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!

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