On to live show number two of "I'd Do Anything."
The show began with all the Nancys singing a rousing version of "Oom Pah Pah." Each Nancy had a solo, and they all sounded great. Also, the choreography had just the right amount of sass and sauciness (each syllable of "Oom Pah Pah" had them shimmy alternating shoulders). Once in a while the camera cut to the boys up for the role of Oliver, who were sort of dancing yet remained in their seats the whole time. Perhaps a tip o' the hat to Spring Awakening's "Bitch of Living" choreography or a tip o' the hat to Hermione Gingold's performance as the wheelchair bound Madame Armfeldt. Either way, Brava!
The first Nancy to sing was Niamh, which was also the first name to give me a headache. First of all, it's spelled crazily. Secondly, even though it ends with an M, it sounds like everyone pronounces it Neeve. So why the M and the H? That's wasteful lettering! PS, I'm one to talk. People never know how to pronounce my annoying name. I've been called Seeth more times than Betty Buckley's been called Betsy Buckles.
Niamh sang "I Got the Music in Me" and sounded fine on the belty stuff, but mostly I liked her high soprano note on the last "mu" in music. Then Cleo sang "Feeling Good" from Golden Boy, and I give her a shout out for her flexible riffs (meaning that when she riffs, it's more than just two notes, and she can riff them super fast. (Watch my Orfeh/Mariah or Billy Porter riff deconstruction at www.sethrudetsky.com). Of course, fast riffing is a skill that the role of Nancy needs as much as she needs to be an excellent surfer, AKA not at all.
After the ladies sang, judge Barry Humphries said that Niamh reminds him of Wednesday Adams, obviously because of her dark hair and heavy bangs. I hear what Barry is saying, but whenever I see dark hair and bangs, I immediately think of Meryl Streep's "a dingo ate my baby" hairstyle. One hairstyle, two celebrity images. Andrew Lloyd Webber told Cleo, "You put the reality back in reality television." Huh? Compliment? Insult? Then he told Niamh, "You put the vamp in vampire." Compliment? Insult? Or perhaps an insult under the guise of a compliment. Next it was Keisha's turn, who last week was compared to Shirley Bassey. I thought she said she was going to sing a Shirley Bassey song, but then she said it was Pink's "Get The Party Started." I kept rewinding my tape and definitely heard her say it was a Shirley Bassey song, so I googled it. Turns out, the 70-year-old Bassey recorded that song! I watched the video on youtube and suffice it to say, Shirley's version of looking 70 is how I looked five years ago. She looks amazing! However, the song really didn't show off Keisha in that it has an expansive range of five notes. The longest note held is the first note of the phrase (I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-I'm coming up…), and it's also the lowest. Then, Samantha whom I loved last week unfortunately sang a. a song I never heard of ("See the Day") and b. a song that was in a key appropriate for Bea Arthur on a day she didn't warm up. Too low! Plus she did the ol' "I'm nervous and I can't hit the last note unless I change the vowel" — instead of ending of "Me-e-e-e-e-e," she sang "Ma-a-a-a-a-a-a—ay!" as in the lusty month of. John complained that her acting was not up to snuff and she had nothing behind her eyes. As soon as he said the word "eyes," I thought of his eyes and went into a five-minute reverie of me getting my London citizenship and marrying him by the time Oliver! opens.Seth Barrowman. Sigh.
Francesca was up next, and since she was in the bottom two last week, she said that this week she had to nail her performance and that she can't blow it. Or rather, she "cahn't" blow it. She sang the Queen song "Somebody to Love," and Andrew Lloyd Webber said that he heard her rehearse this afternoon and was looking for the grittiness of Nancy. He told her that in the afternoon, "it wasn't grit and gravel…it was smooth tarmac." First of all, brava on all the construction-worker jargon, Lord Lloyd Webber! Secondly, he said that she changed from the afternoon's performance and added grittiness, and that's the mark of true professional. Or, from my experience, a two-pack-a-day smoker.
By the way, I'm constantly getting emails correcting my mistakes in this column — I can never hear/understand/translate the British references/names correctly. Last column I said that William made the semi-finals to become Oliver. Turns out, his name is Gwion. What the-? What kind of a name is that? Does he have the same parents as Niamh? And Euan Morton?
All the Oliver boys went to the theatre where Billy Elliot is playing and met one of the boys playing Billy. I thought he'd haul out one of the dance moves he does in the show, assuming it would be a kids version of ballet — aka a sweet plie and some pretty arms in fifth position. Turns out the kid did a fierce Balanchine-style scissor kick that was unbelievable! Now, all I want to do is fly to London to go see that show. And marry John Barrowman.
Of course, as soon as the kids went backstage, they did just what I would do; try on the tutus. They showed clips of them doing a scene and singing a song from Billy Elliot for Lord Lloyd Webber and Sir Cameron. There was one kid who I thought had a sassy vibrato, and I was duly impressed. Then all the kids sang the song "Electricity" from Billy Elliot. Each boy had a small solo and it sounded nice, but then they all came in together and went into harmony… and I immediately started crying! It was so beautiful! Watch it on youtube and pack Kleenex!
|photo by © BBC|
After the song, we found out what boy made the semi-finals, and it was Chester — the kid I noticed with the sassy vibrato! I still got it, talent scout-wise! Rachel was up next. She's from Belfast and has the kind of regional accent that makes every sentence she says into a question. She said that she comes alive onstage and that on this show, each week you keep fighting. But it came out "I come alive onstage?" And "Each week you keep fighting?" Each sentence she says is a tip o' the hat to Stravinsky's "Unanswered Question." Any classical music majors? Rachel sang Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," and I am now obsessed with her. I think she's a great actress and was so impressed with her high belting! Of course, I had to run to my piano to test it and at one point, she went from an E flat to a G flat! Work! All the judges said she was great. Or should I say they said, "You were great?" Then Tara sang Mariah's version of "(Can't Live if Livin' Is) Without You." I thought her acting was great and her voice really interesting, but at the top of her range, she clanked out and got busted by the judges for it.
The last crazy Britishism was when Jessie was about to sing and assured us, "I can give it welly! Not tomboy welly, but lady welly." What? She sang "Killing Me Softly," and Lord Lloyd Webber said, "It's not killing me softly, it's pinning me to the back wall with your talent." Hmm, as lyrics they don't exactly scan, but I'm sure she appreciated the compliment.
|photo by © BBC|
Now to the results show. The ladies began by singing "Oom Pah Pah" again, but this time they truncated it to around 30 seconds. It must be the same arranger from the youtube video of Barbra singing "Stoney End" in her latest concert. Barbra essentially sings "I was born from love…Goin' down the Stoney End!" Button. Why is she doing the cruise ship version of "Stoney End"? Sing the whole song! Anyhoo, after "Oom Pah Pah," the girls went on their "Nancy Mission" (aka time filler). This week they had to get in touch with what it felt like to be terrified of onstage boyfriend Bill Sykes, so they were forced to handle live rats. Relevance? None. Reality-show idiocy level? One-hundred percent! Then the women did a scene from the end of Oliver! where they stand up to Bill Sykes, and they had to convince judge Denise van Outen that they were scared of him. I know so little about British theatre/film that the guy playing Bill could have been incredibly famous or someone Denise met on Match.com. The girls were supposed to use method acting to channel the fear they felt handling the rats towards the fear they felt of Bill. Of course, my girl Rachel was amazing…fully breaking into tears during the scene. Yes! Then, harkening back to my previous Barbra comment, the ladies did a group version of the Barbra Streisand/Donna Summer song, "Enough is Enough." Poor Tara. Not only was her song during the live show out of her range on the high notes, but they gave her the one range-y solo in the song ("No-thin' left to ta-a-a-alk about") and, yet again, it was right above her range. Then on her next solo, they passive-aggresively forgot to put her mic on! Stop sabotaging Tara! I was waiting for her to get ixnayed at the end of the show. But before that happened, they trotted out all the Olivers and had them sing a group boy soprano version of "Pie Jesu" featuring the two kids who made it to the semi-finals. Those boys were singing such high soprano notes that I assume if they don't get cast in the role of Oliver, they'll be immediate replacements for Chicago's Mary Sunshine.
|photo by © BBC|
Then came the moment when Graham revealed the bottom two. Shockingly, Tara wasn't amongst them! It was Keisha and Cleo. They did a sing off in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber of the duet "I Know Him So Well" from Chess. I thought they both were good, but Cleo looked devastated throughout and probably wasn't up to her full sass, and Keisha sounded great. At the end of the number, the Lord said that this was the hardest decision he's had to make out of any of the previous shows. I assume he meant the last two seasons of reality shows he's judged, and not just this season because we're only on the second episode. He decided to save Keisha, and poor Cleo had to deal with the depressing "Be Back Soon" song from the other girls and then sing "As Long As He Needs Me" as her swan song. She sounded great on the song 'til the end. She was able to belt the start of the last phrase "As long as he-e-e-e-e-, ne-e-e-e-e-eds," but then instead of finishing with "Mee-e-e-e," she gave us a big "MA-a-a-a-ay," yet again foreshadowing that lusty month that Niamh first sang of. And so, as it began, it ended…with an inappropriate open vowel. Two more recaps coming soon!!
(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.)