On to recap number four! Okay, I must speak before this goes too far. What is with the crazily low keys that the Nancys are singing in? They are not auditioning to be the new Dorothy Zbornak in the "Golden Girls" musical! Almost every song this week was in a crazy key, and the ladies kept bottoming out on the low notes. Stop this British madness! The other thing that's driving me crazy is the non-stop cheering during songs for either a. someone walking down stairs or b. a key change. I thought the only time it's impressive for someone to walk down a staircase is if he or she's immediately just risen from a wheelchair. And, for some reason this audience is cheering for key changes where the women go from their bass ranges to their baritone money notes. I can't take it!
Well, this week's show began with Andrew Lloyd Webber saying that he was out of sorts because last week's bottom two were the wrong bottom two. He also admonished the audience not to vote because of where the contestants are from. That's so hilarious to me because I'm so New York-centric. I'm sure over there it's a big deal if one contestant is from Wales, or the East End or Brighton but to me, it's all England…even if it's Ireland or Scotland. I'm essentially a moron.
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"I'd Do Anything" is constantly doing product placement, but instead of having the girls prominently have a package of Blimey Potato Crisps in their laps, the products are other West End shows. Last week, the boys paid a visit to Billy Elliot, and this week Rachel visited Jersey Boys. I don't know what they pretended the point was. She spoke to the lead and told him that starring in a show was what she "wanted and needed," and he told her it was a lot of pressure to do. Then I woke up. What's the British word for boring? Then Sarah (the shortest one), who was busted last week for being too smiley, got a lesson in being sexy from someone named "Immodesty Blaze." I watched the show with my friend Tim, and he assumed it was going to be a drag queen, but it looked like a stripper. She taught Sarah how to dance with a fan and another five minutes of the show was filled. Then I woke up.
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Before the ladies sang, the Lord (Andrew Lloyd Webber) reminded digital viewers that if they wanted to sing along, they should press the red button. What the? Isn't that the nuclear deployment button? Does every British citizen who has digital TV have one? Tim claims it makes lyrics appear on your TV screen, but just to make sure, I watched the rest of the show from my 1950's bunker… even though it was a show from two weeks ago watched on a DVD….and I don't have a 1950's bunker. I then got excited because they said that this week the contestants would sing songs from classic movies and musicals, and I thought they were going to finally stop the assault of pop music I've heard every week. Turns out, it was a trick because it wasn't music from musical movies, it was pop theme songs from films! And the "classic" musicals they highlighted were all jukebox musicals! The British are still as tricky as they were during the Revolution!
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First up was my fave, Rachel, who sang that classic musical theatre song, the Four Seasons' "Oh, What a Night." To further annoy me, she sang it in the key used in the show…and it's sung by a man! Thankfully, she added some alternate high notes at the end and by then, I loved it! They had a bizarre cut-away shot of Andrew Lloyd Webber clapping along, not on every beat and not on the off beats, but just once. He was also mouthing lyrics…during a part where there was no singing. Enjoying the music, or petit mal seizure? You decide. Barry Humphries said that he remembers rehearsing Oliver! and seeing the original Nancy, Georgia Brown, walk into the room...and Rachel has that same quality. Yes! Sarah, after being helped by Immodesty Blaze, sang "Maybe This Time" in a key that was neither low nor high, but right in the middle to make it as unthrilling as possible. But, I really like her, as opposed to Denise van Outen and Barry, who both think she's not gritty enough. Barry said that when he closes his eyes, he hears Nancy, but when he opens them, he doesn't. John Barrowman had had it and said that the problem may just be because she's blonde. He challenged her to dye her hair for next week's episode. Why dye? Don't they have lace front wigs in England? On another note, for The Sound of Music reality show, Barrowman was cast as Captain Von Trapp, so he would say, "One of you will be my Maria." But, for some reason, he told Sarah that she could be his Nancy, yet he's not doing Oliver! The only time I want John to use that first person pronoun is when he tells me that I could be his husband.
Then Francesca sang a song from the film classic "Dirty Dancing"… "The Time of My Life." John busted her acting of the song by reminding her that Oliver! is a "musical play," but Tim chimed up next to me and said, "Then give her a song that's actable!" Stop making them have to find subtext in a pop song! The song starts with her saying that she had the time of her life and by the end she realizes…she had the time of her life. What a journey! By the time Keisha got up to sing "The Lady is a Tramp," I had had it with the low keys and stormed to a piano to find out what key she was in. G Major! That means her "high" note was an A! Stop the madness! John said her performance was similar to a cruise-ship performer…and since I am always bring amazing Broadway talent on the Rosie O'Donnell cruises, I assumed he meant it as a compliment.
This week, the Oliver boy contestants took a trip to meet a football team, but because it's England, football means soccer. And because it's England, I couldn't understand what the famous player said to the boys to keep them inspired. It was something about 10 percent, 100 percent or 110 percent. Whichever way, the visit made no sense, despite the claim that it would help then learn about teamwork. Of course, I loved the fact that they brought all of these musical theatre boys to do sports and when the camera caught up with them on the field, they had all launched into the can-can. As I've said before, when you got it, battement it. Unfathomably, the next boy was chosen to go to the semi-finals based on that field trip. Both Lloyd Webber and Sir Cameron felt that Arthur really gave it his all. Doing what? Playing soccer aka football? Doing the can-can? What did any of that have to do with belting?
Red-headed contestant Ashley was up next singing a pop song under the guise of a musical theatre song: "The Winner Takes it All." I thought her acting was really good, but it seemed to be film acting — aka, you had one inch in front of her to see her simmering emotions. And then Lloyd Webber said he's nervous that he might get bored of her voice. He said that he felt bad, but he wanted to make sure that Nancy had true star quality. Star quality? I first heard that expression on my Evita double-album set. I wanted him don a long black wig and launch into the two-octave phrase, "Just a little touch of star quality," but it remained a dream.
Niamh (Neve?) was up next and sounded great on the word "Moon" of "Moon River," but by "Ri" she overshot the pitch. I think she's talented, but she's only 17, and I don't think she's up for it. However, the judges are obsessed with her. Maybe she's one of the performers you have to see live.
Jessie sang "One Night Only," and the judges thought it was the performance of the night. Lloyd Webber did one of his signature "take the title of song and do a bizarre awkward compliment with it" routine by saying, "You may have sung 'One Night Only'…but I see 'Eight Shows a Week Only'!" Once again, Lord Lloyd Webber, it doesn't scan.
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On all these music reality shows, the producers give the contestants the songs they have to sing, and sometimes they're perfect and other times a severe challenge. Last week Tara had to sing Mariah Carey's "(I Can't Live if Livin' Is) Without You," which is really high, full of riffs and difficult to erase the memory of the version we all know. So this week, as a contrast, they gave her "Let's Hear it for the Boy," which is really high, full of riffs and difficult to erase the memory of the version we all know. Why are they constantly sabotaging her!?! Even though it's a nachtmare to sing, the judges thought it was best performance so far. Finally, one of my other favorites, Samantha, sang "Somewhere," and yet again she was busted for her acting. Denise said that she faked emotion. Speaking of "Emotion," maybe that'll be the song they force Tara to sing next week. (If you don't know, it's an early 90's Mariah hit where she sings whistle tones above a high C. Perfect for sabotaging her.)
In the results show, all the girls sang a "choreographed" version of "Good Morning Baltimore," which proved that they could all be winners…of a show choir competition. The bottom two were revealed and, no surprise they were Tara, along with Keisha, who was in the bottom two last week. They sang a duet version of "A Whole New World," which is normally sung by a boy and girl as a love song, but this week was sung by two girls as a fight to the death. It's all good. Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to save Keisha again, whom he thought had more connection to the material. He also said that he was worried about Tara's voice holding up for eight shows a week. Last week when he said goodbye to the exiting Nancy, he told her he knew she had a great career ahead of her on the West End. This week he wasn't quite as emotive. Instead of a prediction for musical theatre acclaim, Tara got a "Good luck with everything." Cold!
At the end, the exiting Nancy always sings "As Long As He Needs Me." The end of the song is always hard for the women to sing, and last week we got the wide vowel at the end of it with "…as long as he-e-e-e-e…. nee-e-e-e-eds…ma-a-a-a-a-a-ay!" This week Tara opted for a different vowel to widen. She gave us "…as Long as he-e-e-e-e….nay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ayds….me-e-e-e-e!" After hearing how to widen that vowel to hit the high note, my friend Tim said, "Lloyd Webber's worried about eight shows a week? I'm worried about one show a week!" My friends are always sassier than I am.
See you next for the next recap of "I'd Do Anything"…which, seriously, airs at 7:05! Oy! No wonder they lost the war!
(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.)