Sunday, 30 March 2008

The dirty dozen

First live show: Saturday, 29th March 2008

Welcome to our first live show blog! Mr Webber faces his toughest challenge yet! Tonight the Nancys and Olivers sing live for the first time! Whoop! And tomorrow night (don't get me started) one of each will be voted out for good!


Please welcome your host, Graham Norton. He's clearly found his niche, pretending to be nice to performing hopefuls while secretly sneering behind their backs. Anyway, the band is ready, the panel is preened (cue jazz hands from the Barrowman and Denise Van Outen, in their little club as always) [WTF are jazz hands? I've been pondering this for 24 hours! - Louise] [it's when you splay your arms out to the side and wave them - Carrie], and the Lord has returned to his throne (no Phantom music as yet though).

So, as is traditional, to open the show, the Nancys and Olivers perform the title song. There's way really way too much going on to judge any of it. I must say the Nancy dresses are quite hideous - way worse than the Maria ones - and it's a shame they can't have the ritual derobing of the week's loser, because that caused us much amusement during Any Dream Will Do. Or perhaps they have velcro fastenings and the losing Nancy could be stripped down to her Victorian undergarments? Or, you know, in the best Dickens tradition, perhaps she will just be bludgeoned to death. It all works for me.

Graham gets in the first of, doubtless, many puns to do with "Olivers army" and "bunch of Nancys". Start as you mean to go on. The chosen Nancy's life will change 4EVA! Welcome back the panel: John "Captain Jack" Barrowman, [Rancid as he can be, I think Barrowman's time on Broadway and West End roles in Miss Saigon, Beauty and the Beast, Grease, Hair, Sunset Boulevard, Chicago and Phantom qualify him to judge this show rather more than his Captain Jack role.-Joel] West End Leading Lady Denise Van Outen, and this year's new addition, Barry Humphries, aka Dame Edna Everage, and who, for the doubters out there who think he might not be qualified to judge, was in the original production of Oliver! and has played Fagin twice in the West End. So there. He's garishly dressed in a pink jacket. Let's not forget Andrew Lloyd Webber *cue Phantom music* - DRINK! Don't forget it's all down to YOU and YOUR VOTES.

All diff what characteristics? Everyone at home will have a different view about Nancy. Dickens wrote about a woman who stood by her man because she loved him. ALW goes on about Aoife doing Chess, Ben in Hairspray, Daniel in Avenue Q [oh, sure, NOW he's proud of Daniel - Still Bitter Steve] and - exclusive! - Seamus as Che in Evita! Am so booking tickets for that. Go Team Seamus! [Seamus is hot. That is all.-Joel]

Graham explains the plot of Oliver! and how Nancy "perishes for her good deeds at the hands of Eric Sykes - Eric, Bill, whatever." Ha ha. You've ruined the end now!

The first two Nancys to perform are curly-mopped Irish Nancy Jessie and crazy-as-a-loon miracle-dieter Jodie (whose boyfriend is in the audience, presumably on their eighth date). Jessie has been turned down twice for drama school. Her dad's called Tim Buckley. She is from IRELAND - but Ireland won't be able to vote for her, because they can't vote. Ha ha. Jodie lives at home with "a montage of animals", apparently. Oh, she meant "menagerie". She does seem like the crazy spinster type. She's done cabaret and the working men's club circuit, and sings to her animals. She's going to put "everything Nancy needs to be into every performance that I do". Good for her.

Graham tells Mr Webber that viewers can press the red button to go interactive, and ALW asks why it can't be blue to go with his throne. Graham seems as bemused as most of the viewers. On with the show.

Last week, ALW called Jessie a "world-class performer" (that is, he said one of the four girls he called back to sing was world-class, and it was obvious that he meant Jessie), so it's not surprising that she's been selected to open the show. She is wearing green because she is IRISH and from IRELAND. Her dress is Tina Turner-style mini and sparkly, and she does look quite fabulous. She's singing 'River Deep Mountain High', and it's a belting vocal performance.

Jodie's Story is that she has lost eight and a half stone. Also, from what we could tell during the audition shows, she's completely mental. I'm a bit concerned about her dress. Most of the time it gives good cleavage, but sometimes her boobs bulge over the top a bit too much. [I rather think the dress is off-the-peg and though it fits round the waist, she needs a bigger size for her bosom. It's a common problem. - Carrie] She's singing Adele's 'Chasing Pavements'. It lends itself quite well to being sung in a musicals style. (Fact: defines 'chasing pavements' as "Slang term used for the act of specifically searching for a partner with whom to engage in either rimming, frosting or other scat-related activities." [Sheesh, I had wondered what that pavement stuff was about but that is TMI - Louise] I'll let you decide for yourselves whether Jodie managed to emote that.) Her boyfriend seems to have enjoyed it.

Jessie says she can't believe she's here, and the last thing she wants to do is get on the flight back to Ireland - "not that there's anything wrong with Ireland", she's quick to backtrack. Don't worry, they can't vote or anything. Jodie is just "so grateful to be here".

John Barrowman gets right of first comment, and sits on the fence: "You are both definitely serious contenders to be Nancy." Yes, well, they wouldn't be in the final 12 if they weren't presumably. Although, having said that, I wouldn't have described most of the final 12 Josephs as "serious contenders". First ridiculous metaphor of the night ahoy! I hope you have your drinks in hand, as John tells Jessie, "You're like a wild Irish pony - but can you be the thoroughbred?" DRINK! That doesn't even make sense. Is this the sort of thing we've got to look forward to for the next few weeks? Barrowman is loving Jodie because she "connected with everybody" and told a story. Denise says that both performances were "vocally fantastic". She tells Jessie to be careful with her posture, but she loved Jodie's vocal because "it's so heartfelt" and she sees Nancy's life experience in her performance. Barry says he wouldn't want to be on stage playing Fagin with either of them because nobody would look at him, and calls their performances "definitive". He tells Jessie she has "vulnerability and a touch of the guttersnipe", which is obviously just what they're looking for, while Jodie was "strong", with "toughness and tenderness".

ALW says that if Jodie lost eight and a half stone, she's lost the entire weight of Jessie. I think he just called her a fat cow - you've lost her weight and you're still twice her size! Jessie looks flattered that he thinks she's only eight and a half stone. He wonders if the viewers will think she's too young, but wants to remind the viewers that Nancy was that young. He says the interesting thing is that these two contrasting girls could both play the role.

Next up are Welsh ex-soap star Tara and Scottish redhead Ashley. Tara's father was a wrestler called, hilariously, El Bandito, but she never thought of becoming a wrestler. She played a "Footballers' Wives-type character" in a Welsh soap. Ashley is from Scotland and Scottish. She has auditioned for a lot of parts but never gets any. I'm saying nothing. Ashley has gone the Alesha route and brought out her nans early (Cecilia and Isabella) - expect them to feature on a weekly basis, should she become a contender. She got sacked from a debt collector's office the day before her Nancy audition, and she is "hungry for it - in fact I'm starving".

Tara is singing 'Suddenly I See'. Her dress is barely covering her pants - let's hope she's wearing some. I've been trying to resist complaining about it, but sorry: WHAT is the point of making people sing pop songs like this? It really gives us NO FUCKING CLUE about how good they would be at playing Nancy. I'm just saying. She's giving it all her Acting, but is slightly slipping on some of the high notes. [Tara, apart from the short dress/commando issue and JB's comments on her legs (like he'd care) , was totally rubbish and is so NOT Nancy - Louise]

Ashley - totally loving her dress, but then it's blue and it has good cleavage... in fact, isn't that Belinda's 'Over the Rainbow' dress? - is singing 'Black Velvet'. I used to like this song, until I heard her singing it. It's all the woa-oah bits I don't like. Too much pointing as well. Frankly, neither of these two performances have the strength of the last two.

Graham asks who would win in a Dickensian brawl. Tara thinks she'd win, as a wrestler's daughter, but Ashley retaliates, "Have you never seen Braveheart?" I agree with Graham - my money's on Ashley.

Denise says they both connected with their songs, but "both of you need to sit back on it a bit, you both went a bit crazy." I thought that was Theatre Acting? Let's ask the Barrowman - after all, he Knows His Craft. Denise thinks Tara was a bit too polished, and Ashley goes "a bit too jazz hands". Barry thinks that Tara is too modern: "It's hard to see you in the 19th century, but you're such a good actress you could probably play a Stone Age girl." Maybe in the new Roland Emmerich film. He thinks Ashley's performance was "passionate and engaging". Typically, John thinks "both of them are leading lady standard", but they need to "rough it up a bit". The Nancys try to mess up their hair a bit. Use your imagination, man. Barrowman uses the excuse of Ashley being Scottish to put on his Scottish accent. ALW agrees with John about "the roughing up", and says that everyone will have a different idea of what Nancy should be like.

Time to take a quick break from the main proceedings to see the Olivers - but frankly, we won't be able to vote, so what's the point? They're singing 'Food Glorious Food', and their acting is better than most of the Nancys so far. Our favourite is still Welsh Oliver. [I'm still utterly Team Chester. - Steve] That little blond one freaks me out though - vote him off! I'm not sure how the panel are going to judge the Olivers on one group performance, but who says this needs to make sense?

Graham asks ALW to explain why they're picking not one but three Olivers - obviously because they have to share the part so they can still go to school. Duh. Later we'll see them performing their first "Oliver task". Woo!

Next up, Amy and Keisha. Amy is from a council estate, and now she's in the "Nancy mansion". She's easily impressed. She played Velma in Scooby Doo, and is worried about being typecast as a kooky comedy sidekick. [As someone who was cast as a kooky comedy sidekick in almost every play I ever did, I take offence to that. It's nice work if you can get it! - Steve] Apparently it's already changed her life. Keisha is studying English, even though she wants to be in the theatre. She says there was pressure from her mum to do something with a job at the end of it. But, to quote Avenue Q, what do you do with a BA in English? [You can set up a blog on teh interweb and bitch about people on the telly. - Carrie] Keisha wants to prove to everyone that she was "meant to be Nancy".

Here's a little tip: if you want to look good on a TV talent show [or EVER - Carrie], don't sing an Aretha Franklin song. You'll just sound lame in comparison. Amy is singing 'Respect', and it's not that great. Also, awful green dress, not flattering in the slightest. She's a bit OTT - bulging eyes are not good. I think this series someone has told ALW to try and look interested during the performances - he usually looks bored when they cut to him, but is doing okay this week. Keisha is singing 'Mad about the Boy', which is much better. She has a much more flattering dress too. Probably one of the strongest vocal performances of the night so far, in my book. [Vocally awesome, and she's hot as. Hello, Joel's favourite Nancy.-Joel]

Graham asks them what gives them the edge. Amy thinks she's "fun, feisty, raw and real", and she wants it more than anyone else. Not convinced. Keisha is "strong-minded and confident ... and built like this". Work it, girl!

John tells Amy that her perfomance was confident and quirky, but "next time I want to see you open up that vocal", while he suspects that Keisha might be "too sophisticated to be Nancy" and wants to see something different next week. [She was ACTING, Barrowman, you stupid fucker. - Carrie] Barry says Keisha's was "the only song I recognise", bless him, and thinks if Bill Sikes tried to hit her, she'd deck him - the racialist. He thinks Amy's would be a great comic performance. Denise says that Amy "gave that song Oom-pah-pah" - DRINK! - and she thought Keisha was "hot - you would send Bill Sikes crazy with desire". Mr Webber says that Keisha has "the touch of a young Shirley Bassey in [her]", and I wish they'd stop going on about Shirley Bassey. Okay, she sang 'As Long as He Needs Me', and she's a feisty character, but that's as far as the Nancy comparisons go, in my opinion. [They wanted to cast Bassey as Nancy in the film, but someone pulled a string to cast Shani Wallis instead. - Carrie] He's just realised that accents might be a problem. He wasn't sure whether Amy showed that she could be Nancy, but was impressed with her voice.

Next up, Francesca, who is Welsh, and Rachel, who is from Northern Ireland, and seems to be in tears every time she's interviewed. Francesca is a professional actress, having already graced the West End stage in the awful Rent Remixed with HRH Denise Van Outen, so she's not exactly raw talent. She says that playing Nancy, it would be "me out there, not pretending to be anyone else". Except Nancy, obv. Francesca has understudied Rachel in the past. Rachel says she's from a "raw, knees-up background", which she's hoping will work in her favour. STOP CRYING DAMMIT!

Francesca is singing Mariah Carey's 'Hero', and I'm not sure her lower register is up to it. Her enunciation isn't very good either. Wearing a curtain probably doesn't help. [I'm having serious misgivings about Francesca being in this show. After seeing her in the theatrical stillbirth that was Rent: Amyl Nitrate Edition, I was all set to be her number one fan, but after her performance this week I'm wondering if perhaps she only looked good in Rent because everyone else was so terrible. I don't want my good memories of her sullied - she really was great as Joanne, she was, she was, SHE WAS. C'mon, Francesca. Justify my love. - Steve]

Rachel is wearing bright yellow, but just about gets away with it. She's singing the Sugababes' 'About You Now', which isn't really the best showcase song, and keeps running around the stage.

Graham's obviously running short of time, because he goes straight to the panel. Denise waffles a bit before saying that based on that performance, Francesca could play Nancy, but she wants to see the tougher side of Nancy next week. She thinks Rachel showed the "rawness and roughness" of Nancy, and thinks she would fit in with her friends in the East End. John thinks Francesca had some pitch problems with her high notes she needs to work on, but "you do deserve to stay in the competition". He says that he stuck his neck out to keep Rachel in the competition, and calls her "fantastic" three times whilst punching the air, to emphasise his point. Yeah, yeah. Barry calls Francesca's performance "classy" and thought Rachel had "the quality of a street urchin - tough and saucy".

ALW says that because they're both professional actresses, they'll have "the biggest mountain to climb" - though not on past experience. He thought Francesca was "a bit wonky", although he's not worried because she sang better in rehearsal [I was actually at the dress rehearsal, and I can back him up on this. - Steve] - excuse me, but aren't we supposed to be judging on the live performance, Mr Webber, sir? - but Rachel was "really fabulous".

Back to "the Oliver situation". Each week they'll get a task to do, on the basis of which ALW and Cameron Mackintosh will vote them into the semi-finals. Cam thinks the boys are of a very high standard. Their first task is to learn sleight-of-hand from a magician, and then demonstrate what they've learned. Some definitely performed better than others [bless Chester and his cape, I really love him - Carrie], and the first boy to go through is IBA favourite Gwion! Whoop! [Whoop! - Carrie] Does that mean he doesn't have to do the other tasks? I'm confused. He says to play Oliver would be an honour for his family "and all of Wales". These youngsters catch on quickly, don't they? [Yeah, except I'm bored already. If we can't vote for them why should we give a toss about them? - Louise]

Four more Nancys to get through, and the penultimate pair are Samantha and Sarah. Samantha says she always had big dreams, but didn't know how to achieve them because she lived on the Isle of Man. Get a boat? Sarah says that to be a leading lady is all she wants. Samantha released an album on the Isle of Man and sold 600 copies. There are no theatres though, and you're not likely to bump into ALW. Sarah has five jobs, including volunteering in a theatre and selling the Evening Standard. She's been in a lot of am-dram, and reckons that despite the baby face, she's perfect for Nancy. [I'm not convinced, but I do think she'd make a great Glinda in Wicked. - Steve]

First up, Samantha singing 'I Love Rock'n'Roll', wearing very little. I'm sure the panel will go on about how raw she is, because that's what they seem to say when people sing rocky stuff. Ooh, unexpected key change! DRINK!

Sarah is singing 'Get Here', which: blah. Her dress is like a teal-coloured version of Ashley's dress. All these Nancys are quite buxom, aren't they? There haven't been any really bad performances yet. Sarah has a great dirty laugh.

Barry says Sarah "brought out the cuddly side of Nancy", while Samantha makes him want to go and live on the Isle of Man. Dirty old perv. John says that to be "that sexy, that talented and that hot at this age", Samantha "might run away with the competition". Steady on! Nancy isn't just about being sexy. He says Sarah is vocally "like" honey, and reminds him of "a young EP - Elaine Paige". [Fuck off, Barrowman, with your fucking idiot name-dropping. - Carrie] Also Sarah played John's daughter in a production once - and there I thought he was still playing men too young to have daughters [or too gay, at least - Steve] - but she definitely has leading lady potential. Denise says that Samantha blew her away, and Sarah's "beautiful vocal" was "effortless", and she does something with her eyes that she calls "the Meryl Streep factor". ALW accuses the band of eyeing up Samantha when they were playing, and then says she was "terrific" and "really rocked it out". Sarah needs to work on her diction, though.

The final two Nancys are Cleo and Niamh. Cleo thinks she's a modern-day Nancy, while Niamh says she could play Nancy although she's only 17. Cleo is working the whole working-class London girl thing, from "not the best of areas". She works with people in the community, but thinks she's a "street girl" like Nancy. She thinks her family will be proud of her if she accomplishes something. Niamh is from Bangor, so she'll be splitting the Welsh vote with Francesca [and Tara! - Carrie]. [Sorry, actually that is Bangor in Northern Ireland - thanks Louise - I didn't even know there was a Bangor in Northern Ireland! So presumably Northern Ireland will be voting for her, and which means all the regions have a representative Nancy. - Georgi] She's postponing her A-levels for the chance of a lifetime.

Cleo's dress looks a bit like it's made from offcuts draped round her, ie pretty shapeless. She's singing Pink's 'Who Knew', which: hate it, but again, it is obviously rocky and raw. I'm not sure it's the best song for her, and the bit where she does the "sincere" Acting into the camera is a bit annoying.

Niamh is singing 'The First Cut is the Deepest', so expect lots of emoting. She doesn't immediately scream "Nancy" to me. Still hating the rush-from-one-side-of-the-stage-to-the-other thing. They all seem to do it. Her vocals are a bit meh. [But she is so pretty. - Carrie] [Although she's ruined it by stealing her haircut from Swimbint out of Hollyoaks. That fringe flatters no one. - Steve]

Graham feels sorry for these two because they've been waiting "longer than a passenger at Terminal 5!" Ha! Topical humour! DRINK! They both think waiting to find out if they got into the final 12 was more nervewracking than performing live, though.

John thinks Cleo has "raw talent" (thank you!) although she's "a bit uncomfortable in [her] skin at times", when she gets nervous, while he "melts" when Niamh sings. Barry thinks Cleo is a wonderful actress and Niamh is going to be famous, but "There's something a bit spooky about you. I can see you in a musical version of The Addams Family." Barry thinks all of the Nancys will go on to great things. Denise says that Niamh looks like "a young Bernadette Peters", which is a reference I'm sure most of the audience won't have got - I know I had to Google her, as Graham suggested. [I am such a musical theatre geek - I nodded wisely and vigorously in agreement when he said that. - Carrie] She thought Cleo was fantastic and "really acted it". Mr Webber is wondering if he can get out of Sunday night's decision because all the ladies are fabulous. He says Niamh "acted well with the song" and she has "come on a huge amount".

So that's your lot - time for a recap. It's hard to tell which way the competition's going to go - I wouldn't even like to guess who's going to get voted out, never mind who might eventually win. Join us again for the results show on Sunday evening *grumble*.

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