Sunday, 25 May 2008

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.

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