Saturday, 26 April 2008

The school of hard knock life

Last week! The panel was in disagreement over the sacking of Francesca. [AS WAS I. - Steve] ALW didn't like Ashley's voice but saved her anyway while John Barrowman was adamant the wrong decision had been made. It's time to up the pace, it's time for the Nancys!

Titles!

Graham Norton bounds on stage in a hideous dark yellow suit [Mustard, dahling! -Georgi] and purple shiny shirt combo, makes a crack about the Lord twitching on his throne and reminds us yet again that it's our votes that decide who could be Nancy.

Right on cue, the remaining eight Nancys launch into You've Gotta Pick a Pocket with the Olivers. The Nancys' cockney accents are still shit, especially Jessie's. Oh dear. I'm reaching for the alcohol already... [Now, now, people being shit is not a Drink!able offence. We'd never make it through a whole hour if that was in the rules... - Georgi]

Norton reminds us we are at the crucial halfway mark, no one really stands out yet and Ashley has to win back everyone after last week's sing-off.

Time to introduce the ["Expert"? - Georgi] panel of leading West End lady Denise van Outen, Craftsman John Barrowman and Dame Barry Edna Humphries. A quick blast of Phantom music to cue in Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and then Barrowman and DVO bow to his superiority as usual while excluding the Dame from their little gang. This is now so predictable it's time for another drink. [I am truly, genuinely, horrifically embarrassed by this now, particularly as the Olivers are joining in with it. MAKE IT STOP. - Carrie]

ALW also reminds viewers we are at the halfway point with no clear front runner. Of the eight left, there are four, maybe six Nancy contenders and two who he's not sure what to do with. Whoever could he mean? It's not just about the big notes, it's an Acting role and needs to be real. [Judge them on their acting, then. Give them a scene from a musical leading into a song. Get Barrowman to play opposite them. He's good at that. Ask the Marias. - Carrie] We're going to get pop songs tonight (why?) [and how is that different from any other week? - Georgi] and he wants to hear great lyrics.

Norton cracks an iffy joke about slums and Oliver! being a Victorian version of the credit crunch for Nancy.

First up are Niamh and Rachel. Niamh was glad to have her sister there last week. Then she nipped home to Bangor (NI) to drum up the Irish vote [because she is IRISH and from IRELAND - Carrie]. She says she is glad they are supporting her. Rachel thinks the previous Saturday was fantastic, given that she almost didn't get through two months ago. She's happy she proved herself then comments on the shock of Fran's exit – it could be anyone next (you don't say?). With the competition getting fierce, Rachel is keeping her focus on the finishing line. [She is from Belfast, remember, so she is wearing a t-shirt that says I *heart* Belfast. Cynical, calculating, vote-grabbing bint. - Carrie]

Emo Niamh sings 'Valerie' dressed in a pink frock with a flouncy skirt. She shamelessly copies Amy Winehouse, right down to her vocalisation and movements [and hair. However, she does have Boys, whom she shamelessly gropes. Also, on second viewing, she utterly fucks up the lyrics. - Carrie]. I am not impressed. Rachel sings Avril Lavigne's 'I'm With You' ["Modern" "Pop" "Classic"? No wonder the music industry is eating itself. Also, her dress is ugly. - Georgi] – her top notes are screechy and her acting is completely stagey and OTT. If this is the best this pair can come up with at this point, they are in deep shit.

Niamh says Bangor was overwhelming but she feels spurred on a bit [and wants to do it for her Fanz. Not for herself. Obv. - Georgi]. Rachel says her main competition is everyone, but especially Jessie, who is brilliant [and ALSO FROM IRELAND - Carrie]. Time for panel comments.

Barrowman says both have stage presence. Niamh has a big diction problem, while Rachel set the bar for tonight. I wonder if he was watching the same performance as me. [Maybe the Botox stopped him from looking at Rachel and he was transported into a parallel dimension, Torchwood-stylee, where he was judging someone, y'know, good. - Carrie] [Hee! - Louise] The Dame says Niamh showed a new aspect to Nancy (dear god) and picks up on the Winehouse rip-off (although he's more generous than I), and that Rachel has given her best performance so far. That may well be true but it was still pants. DVO thinks Niamh lacked punch, it was not a full performance and she still has more to prove. She also noticed the diction problems. Rachel was strong and consistent but DVO sets her a challenge to be warmer and playful as she wants to see her relationship with Oliver and the boys. [Good point, to be honest. Jodie, Sam and Sarah interact well with the Olivers, demonstrated most obviously by the way they're the ones that keep getting named as the 'favourites' by the boys who go through. Whoever plays Nancy needs to be engaged with Fagin's gang, seeing as she dies for helping Oliver, and stuff. - Carrie]

ALW makes an odd comment about the Dame possibly being arrested for headbutting an artist. Eh? What was that about? [I think it was an attempt at a topical gag. - Carrie] [Doh, yes of course! However, the Dame should be arrested for crimes against hair - Louise] He says Niamh needs work while Rachel was real (hmmm, real off-key methinks).

Next are Jessie and Sarah. Jessie knows she can do better, concedes movement is not her strong point and she needs to work on it, then admits she keeps getting cast as a boy. She insists she can be elegant. Sarah loved every minute of last week. She was over the moon and feels like a serious contender: “It's changed me. I'm coming closer to my dream role.” [Sounds to me like she has been on a journey? - Georgi]

Jessie sings Sam Brown's 'Stop!' [Oh, please, no. I LIKE this song. But not when Jessie sings it. - Georgi] [It's my favourite song of all time. That they gave it to Jessie of all people just shows how much this show wants me to suffer. - Steve] She does some stagey acting and weird huggy stuff with her backing dancer. It's not convincing and I'm going off her as the weeks roll by. Why doesn't she act to the dancer on the big moments instead of to the audience? [Because she's awful? I text Georgi at this point to say, 'HAAAAAAAAAATE'. Meanwhile, my sister texts me to say, 'Am I the only one who hates Jessie?' I think that says it all. - Carrie][I actually got Carrie's text on Sunday morning, before having watched the show, and yet somehow still knew that it was referring to Jessie's performance. I must be psychic. - Georgi] Sarah is covering Alanis Morrisette's 'Ironic'. She fills the stage easily and does some good acting out. I'm warming to her more and more. [She has a more flattering dress this week. I enjoyed her acting too - understated, unlike some *cough*Rachel*cough*. Still in my top two. - Georgi]

Jessie admits to watching to EastEnders to help her cockernee accent. She does a pants impression of Peggy Mitchell yelling “get ouda my pub!”. Oh dear. I'm a 'Stenders addict and while Babs Windsor can be a bit mockney at times, Jessie has a snowball's chance of filling her white stilettos. Sarah confesses her secret weapon is a teapot. Cut to a VT of her slurping out of the spout. She insists it's to steam her voice, confesses she is “mental” and offers to go home. [Bless her. - Carrie][Graham: "But is she the panel's cup of tea?" Ha ha! - Georgi]

The Dame tells Jessie she has a distinctive quality and not to lose it. Jessie butts in and agrees she's lost a bit of herself. Sarah was lovely, a great voice but still girl next door rather than slum – she needs to sustain the edge. DVO reminds us tonight's focus is on Acting. Sarah is an intelligent performer – we've seen a transition, best so far for acting. Jessie is holding back: “be you”. Barrowman concurs that Jessie has lost her essence. She needs to do a U turn and fix things. DVO butts in to ask if he means that Jessie can't take direction well, then Jessie interrupts again to say she knows she has to work on stuff. Yeah, we had noticed. Barrowman says Sarah did a wonderful job, she told the story and could be singing her way to the West End.

ALW says these are two strong contenders who are wildly different. Either could easily be Nancy. [Which is the essence of the competition. Which is why he says the same thing every bloody week. About time he found a new tune to whistle, isn't it? - Georgi] Sarah acted with real intelligence.

Cut to Keisha and Ashley. Keisha had expected to be in the bottom two again so is happy to still be in the competition. Her sister says she's blowing people away. Then Keisha panics she's losing her voice. [But then how would she cope with doing EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK?!? - Georgi] Ashley felt sick at ALW's comment about not rating her voice. Cue tears. Predictable. Yawn. She was thankful to be saved as she hadn't seen it coming. Barrowman backstage says she has to fight now as he felt it was the wrong decision last week.

Keisha sings 'I'm Outta Love' by Anastasia. Her frock is a ghastly canary yellow and if it was cut any lower she'd be spilling out. It's an OK performance, with not much Acting. [When your backing Boys outAct you, you're in trouble. Also, her voice cracked on the high notes. The yellow dress suits her though. Respect Da Cleavage, that's what I say. - Georgi] Ashley covers la Streisand's 'Evergreen'. It's a difficult song. ALW looks blank. Ashley looks confident though, it's her best so far, I reckon. Which is not saying much as she is so not Nancy. [Black so doesn't suit her. The thing about Ashley is I think she's actually quite good doing the Nancy bits, but her solo performances are pretty whelming. - Georgi]

Norton reminds us that Keisha has overcome the odds. Keisha says “it means so much to me to still be here”. Yawn... Ashley thought last week's comments were harsh. She tried to go for a different sound and get ticks in the box.

Barrowman, who so far has failed to make a comment in triplicate, says some notes were cracked but Keisha has made an improvement, she told a story. [He also admires Keisha, telling her, "Your Nancy is blossoming." AHAHAHAHH! - Carrie] He noticed Ashley's Scottish accent and some flat notes. He tells her, “You've lost some fight. You've given up and you're cheesy when you do warm.” Ouch. But I'm smirking as I agree. DVO agrees Ashley was cheesy – she was brave but made some wrong choices. It was the best yet from Keisha, she connected with the words but needs to stop wobbling her head. The Dame says Keisha sang a great song of survival, her best yet. He can't tell if she's ensemble or solo. Probably because he was too busy staring at her cleavage. He likes Ashley's Caledonian gutsiness as she normally does nice/polite, like showing someone to the best table in a restaurant.

ALW says it was soft as an easy chair, but he's in an uneasy chair tonight. Ashley did her best so far but the Lord doesn't believe she can hold a West End audience. So why the fuck did he save her last week, then? [Because Francesca kept singing out of tune all the time? - Georgi] Keisha came through remarkably. If both get through to next week he'd love to work with them both as they are not quite connecting. [If he hadn't fucked off to America to work with the contestants on American Idol, he could have worked with them THIS week. - Carrie] It's down to the nitty gritty now.

Six Nancys down and it's time for the Olivers. Four have made it to the semi-finals so far, it's time to find the fifth. This week's task is physicality. Oliver has a fight in the orphanage and has to stand up to Bill Sikes. So, they're going to try stage fighting. There's lots of faked punches and faked ear-grabbing. Cameron Mackintosh wants Acting, it must be believable. Jonny is showing promise, while Gareth threw himself into it. But Alex is chosen next and gets his cap. He rates Samantha as Nancy and he thinks she has a fantastic voice. [And she is from the Isle of Man and he has some family there. Has he not been listening when they tell us that we're not supposed to vote based on where people are from? - Georgi] Whatever. Why should we care? [See above. - Carrie]

The Olivers then all sing 'It's a Hard Knock Life' from Annie. Jordan stands out most [with his utter desperation - Carrie], but it's still all very stage school.

Samantha and Jodie are up last. Samantha knows it's make or break for her and she wants to impress West End Leading Man John Barrowman. [Why? He doesn't get a vote. - Georgi] Donna the coach says Samantha was a revelation in rehearsal. Samantha now thinks she could get the part. Barrowman says Jodie is showing all the colours of Nancy. Jodie confesses she struggled in training with some of the notes. She's trying so hard, she really wants it (drink) and is prepared to use her ten years' advantage over the others.

Samantha sings 'Since U Been Gone'. It's a repeat of her earlier rock chick performance. She acts it OK. ALW is giving nothing away. Samantha is iffy on some notes [the low ones in particular - Carrie][i.e. everything except the chorus - Georgi]. Jodie does Whitney Houston's 'I Have Nothing'. ALW mutters to the camera. It's a good performance, measured and polished. AWL claps. Is this a Sign?

Cut to the panel. DVO says both have edge. Samantha had bags of Nancy attitude with a strong command of the stage. [Her "belt is big". Unlike her dress. Boom boom! - Georgi] She warns her not to get too shouty, but it was wonderful. She loved Jodie – it was the performance of the evening, she's a strong, brilliant actress. The Dame says Samantha was totally watchable – for the singing. Dirty git – she had a very short dress on. He wants to watch Jodie from the wings as she sings 'As Long As He Needs Me' and gets an ovation. Barrowman says Samantha was a superb, belting Nancy while Jodie was a fearless leading lady who is destined for the West End. [Why does he keep shouting? - Georgi]

ALW just says “Wow!” He gushes over Samantha and declares himself engaged by Jodie's performance. This is the essence of the competition. He has no idea who could be Nancy and is dreading a sing-off with these two as he'd have to resign (as if. To both ideas). [But wouldn't it be ace, though? Then Cameron Mackintosh can start to cast his own bloody show, the lazy git. - Carrie][Didn't he also threaten to leave the country in 1997 if Labour won the general election? He's still bloody here. - Georgi]

And that's it. There's a quick recap of the performances. Norton declares the phone lines open and it's all over. For now. Join Carrie for the results show tomorrow.

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