This week's competition began like all reality shows do in their halfway mark by, yet again, claiming that this week is really getting competitive.
Host Graham Norton let loose with "Tonight, the gloves are off," and "Your votes have never been so important." If that's true, I want the next West End reality series to begin with him saying, "Bo-ring. Everyone's being super nice right now right now, and quite frankly, your votes are meaningless for the next few weeks. So, sit back, relax, don't pick up your phone and wait 'til the real show begins in four weeks." Stop pretending anything is "heating up," "getting serious" or "really getting tense."
The "good news" is the reality show-style abuse of the contestants has finally begun, and thus they were all made to film a segment on who they think isn't right for the role of Nancy and why. As the film footage played, the girls were forced to stay onstage and watch. It was like when Alex DeLarge is made to watch those violent films in "A Clockwork Orange." But with a musical-theatre flair. After all the girls dished each other on film, the camera cut back to them looking in a state of shock. Graham Norton then informed us, "Ooh…it's going to be a very quiet car ride back to Nancy mansion." Brava!
This week we were informed that the song choices were going to highlight all the different sides of Nancy. Lord Lloyd Webber said that Nancy has to be warm, feisty, bubbly, a street girl…but most importantly a survivor. And by "survivor," he means someone who survives for an act-and-a-half and then perishes in a bloody heap. Jessie sang the Christina Aguilera song "Fighter" and sounded pretty good slash a little strainy on top. But I assumed it didn't matter because every time someone strains for a note and sounds raspy, the judges compliment them on their "grittiness." But this week some of the judges were not complimentary. John Barrowman said he heard her Irish accent…she said "ticker" instead of "thicker." Barry Humphries countered with "Nancy could have been Irish." John then said, "But people expect an East End accent." Barry then stared and said, "Why?" There was silence from John Barrowman, as my friend Tim piped up with "If I could tell the difference between an Irish and East End accent, maybe I would care." The Lord — in a know-it-all style — offered up the fact that "In the year Oliver takes place, there were 73,000 Irish in England." Okay, already! I had enough of Andrew Lloyd Wikipedia and got a Diet Snapple Iced Tea from the fridge and arrived back in time to see the Nancys on a field trip. They all went to see Celine Dion in concert, and it was very impressive to see that the producers of "I'd Do Anything" had enough pull to get them seats in the 30th balcony.
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JAMES: Let's watch Keith Olbermann.
SETH: I'll stick my nails into you and I don't care for the consequences. JAMES: Tyra, here we come. Mission accomplished.
Up next was Ashley who sang the Bacharach and David classic, "I Say a Little Prayer for You." I thought she sounded good on it, but the judges said she was over-the-top and cheesy. Plus, Barry was charmingly passive/aggressive; last week after she sang he looked at her with a big smile and said, "You're still here!" This week he said, "Ashley, you're indestructible." But it was the Lord who was the harshest. He said that her performance was casual and that she "loitered" in front of the audience. Then he said that he coached her last week about connecting with the lyrics. "I tried so hard to try and make you understand." He said that she did it during his coaching, but tonight she didn't connect "remotely." He then quoted a lyric from the song to give her a final dish. "I run for the bus? That's what you should take!" YOWTCH! I'm glad she didn't sing the final song from 'night, Mother.
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Then Jodie was up, but first they showed a little update of what happened that week. Jodie said that she was paid a visit by "the love of her life," and I assumed she meant her fiancé. I rolled my eyes and waited for the smooching that was about to come to be over. Turns out, the love of her life is her dog! She hadn't seen him in weeks, so of course I went from rolling my eyes to having tears pouring out them. "Who's a good girl? You are!" After she sang, Barry complimented her diction and said, "I hear every single word….of a song I never heard before." Pause. "But that applies to every song." Brava! And I second him!
Rachel then sang "You've Got a Friend," which is a terrible song choice! Stop making these musical theatre actresses sing pop songs that paint one emotional color!! After she sang, Barry made the following comment, which obviously plunged her: "I see you as a great understudy, rather than a leading lady." Then Andrew Lloyd Webber said that she didn't tell the story. She countered him by saying she told her story. My friend Tim yelled at the screen, "What story? It's the same lyrics over and over again!"
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(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.)