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, and...to 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!