"I'd Do Anything": Rudetsky Recap Two

News   "I'd Do Anything": Rudetsky Recap Two Seth Rudetsky offers his own unique spin on the new BBC reality show, "I'd Do Anything," which will cast the lead roles of Oliver and Nancy in the forthcoming West End revival of Lionel Bart's Oliver!

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I'm back! Sorry for the delay. I got so overwhelmed with getting Broadway 101 going that I got behind on my reality show watching.

I kept getting DVDs in the mail from Playbill.com of the latest "I'd Do Anything" episode and literally felt like Lucy in the chocolate factory. "You're the One That I Want" did both the performance and elimination show all in one hour, but "I'd Do Anything" splits it up into an hour performance show and then a half-hour elimination show. And, there are no commercials so it's really an hour. And, to go along with the crazy, arbitrary times the shows air (6:50 PM . . .seriously), for some reason the hour show runs 70 minutes. Note to time specialists in Britain; that's not an hour! That's a Les Miz version of an hour (aka, long).

All right, let me start with the first performance episode. The first two episodes were without an audience, but now the show's like a typical reality show complete with screaming audience members holding up signs for their favorite Nancys and epilepsy-inducing lights. I forgot to mention last week that Graham Norton hosts the show, and I think he's great. He's not one of the typical American reality show hosts (stiff, uncomfortable and blow-dried).

The "I'd Do Anything" panel: Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Barrowman, Denise Van Outen and Barry Humphries.
photo: BBC

The show opened with all the Nancys in old-school Nancy dresses singing "I'd Do Anything." I turned to James (BF) and said how great it was that the show wasn't shying away from theatre music and was going to do only musical theatre songs on the show. Keep reading to find out how soon I ate my words. After the song, the judges were introduced, and while John Barrowman, Denise Van Outen and Barry Humphries are all sitting on one level, Lord Lloyd Webber is on the level above them…literally on a throne. Oy. Comments? Suggestions? Lloyd Webber told the audience about a previous contender for Joseph who is now going to be in a production of Evita playing Che. Or, as he pronounced it, Che GuevAHra. Isn't it pronounced GuevEHra? And shouldn't he know that because he wrote it? When Judge Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna) was introduced, they had a marquee of when he played Fagin in Oliver, and I saw that his Nancy was Marti Webb. For those of you who watched PBS in the early eighties, you may remember Marti doing the beautiful one-act Andrew Lloyd Webber show, "Tell Me On a Sunday". I remember seeing it as a kid and loving it, but I had no idea what it was or how I could ever hear it again. It wasn't until years later when I went to see Bernadette Peters in Song and Dance that I heard those songs again. Of course, in those days there was no internet, but if it had happened nowadays, I would have gotten my answer within seconds if I had posted What show was just sung on PBS? on a theatre message board. But I would have also had to deal with reading the annoyingly pithy Tell Me On a Sunday n/m. PS, the most annoying is when you see the subject line, take the time to open the message and then see n/m.

Back to the show: We found out that the Nancys are voted on by the audience, but the Olivers aren't. Each week, one outstanding boy makes it to the semi-finals. That way, each week there's a "winner" instead of a devastated ten-year-old loser.

Jessie and Jodie.
photo: BBC

Each Nancy performed a song to show she could play the role. After I was lauding the show for keeping it Broadway-style, my reverie lasted for two minutes as suddenly each Nancy launched into the most un-Broadway songs ever. Jessie, the girl who was recently rejected by two drama schools, sang "River Deep and Mountain High." Appropriate? You decide. Actually, I will. No. Then I had to deal with the headache-y British number system. One of the contestants, Jodie, talked about being on the British version of "The Biggest Loser" and losing eight-and-a-half stone. Is that a lot? A little? I didn't have my converter handy, so I simply gave her enigmatic applause from my apartment, which could have been praiseworthy or condemning. Right after that mystery, the phone number to call flashed on the screen. First, I had to deal with the randomness of their phone number system: 0901 121 20 01. Huh? What's the area code? Why four numbers then three, then two pairs of two? Then Graham Norton said to add 01 to end if you liked Jessie. Stop! Where does it end, and where does it begin. It has a very "Madame I'm Adam" palindrome-like essence to it. All the little potential Olivers sang "Food Glorious Food," and I was taken back to my day when I played an orphan in the Northstage production of Oliver!. And by Northstage, I mean Northstage Dinner Theater. That's right, dinner theatre. But I was too young in those days to be embarrassed by that moniker. I was, however, always embarrassed by the solo I had. I was the only one with the weird half a phrase. My solo was "Piled peaches and cream about…" There'd be an awkward pause, and then all the other boys would sing "six feet high." I hated that my solo ended with a modifier.

Amy and Keisha.
photo: BBC

Back to the show. I really liked Keisha who sang the old-school "Mad About the Boy" after I endured non-stop inappropriate songs by Aretha Franklin and Pink. Barry Humphries praised Keisha and said, "I heard every word you said . . . then again, it's the only song I've recognized." Brava! Then they cut back to the boys and Sir Cameron and Lord Lloyd Webber promoted a little blond kid named William to the semi-finals. It's annoying because we don't really know why he was promoted because all we essentially saw was a production number and random shots of them learning magic tricks. Oh, yeah, that was part of the boys' training. They spent time with a magician and learned how to do sleight-of-hand. What's that about? In my day, we sang/acted/danced and got the gig. I never had to learn magic, except for my Merlin audition to cover Chita.

Francesca and Rachel.
photo: BBC

Francesca (the one who was sick and missed the final auditions but made it to the finals) sang Mariah Carey's "Hero" because…hmm…I don't know why. I guess Nancy needs some super-flexible riffs for "Oom Pah Pah." Francesca just finished playing Joanne in the recent London version of Rent, but, FYI, is not black. Why was Joanne blonde in the recent Rent? If anyone has an answer, please forward it to "What the. . .???" c/o www.sethrudetsky.com. Fransesca also did the Rod Stewart musical there called Tonight's the Night. Is that the next juke-box musical that's going to infect, I mean inflict, I mean open on Broadway? Amy sang a pretty good version of "Respect" and said that she was thrilled to be considered to play a leading lady because she's always been cast as the sidekick. Her last gig was playing Velma in Scooby-Doo. They have Scooby-Doo in Britian? That's so American. But they still insist on calling cookies "biscuits"? Come on! One way or the other.

Samantha and Sarah.
photo: BBC

I was shocked by who my other favorite singer was. Samantha is 17 and from a small town. I wasn't impressed with her on the earlier show, but I thought she sounded amazing! Her outfit was a little bit too revealing for me…but apparently not for the Lord. Every cut-away shot of him during all the other songs showed him with the dissatisfied mug of Joseph during the "Close Every Door" to me scene. But once Samantha hauled out the leather bustier, that Lord was a-smilin' like Evita during the dance break of "Buenos Aires." I also liked Sarah, who sang "Get Here." She's the shortest Nancy contender at 4'11". John Barrowman said that she reminded him of Elaine Paige…which is another way of saying you're 4'11". By the way, he first said, "You remind me of E.P.," which is apparently the nickname Elaine Paige has and a way for John to show that he knows her nickname. I'd bust him for being pretentious, but every time I see his mug I immediately have commitment-ceremony fantasies, and I don't want to call my potential partner pretentious. The two singers whom I thought sounded the weakest (Cleo and Niamh) got praised for their acting. I know that trick. Let's just say that Lauren Bacall got praised for her acting in Applause.

Cleo and Niamh.
photo: BBC

The results show began with the all the Nancys singing a song I never heard of, "The Sound of the Underground," with group choreography…proving that tacky theme-park choreography has "crossed the pond." Then all the Nancys had what they call the weekly "Nancy mission." This week they had to try to fit in amongst London's East End peddlers. They first were given some traditional East End food to eat — jellied eels. The girls were horrified and hardly touched it, but then the show cut back to the studio, there was Lord Lloyd Webber on his throne, chowing down on a bowl of it. G-R-O-S-S! No wonder Sarah Brightman fled his music of the night.

Andrew Lloyd Webber digs into some jellied eels.
photo: BBC

Then Graham asked the judges who they thought should go home…both John and Barry said Amy, who was, of course, devastated. Then Graham read off the Nancys who were safe. The two bottom Nancys (or as Graham called them, the "least popular" Nancys…ouch) were Francesca and Amy . . . devastating Amy once again. Then Graham said he would tell us who had the lowest score. It was Amy, devastating her one more time. Now, instead of the woman with the lowest number of votes being voted off the show, each week Andrew Lloyd Webber saves one of them. Both ladies had to sing a duet version of "Tell Me On a Sunday." The solo went back and forth, and the whole time I was obsessing over who would be forced to hit the "E" on "Ta-a-a-a-a-ake the hurt out of all the pain." It was, of course, Amy . . . devastating her once again . . . and then devastating me when I realized that they transposed it, and she was only hitting a "D." Boring.

Host Graham Norton consoles the devastated Amy.
photo: BBC

Finally, Andrew said that based on some intonation problems, he was going to save Francesca . . . devastating Amy for a fifth and final time. The girls all gathered around her and sang "Be Back Soon," which is passive/aggressive because she actually won't be back soon. She's been told to leave. Then, Francesca removed Amy's "Nancy locket," and Amy sang the final verse of "As Long As He Needs Me." She impressed me at the very end because she sang "As long as he-e-e-e-e-e ne-e-e-e-e-eds" without breathing. Brava! The final British headache was Graham telling us to join him for the next episode . . . the following Saturday at 7:10! Blimey! *

(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.)

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