Let the recap begin! Or, since it's a British TV show, let the recap commence.
This week, Andrew Lloyd Webber wasn't available because he was out of the country. Instead, they presented him on a live feed from Las Vegas! They placed the TV (with the video feed) on a throne (!) and he participated like he always does. Bizarre, yet effective.
|photo by © BBC|
This week's theme was "songs that divas in Las Vegas have done"…aka pop songs. I can't take the trickery! They put baubles and bangles and beads all around the theme each week, but no matter what, the ladies sing pop songs: This week, songs that Broadway stars love to hear…on the radio This week, nothing but Broadway songs. That's rights, top 40 songs that have the letters B-R-O-A-D-W-A-Y in them.
This week we salute Idina Menzel and Heather Headley…and sing songs only from their pop albums.
People, save the ten-minute brainstorming meeting used to come up with clever ways to trick us and just 'fess up. We know what the theme is and will always be: All pops songs, all the time.
Jodie sang "Nine to Five" (thankfully they didn't claim it was from a Broadway show…it doesn't open 'til next season), and she mentioned that last week she received some cracky comments. I felt sorry for her 'til I realized that "cracky" is a positive word. Hmm… I always thought crack was whack. The judges yet again loved her, and the crackiness flowed.
Every week John Barrowman dished Samantha and felt that she didn't get deep enough emotionally, so this week he took matters into his own hands and coached her. Apparently, his version of depth was making her push vocally 'til she sounded hoarse, and every raspy note she hit got applause from the audience. I, however, thought she did have a lot of emotion all the other weeks without giving herself nodes. After Jodie and Samantha's songs, John said that they were both fantastic performances. So, there goes any tension as to whether John finally liked Samantha. But, to make it more annoying, he tried to pull a reality show-style "I'm sorry to say that you're singing was mediocre…if mediocre means amazing!" Unfortunately, he didn't understand that there's supposed to be witty word play and literally said "Unfortunately I have to say…that was fantastic!" D minus, John. Where's the twist? It's called beginning the sentence one way, and then changing it to something totally different at the end. He'd make a great veterinarian: "I'm sorry little girl, but your dog is dead. (Pause.) Your dog is alive!"
Barry Humphries was the only one who didn't fully buy Samantha. He said that she was great on the TV screen, but that's because the camera was close up. He didn't know if it would translate to the back of the theater. Andrew Lloyd Webber said that Jodie and Samantha were both great, and what's fascinating is that they're totally contrasting types for the role of Nancy. I relate it to the revival of Forum that had the role of Pseudolus played by Nathan Lane and then, later on, Whoopi Goldberg. Both were great in the role, but totally different. I'm sorry I never saw Whoopi's Max Bialystock…or Nathan's Miss Celie. Maybe one day at Encores!
Ashley sang "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" ( in one of the shows signature low keys), and last week Lloyd Webber said he was nervous that he would be bored with her voice if she got the role. This week he said "the song only goes from A to A…and the performance only went from A to A." And let me add, her high notes only went to a G.
This week, all the boys up for the role of Oliver went to some crazy high tower where they had to climb down a long rope (?), and Lloyd Webber and Sir Cameron Mackintosh judged their bravery and decided who made it into the semi-finals. My friend Tim was watching with me and pleaded at the screen, "Why not judge them on their acting, singing and dancing? Why is that so hard??"
|photo by © BBC|
Keisha sang "My Heart Will Go On," and Denise busted her for not connecting with the words. What words? There are lyrics to that song? Really? Besides "near," "far" and "on"? Andrew Lloyd Webber saved Keisha from being eliminated last week, and Graham Norton (the host) asked him (via satellite) if, after seeing her perform this week, he stood by his decision. Andrew took a long pause, which was devastating and made me think he was in a rage. Then I remembered that the awkward satellite/time delay has made him pause like that before every answer. Nonetheless, it was still terrifying. He said he didn't regret it. Phew. Jessie said that she's been flying high since the last show because it was so thrilling to hear Andrew Lloyd Webber tell her "you are a star." But with her accent, she actually said she was thrilled to hear him say "you are a stir." She had to sing "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" How do you act that song? I guess you have to really wonder why fools fall in love. Barry Humphries requested that she sing more of an acting song next week. Sarah, whom Denise has busted for being too bubbly (not to be confused Michael Buble), sang "Midnight Train to Georgia." Denise loved it and said, "No more bubbly Sarah because that bubble has burst!" Hmm…I give that wordplay a B. And, speaking of which, yet again the song was put in a basement key, and it sounded like Sarah ended the song on a solidly belted middle C. What the-??? Why is Lauren Bacall not in the running for Nancy? Does her voice sit too high?
Before Francesca sang, we were reminded that Andrew was not pleased with her pitch last week, and we were shown a clip of her performance from last week hitting a clunker, but it was a different camera angle from the one used last week, so we could see a shot of Andrew completely recoiling in the moment. It was devastating. Francesca sang "What's Love Got to Do With It." You know how at the end of the verse it goes, "You must try to ignore, that it means more than that…Oh-Oh-Oh…What's love got to do, got to do with it?" For some reason, she opted out of the Oh-Oh-Oh, and the back-up singers did it. Why? You can't go on vocal rest in the middle of a phrase! Then came my favorite, Rachel. Ahhhh. She sang "The Way We Were" and sounded fantastic. John said it was the best of the evening. Lloyd Webber, still firmly ensconced on a TV set on a throne, broadcasting from Vegas, did one of his signature bizarre word plays. "That song won an Oscar 34 years ago…if I were there, I'd give you an Andrew." Huh? Is that a euphemism?
|photo by © BBC|
Then came the most promising part of the night, which turned into the most devastating. All the Nancys went to the theatre where the London production of Wicked was playing. We were told they were going to sing an Elphaba song. Yes! I sat at home, thrilled because I'd soon hear them belt the hell out of "The Wizard and I" or "Defying Gravity"! I prayed, "Let me finally hear them hit an E!" Well…true to the keys that have been chosen for all of their songs, the ladies didn't give me any of Elphabas signature high notes. Instead I got a mellow rendition of the contralto favorite, "I'm Not That Girl"! Guess what? "I'm Not That Interested"! That song literally ends on an E below middle C. Why wasn't I more specific in my prayers!
|photo by © BBC|
The next Oliver to make the semi-finals was Kwayedza, who's not only the first black Oliver to make the semi-finals, but also the first contestant whose name is more indecipherable than Niamh. The bottom two girls were Ashley and Francesca. Just to devastate Ashley, they informed her that she got the lowest votes from the call-in audience. Both girls had to perform for Lord Lloyd Webber (who was being broadcast on a TV in the studio, and watching what was happening on a TV in Vegas), who would then save one of them. Thankfully, they eschewed a pop song to sing a Lloyd Webber tune. Ah, I sat back in anticipation. "Rainbow High?" No. "Everything's Alright?" No. Instead, it was the title song from Whistle Down the Wind. It was the first time I've ever heard the song. Umm….it's fine.
Anyhoo, the ladies sounded good, and I didn't know whom Andrew Lloyd Webber would save. Francesca, whom he visibly cringed while watching, or Ashley, whom he told had a performance that went from A to A. Lord Lloyd Webber said it was the toughest call he's ever had, which made it incredibly exciting for me…until I remember it was the third time that he's said that…and there've been four episodes! He finally said he was basing his decision on the positive feedback from the judges and decided to save…Ashley.
Francesca sang the sign-off song, "As Long As He Needs Me," and we lost one more Nancy.
Oh, before I go, take a moment to watch this bizarre commercial for the show (http://youtube.com/watch?v=VItrKv84gfo), and we'll discuss in the next column. All I can say is "What the-?"
(Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway" and the novel "Broadway Nights." He has played piano in the orchestras of 15 Broadway musicals and hosts the BC/EFA benefit weekly interview show Seth's Broadway Chatterbox at Don't Tell Mama every Thursday at 6 PM. He can be contacted by visiting www.sethsbroadwaychatterbox.com.)