It seems hard to believe, but we’re already halfway through Any Dream Will Do. With just eight Josephs left, this week the opening song actually allows solo performances. “Pharoah’s Song”, with its cod Elvis routine, is handled adequately by all. Noticeably, Lee (who has actually played the role of Pharoah for Bill Kenwright in the past) not only benefits from his prior experience, but also gets given the stanza which allows for the greatest expression and individuality. If I were Seamus, I’d be suggesting a conspiracy theory… Noticeably, he’s absent from the crowd but fellow evictee Antony is in attendance.
This week’s theme is “songs of the last four decades”. So, not at all vague, then.
First up this week is Ben who, after being saved by Andrew Lloyd Webber twice, goes to visit Helena Blackman, who in Maria? last year was saved four times. Addicted to Love is kind to him, with most of the vocals filled out by backing singers, but he gives a good show. As with all our Josephs, he seems uncomfortable with any attempt at falsetto, and nearly stumbles at a very obvious edit point in the song. Not the strongest opening performance we’ve had this series, but reasonable. Zoe says Ben’s pitch — apart from a couple of really bum notes — has improved enormously, and she could turn him into Joseph. Bill reckons he’s a contender, too. Andrew disagrees, though, and is worried.
Next, “Cabaret Craig” sings December 1963 (Oh What A Night) — a decent pop song, which is apparently now a musical theatre song courtesy of being used in Jersey Boys. ALW says he wants Craig to be less cabaret — how about giving him a genuine piece of musical theatre with which to prove himself? Zoe says he was better vocally than Ben, but compares his performance to a sack of spuds. For Bill, Craig isn’t yet out of his comfort zone — he’s great, but needs to go for it. Andrew reckons Craig has taken the note about moving away from a cabaret style.
Third is Lee, singing Alright Now. His voice seems to drop out a couple of times in the opening verse, though knowing the BBC that could well be a mic problem. Andrew doesn’t look happy — and to be honest, neither does Lee. This song seems outside his comfort zone any way, but given his throat problems this week this is possibly the harshest song he could have been given. John thought he struggled, but committed to it like a true professional. Denise felt he shouted through it (and Zoe butts in that he was flat, too). Expanding, Zoe thinks that it was rubbish. Doesn’t mince her words, does she? Andrew thinks Lee was better in the dress rehearsal, and has to learn to keep his voice safe.
Keith sings Love Is All Around — and shows that he can really deliver. It’s a storming performance that makes Lee, the professional, look amateur by comparison. Restraint on stage, and as John says, vocal perfection. Denise thinks Lee’s going to have to watch his back now — the performance of the night. Zoe thinks he was great, as does Andrew — but does he have what it takes to portray the older Joseph as well as the younger?
The fifth singer this week is Lewis, with Dancing in the Moonlight. In the verses he has a little tuning problem, and in the choruses he seems to shout a bit too much for my liking. He’s another that Bill thinks needs to do better — which seems to be Kenwright-speak for “wasn’t good enough tonight”. Zoe noted his voice cracking and his ongoing breathing, and says he needs to get his head back in the game. Andrew thinks that he’s regressed.
Rob, meanwhile, sings Back For Good. And, if they haven’t yet finished casting Never Forget, the “Take That” musical, he could make a decent Gary Barlow in the musical’s tribute band. He looks nothing like Gary, of course, but regular readers of The Stage will know that needn’t hold any tribute act back… Performance-wise, he’s less cheesy than last week, and his new look works for him. Bill felt he was nervous. Zoe says he did okay with the hardest song of the night, but prefers his previous, rougher look. Andrew thinks he has talent, but still doesn’t know if he has a West End presence.
Next, Chris B tackles All Night Long. The stern look from Andrew says it all, really — he may sing “come join the fun”, but doesn’t really give me any sense of fun when he performs. Pointing at the audience doesn’t, for me, act as a valid substitute for stage presence. Vocally, he’s incredibly ropey this week. John thinks he’s walking around scared, having not recovered from his knockback a couple of weeks ago when he ended up in the bottom two. He was nervous and bland, he says. For Denise, he needs to toughen up. Andrew still has worries — and rightly, I feel: the snatch of rehearsal we saw on the VT had much more going for it than his live performance tonight.
Daniel rounds off the solo performances with All About You which, while a recent song for McFly, has an elegant simplicity about it that could have stepped straight out of the Merseybeat era. The audience in the studio seems completely engaged, and I was too. A great conclusion to the solo segment of the show. John says he’s “nice, nice, nice”, but wants to see the naughty Daniel. Steady, John! (Mind you, I wouldn’t say no…) For Denise, she saw a platter of cheese, and she wants her heart broken — but Andrew disagrees. Daniel’s definitely got charisma, and he’s going to have to find a song that proves it to the others.
Cue a short break for another bonkers edition of Casualty — I don’t care if those kids were sci-fi fans, I still wanted to swing for ‘em — and an even more bonkers Lottery mini-show (hurrah! Only seven more days until Scooch fade back into the obscurity they deserve!), after which we’re back for the final group performance of the evening.
And, after another bad attempt at comedy by Andrew Lloyd Webber — improved only by an even worse attempt by Meat Loaf (‘Shakespearean’?) — the boys treat us to a rendition of Dead Ringer for Love, in which nobody disgraces themselves but equally, nobody really stands out. Unlike the 35-year-old clip of The Liver Birds, guest starring a very fresh-faced Bill Kenwright…
On to this week’s recorded challenge and, as we exclusively revealed earlier this week, the Josephs descend on the Queens Theatre and ascend the Les Miserables barricade — in which Ben and Craig seem to do the best, Chris does the worst, and Daniel is told he needs to get fitter.
As the panel make their choices for who wasn’t Joseph: Zoe picks Lee, Bill and Denise go for Rob and John says Lewis. When it comes to the public vote, though, it’s Chris and Craig — both sing-off veterans — who have to sing for survival, with Chris getting the fewest votes.
This week’s song is The Long and Winding Road. For me, Chris edged ahead in both stage presence and vocal performance. Andrew saves Craig, though, so we close a door for Chris Barton, who takes it on the chin and gives a great farewell performance. How different from last week — a performance that leaves us wanting to see more of the departing Joseph!