will make it to the quarter-final?

Quick recapitulation of 'It's a Fine Life', with lots of Cockney accents, arm-waving and skirt-flouncing [and Rachel doing a weird impression of a Weeble while on the staircase - Louise]. Graham tells us that out of the final six Nancys, three have been saved by ALW, "which goes to show that no matter how good you are, no Nancy is safe from the dreaded sing-off". Or, to put it another way, no matter how shit you are, there are still people in, say, Scotland or Ireland who will vote for you. Coming up, we'll see who the Olivers chose as their favourite Nancy this week, and "the Nancys get shaken and stirred for their Bond-style mission". I'm sure it's not half as exciting as it sounds, unless Daniel Craig is stand-in Bill Sikes this week.

Welcome back the panel, who have a "licence to criticise" - ha ha - you know them by now. Mr Webber's Phantom intro music is interrupted by the James Bond theme, and he picks up a toy cat. "Now it all makes sense," Graham says. Does it? I'm not sure. At least he didn't mention Pussy Galore, though [or Oddfeld - Louise].

Here's what happened last night: Jessie was a Fighter, but we didn't realise because we couldn't understand a fucking word she sang. Backstage, she whinges that she's trying her best and "gave it everything, and it obviously wasn't enough". Correct! Now fuck off back to Ireland. Niamh's True Colours came shining through, and backstage she says that in her heart of hearts she knows she's ready, although the Lord has some doubts. Ashley did Cruise-Ship Aretha, and nobody was impressed. Fighting back tears, Ashley says, "If I sing it from the heart and that's cheesy, that's the way I sing it." Yes, and that's also the reason why you shouldn't be in this competition. Next! The Olivers were adorable in their mini-gangsta outfits, though I've no idea what that has to do with the Coke advert, and Lawrence went through to the semi-final. Samantha auditioned for a role in Save the Last Dance 3 with her rendition of 'Survivor', because Nancy is a SURVIVOR, and both Denise and Andrew were loving it. Jodie outclassed everyone again, although ALW criticised her for overacting, and he wants to see her doing some choreography. Rachel was very middle-of-the-road, and ALW sounded disappointed in her lack of connection with the words. Finally, let's not forget the Battle of the Nancys, young against old, with the younger Nancys getting a much better song than the older ones, but all of it causing much snickering amongst the panel.

Graham says it was an explosive night, and notes that Ashley and Rachel got some harsh criticism - did they think there were any fair points? Rachel says she's confused because one week Barry compares her to Georgia Brown and the next week he says she's an understudy. It couldn't possibly be that her performances vary in quality from one week to the next, obviously. She says she's here to be a leading lady, not an understudy. The audience are all, like, "Go girl!" Ashley says it's just as well she's got the thickest skin in the UK - or! if she actually listened to what the panel told her and took their notes on board (drink!) instead of just carrying on how she is because that's just how she does things, maybe she would still deserve her place in the competition? I'm just thinking out loud here. Oh, sorry, it shows that she has "the true fighting spirit of Nancy" - my mistake. Cut to Andrew smiling in a patronising way. He really, really hates Ashley, doesn't he? [And the rest of the nation. Apart from the idiots that voted for her, natch. - Louise]

Time for this week's mission: in the musical, "Nancy takes life's knocks and pulls no punches", so they've been sent on an assignment with Danger Man John Barrowman (no, he really said that) and Bond stunt co-ordinator Dave Foreman. The Barrowman meets the Nancys at some steps by London Bridge, and then does some pretty bad acting (as though he wouldn't stop to give someone an autograph!) and some pretend fighting. Hee! [This is terrific. Danger Man John and the stunt co-ordinator do some pretend fighting, the stunt co-ordinator falls down the stairs, the Nancys scream - and Jodie, bless her, rushes to help him, utterly interrupting the scene. - Carrie] They take a speedboat up the Thames - Nancy probably did that too. The Barrowman points out that EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK, Nancy is going to have to defend herself and throw punches and roll on the floor. I know it doesn't sound much, but apparently it's worthy of stunt training. It's just a shame they don't get to smash glass bottles over Barrowman's head. Jodie confides in us that she "wouldn't want to meet that Ashley down a dark alley". Niamh says that, "You don't need muscles, you just need a good brain." Jessie does some very bad pretending to be punched. [If she needs someone to punch her in real life so she can figure out how it feels, I'm sure I can find a window in my schedule. - Steve]

Now they have to play a scene, and John talks about how he is looking for "a through line of emotion where they come into the scene and carry on until they've left". So, you want them to Act then? Why didn't you say so? Dave thought Jessie rushed everything, and John explains that her problem is that she panics. [At EVERYTHING. All the fucking time. GET RID. - Carrie] The stunt man thought Rachel and Ashley were convincing, but Niamh was tentative. John found it interesting that Niamh missed with the bottle, but followed through and kicked Dave to the floor instead. He chuckles about how we hadn't seen the aggressive side of Niamh. Jodie didn't Act very well, because she was worried that she might have actually hurt Dave with the bottle, and asked if he was alright - d'oh! John thought Samantha "lost her way a little bit", and calls her the least convincing, despite Jodie's collapsing into giggles and running out of the room. John says five out of the six girls did well, but the best was Rachel "because she was strong". Glad we've cleared that up, then.

So, back in the studio and following the theme, the Nancys are performing 'Nobody Does It Better', even though Abi sang it on How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? - a little variety would be nice. It's not like there aren't 20 Bond themes to choose from. [Goldfinger would certainly have been an interesting choice - Louise] At least the Nancys have nice dresses for their group number this week. The song sounds weird sung as a chorus. Jodie gets the line that's probably too low for anyone else to sing. Jessie doesn't seem to want to sing the actual tune, although to be fair she has probably been told to sing it that way, and it was probably supposed to be showy. I know if I were choreographing it, I would have had some pretend gun-pointing in the end pose, but what do I know?

Graham asks John about working with the Nancys this week, and he says it was an eye-opener because "EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK you're going to have the pressure of performing those stunts and doing them with consistency", and it showed him that some of the Nancys panicked and "weren't able to deal with that sort of spontaneity". The spontaneity of a carefully rehearsed stage-fight, obv. Barry says that Jessie stood out for him because he liked the Irish lilt, and he's really at risk of belabouring the point, which is a bad point in the first place. Irish Nancy? DO NOT WANT. Denise says that, "This Basildon Bond" - I think that was a tenuous Essex girl reference - "was drawn to Niamh." The Lord says it's "more like 15 rounds than eight shows a week". Funny, because I'm sure they mentioned before that it's EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK. He thought Samantha was terrific.

It's almost time for the results, but first we get to see how the 14 pence from each call that goes to support musical talent across the country is being spent. On Maria and Joseph, YOUR votes raised £750,000, which was donated to the BBC Performing Arts Fund. Hundreds of talented youngsters are getting the support they need, apparently, including pop stars like Adele. [Query: can we get a refund? - Carrie] Briony, who was Not Maria, has benefited from the fund. Adam, who is Not Joseph, is getting theatre and vocal coaching. He probably needs it. Zoe also was Not Maria, but she wants to thank all the viewers for helping her to train. One question: do they think we care?

Christ, it's still not time for the results. First we have to see which Nancy the Olivers chose to perform with them this week. But will it be the kiss of death, like it was for Sarah last week? The Nancys were forced to justify their existence in front of the Olivers, which is humiliating on every level really, isn't it? The Nancys are all nervous. Jodie says that she gives the best hugs. Niamh says she wants to prove to them that she can be maternal. Jessie says, "We'd have such crack." Or was that craic? Could be either... Ashley says, "In the words of John Barrowman, 'You guys are so amazing! You're fantastic, fantastic, fantastic!'" I'm not quite sure why she thought that impressions of the Barrowman would win the Olivers over, but I'm fairly confident it didn't work. Rachel tries to demonstrate how great she is by telling the Olivers that she "worked with children at Christmas and was voted one of the best". The Olivers confer, sounding like a judging panel of the future: "She really stood out for me", "You could tell she really wanted it", and other fatuous comments. Head Judge Lawrence reveals that the Olivers have chosen Niamh, "because her pitch is really good and she told us how she wanted to impress the judges". Not the best reason in the world, but - HA HA, it is not Jessie!

Niamh and the Olivers are performing 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', and I'm sure I've heard this one before as well. Niamh isn't interacting with the Olivers very well, frankly, although she's doing her best to look like she's enjoying herself. The Lord disagrees with me, though - he thinks she had "that motherly quality that we haven't seen before", and she led the boys "and it was great". [As my good friend Chris pointed out, Niamh looked more big sisterly than anything, because she simply seems too young - in a couple of years time, she could go out with Kwayedza and nobody would blink at it. - Carrie]

Graham goes through his usual rigamarole of asking the panel who is not Nancy. John says Jessie - hoorah, finally someone on our side, even if it is the Barrowman; Denise plumps for Ashley and her steely gaze of doom; Barry condemns Rachel, who sighs like an exasperated child [tsk! Bad sport showing how pissed off you are with teh panel - Louise]. Finally, it's time for the results!

In no particular order: Samantha could still be Nancy; Jodie looks like she might have a heart attack, but she could still be Nancy; Rachel might be in the sing-off (and I really judge the way they do that - just leave her until later!); Pirate Jessie could still fucking well be Nancy, and she looks very excited because she obviously thought her time was running out. That leaves three Nancys: Ashley, Rachel and Niamh. Aren't these the same final three from last week? I only notice because I remember the selection of primary-coloured dresses. Ashley is in the sing-off, so I think we know what's going to happen, don't we kids? Rachel could still be Nancy, so the Curse of the Olivers strikes again, and Niamh is in the sing-off. The Nancy with the lowest number of viewers votes is Ashley - about time.

The sing-off song is 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina', which was fortunately written by Mr Webber himself, meaning he shouldn't have any trouble judging it. Ashley's at it with her arm movements and overacting again. Nobody really fucked up the vocals, though they did both almost forget to sing the last line. Whoops.

It's down to the judgment of the Lord, who says it was a strange sing-off because you have Niamh, a young girl - lest we forget - and Ashley, who has no notable characteristics, singing a political song about a woman who's giving a speech. Yes, thank you, we don't need the context of the song explaining to us, even by you. He says it was "a bit cynical and odd", and he wishes he'd had acting time with them. But they have been learning from WELM John Barrowman this week - what more can the Lord teach them? Andrew drags it out as long as possible, but eventually makes the decision we all expected and saves Niamh, meaning Ashley is going home. She pretends to be a good loser but if looks could kill... Ashley says she's "proud of everything I've done from day one because no matter what anyone else has said, it's all come from here", pointing to her heart. She really is cheese-tastic, isn't she? ALW says that Ashley was "slightly out of tune", but she does have "a fantastic talent" - Barry would probably point out that she has two - but she doesn't communicate it when she's on stage. He says he would love to work with her one day, and he really does mean it (ha ha), and her students should be very proud of her. Drink?

Next week, the Nancys will be battling for a place in the semi-final, and the last Oliver will get through to the semi-final. Ashley sings us out with 'As Long as He Needs Me' in a Cockney accent, just to prove she can do it, while Jodie is in floods of tears and Ashley is obviously biting them back. Oh, Jessie is at it too. The emotion is obviously getting too much for our Nancys. Ashley copies Keisha and holds the penultimate note as long as possible, and then the Nancys all join her for a group hug.

So, the competition is getting intense. Join us again next Saturday for the quarter-final!

Saturday, 10 May 2008

You're gonna be remembered for the things that you say and do...

Last week! The panel loved Rachel and Sarah, but the public didn't, and Sarah was booted. The Nancys say various things about how tough they are. Niamh isn't entirely convincing. Who will we choose as our Nancy?


Graham Norton entrance macro. He's in a blue suit and dingy green shirt. Tonight the gloves are off, because next week is the quarter-final! Barrowman and Van Outen do a little sitting-down tap dance and jazz hands. Tossers.

The Nancys perform It's A Fine Life. Ashley looks really weird when she smiles. Jodie is awesome. Niamh does big eyes. In the chorus, there's a bit where Ashley carries on singing, but nobody else appears to. Not sure what went on there.

Half the girls who are here tonight have been saved by ALW, which apparently means our votes are even more important. I don't really understand why. Tonight will see a battle "by musical trio" - and there's a little introductory VT, with Jodie, Ashley and Rachel in one team against Sam, Jessie and Niamh in the others. It's all a bit X-Factor - dramatic music, no smiles, piercing eye contact with the camera. [Niamh looks so odd in the VT - she's got that Sophie Dahl-esque expression of having just been punctured by a drawing pin. - Steve] To their credit, the Nancys, sitting on their bench in the studio, are pissing themselves laughing at the attempted seriousness of their hair-swishing and head-snapping and staring meaningfully at the camera.

Norton welcomes the panel, none of whom now get bits of their CV spouted prior to their names. Then we have the obligatory late-stage contestant bitching, where the Nancys are encouraged to turn on one of the others and deem her not right for the role. General consensus is Niamh - Jessie says "she'd be better suited to a pop career", Ashley doesn't think her tits are big enough, Jodie thinks she's too fragile; Niamh thinks "Ashley's voice doesn't fit"; and Sam and Rachel don't rate each other [jealous, more like - Louise]. Back in the studio, Niamh looks really pissed off, but then realises she'd better look like a good sport, and smiles.

ALW lists a load of characteristics he thinks Nancy should have, including being warm, motherly and a fighter. The first to try to tick the boxes is Pirate Jessie. She is glad that she got such good comments last week because she wants to be everyone else's competition. In rehearsal, she keeps whining, "I CAN'T!" [I could've told her that weeks ago. - Steve] She's singing Christina Aguilera's Fighter. Srsly, I don't like her anyway, but this is dreadful. She keeps putting a rasp in her voice, mistaking that for passion and power. Her "improvised" melisma isn't so much a vocal showcase, more a series of notes that she's clearly learnt and reeled off. And she sings "T'anks for making me a fighter", because she is IRISH. She keeps bobbing down to the floor and I am worried she will flash her knickers. Key change! [Could somebody please tell me what she is singing about? Because I CAN'T HEAR ANY OF THE WORDS! - Georgi]

Jessie thinks competition and pressure are healthy. John thinks Jessie was defiant, but this is NOT A TALENT COMPETITION, IT'S A CASTING COMPETITION, and quite rightly points out that her diction was rubbish and her accent came through. Barry says it was dynamic and Nancy could easily have been Irish. For FUCK'S SAKE. We have HAD this conversation. Unless you're arguing that she was a GROWN-UP when she emigrated, she has been in London STEALING FOR FAGIN since she was about FIVE. She wouldn't HAVE A FUCKING IRISH ACCENT. Denise doesn't have a problem with the accent, but she does have a problem with the rubbish diction and the shouting. [YAAAR! I be pirate! Ahoy maties! - Georgi] ALW says he thinks Jessie tried her best, but fundamentally it wasn't the right song for her. He then witters on about the census from 1841 showing how many Irish immigrants there were in the St Giles region at the time. Not that he's researched that in an attempt to support his casting choices, obviously. [I'm surprised he hasn't just changed the role entirely so that we're now casting for The Pirates of Penzance. - Steve]

Niamh wants to prove she can mature as a performer. To that end, ALW takes the Nancys to see Celine Dion in concert, so that Niamh can see how to perform ballads and connect with an audience. This week, Niamh is trying to convey 'maternal' through the medium of Cyndi Lauper's True Colours. [Maternal? No. Future pop career? Maybe. Why is she dressed like a birthday present though? - Georgi] It's too low for her, but it's not a bad shot. She enthuses to Norton about Celine Dion. Barry thinks the performance was lovely, as all her work is [perving over her AGAIN, yawn. FFS he's old enough to b e her great-grandfather! - Louise], but doesn't think he can imagine her flying at Bill Sikes in anger. Niamh sensibly says, "How the fuck could I show that emotion with this song?" Barrowman points out a few vocal problems, and says in tomorrow's mission we'll see Niamh's passionate side. But that is a bit late, if we're wanting to know about her ability before we vote. Denise says Niamh is a bit like Celine Dion in that she's little but is a powerhouse in terms of vocals. ALW says that Niamh has inner steel, and it's a question of whether she's ready, and he loves that she always has an opinion and asks about things, and he is sure she will go a very long way, though he's not sure where. Back to Bangor?

Now Ashley and her cross little face. She goes back to see the kids she teaches. I should point out that she does not teach at a real school, she teaches at Stagecoach, the weekend theatre school, but clearly she thinks Beverley's scheme for garnering votes was so very successful that she'll crib from it. She's singing I Say A Little Prayer, be honest, she's not so much Nancy as a poor man's Lady of the Lake from Spamalot - she's all jazz and cabaret affectation, both in terms of her vocal and her physicality, but the difference between her and Sara Ramirez, Hannah Waddingham, Marin Mazzie and even Nina Soderqvist is that while they are ironic in their stylisation, she has no idea that she's doing it. Awful. [Grim - Louise]

We see a VT of Ashley being a bitch to the Nancys' chauffeur. The girls lulz, but nobody else does, really. Denise thinks the performance was cruise ship, and it was like watching a character from Abigail's Party. Ashley is all like, "Maybe that's the way it's come across, but that's the way I am." Then ACT, then, you stupid cow. They keep TELLING YOU what they want from you. Barry says Ashley is indestructible and he has warmed to her over the series, but the performance was a bit casual, and he doesn't think she achieved what she wanted to. Barrowman agrees with Barry, and recommends that if she's back next week, she tone it down. ALW is actually livid and is all "I TRIED to help you. I TRIED to work with you", and then concludes it with, "You just didn't connect with the words remotely this evening. You just have no understanding. 'I run for the bus'? That's what you should take." OUCH.

More filler for the Battle of the Nancys. Dramatic music. Bitching. Trash talk.

Olivers now. They go to the Ragged School Museum in an attempt to re-create that authentic workhouse atmosphere [with an interesting dominatrix schoolmarm type wielding a scary cane - Louise]. The boys keep laughing. Sam looks a bit scared. They eat gruel. Jordan looks like he's going to vomit. Kwayedza tries to butch it out, but fails. Todd Carty is there to give acting lessons and to be Mr Bumble as the Olivers try out the famous line, "Please, sir, I want some more!" Cameron Mackintosh looks very frightened when Carty bellows, "MORE?" at the boys. High praise for all of them, but Laurence is the next one through. He's 11, and thinks he would make "a reasonable, hopefully good, leading man". Bless. He would like to be an inventor. Awww. The boys have picked another Nancy to perform with them tomorrow. He exclusively reveals that it's an Irish girl with brown hair. LULZ.

The boys perform You Give A Little Love from Bugsy Malone, and this is adorable. They have their Mafioso outfits, and some nice choreography, and they're obviously really enjoying it. Kwayedza has himself some really good stage presence. He's still my favourite. [See how much more enjoyable the Olivers are when they get to sing something that was written for kids? Oh, and Go Team Kwayedza! - Georgi] [Sam is seriously scary. He reminds me of a mini Tom Chaplin of Keane. Does this mean he'll be a coke addict by the time he's 14? - Louise]

Now it's time for Sam, who as we know is from the Isle of Sam. Last week she groped boys and wore a pretty dress. This week she has gone to see Sarah Manton, who is the new Baby in Dirty Dancing. [A fantastic piece of casting. She's got Jennifer Grey's nose and everything. - Steve] They have a little motivational chat of coma-inducing tedium and inconsequentiality. Sam is singing Destiny's Child's Survivor. She does a spot of pole dancing. She is wearing a nasty tutu-like dress and back leggings. I cannot understand a word she is saying. Barrowman, on the other hand, can, and thinks that she could do EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK. [I did think, for a similarly wordy song to Jessie's, Samantha did a better job with her diction. BTW, song choice obvious enough? - Georgi] Barry sympathises with the trials of performing in high heels. Denise apologises to her for not thinking she was up to it when they were in Nancy School. ALW gibbers about "Beyoncé Nancy" and admires the range of her chest belt, which he thinks will improve as she gets older.

Jodie is next, and she thinks she tried too hard last week with the stupid song she was given (she doesn't say that, by the way, that's me). She's in rehearsal when the love of her life pays her a visit - not her fiancé, but her dog. Jodie bursts into tears, the dog goes absolutely insane on seeing her, and it's all actually quite cute (it sounds nauseating, I realise, but really, it's quite touching). She's singing Alicia Keys' If I Ain't Got You. She's Acting her little socks off, and it's another top-notch performance from her. Interestingly, they switch to the camera on the other Nancys at the end of the song, and they all look like they're clapping rather begrudgingly. Denise says that Jodie has the voice for Nancy and she loves the way she acts with her eyes. Barrowman says it was a fantastic performance. Barry says it was passionate and beautiful, and he heard every single word of a song he's never heard before. Heh. Jodie beams and says, "I'll teach it yer, don't worry!" ALW doesn't know where to start, but he thinks she overacts and does too much to camera. Jodie takes it on the chin and says, "I was trying to tell you the story, and everything!" ALW rethinks, perhaps considering that he is the last person in the world who should ever offer acting tips, and says that it'd probably be OK on the West End stage and when she has a director. He wants to know what she'd be like with choreography. Jodie assures him that she can move "like nobody's business!" [And does a finger snap and head weave. Jodie is so awesome. - Steve]

Last week, Rachel wasn't all that. Her family say lots of nice things about how hard she has worked in her career and how dedicated she has been, in a style reminiscent to Lee's "ZOMG I am from Essex and I had to WORK to put myself through drama school!" moment last year. Rachel is singing You've Got A Friend. It's all a bit samey and by-numbers, but it's not the most showcasey song in the wide world of music. Denise has a sad face on, and reminds us that whoever is cast as Nancy has to do EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK. She wasn't blown away by the performance, but it was good. Barrowman says platitudes. Barry thinks Rachel is a fine artist, and he knew that song, but didn't think she was really feeling the emotion. He sees her as a fine understudy, not a leading lady. Rachel's fans heckle. ALW says she didn't communicate with the words. Rachel's fans heckle again. She whines about working hard and using the cameras.

Finally, time for Battle of the Nancys. The girls are divided into two groups, for no real reason that I can see, and ALW justifies it by saying that Nancy can be played by a younger girl or an older one. Right. Roll VT - Jodie talks about being a real woman; Sam says the feisty young'uns won't go down without a fight. Snarf. Rachel thinks the younger ones are intimidated by grown-up womanliness. Niamh thinks she is strong and not afraid, and that experience isn't everything, because they have youth on their side. Ashley is fiery and red-headed and FROM SCOTLAND. Jessie claims that she has had to work for her good comments from ALW, and the competition is about freshness and rawness. Jodie says teenagers aren't real women, and that is what Nancy is about. Bored now, can't be bothered to recap the rest of the trash talking.

Jessie, Niamh and Sam are singing Candyman. And...hang on, do they have backing singers doing the harmonies with them? Jessie cannot dance and she can't scat either - it's the same problem as she had in her Aguilera song earlier - she doesn't seem to know what to do with her voice when she has free range with it, and so she has to have her improvisation written down and taught to her. Barrowman is in hysterics. [I did take one thing from this otherwise pointless interlude - in direct comparison with Niamh and Sam, Jessie's voice was weak and her movement was awkward. Why is she still in the competition? - Georgi] [Srsly. When Niamh and Samantha, of all people, are making your voice sound thin, you know you've got problems. - Steve]

Jodie, Ashley and Rachel are singing Man! I Feel Like A Woman - "Let's go, Andrew!" Ashley is sneering and doesn't seem as if she's in step with Rachel and Jodie's dancing. The unison vocal sounds thinner than the younger girls' did. Barry looks a bit puzzled but overall quite pleased. I think Barrowman might collapse from laughing. ALW won't pick his favourite trio because "you're all so funny!" He then says that they're all young, there's no edge to it, both groups were brilliant, and this is the choice we now have to make. Right, thanks for that. Clearly that was a massive waste of time. [WTF was the point of all that? Casting is about qualities and personality and talent, not age. Feeble and pointless - Louise]

Recap - Jessie was an IRISH fighter, like MANY PEOPLE IN LONDON IN 1841; Niamh was just like Celine Dion; Ashley was the Lady of the Lake in Motown guise; Sam didn't have a very nice dress; Jodie was all kinds of brilliant; Rachel was dull but OK.

Lines have already closed as I type this, so sorry if you were relying on us to tell you who to vote for. [A clue for next week: vote Jodie. - Georgi] Tomorrow we'll be seeing another Olivers/chosen Nancy performance, and the ladies will be doing a stunt mission. Join Georgi then!