First off, apologies for the extreme tardiness of this week’s round up. It’s been busy busy busy here at Stage towers. Among other things, we’ve been setting up our own search for a musical theatre voice in assoication with PureSolo and Silva Screen records. But it’s mostly because I’ve been writing lots more print features than usual. Normal service should be resumed from hereon in!
This week’s show opened up with Ease on Down the Road from the 1975 African-American version of The Wizard of Oz. Now that is a show I’d love to see in the West End. Thanks to the ash cloud over Europe, the series’ regular musical director was indisposed — apparently flights into and out of Oz are also affected. Accomplished MD Mike Dixon stood in at short notice, though.
After we lost Bronte last week — and while that may have been a shock choice from the voting public, it was hardly “Brontegate” as Graham implied, unless the voting lines had been rigged in some way or some other nefarious activity went on — Andrew did speak up for her future career. Apparently, she has had a couple of good auditions this week, and got her a place at stage school.
While it’s good to see Andrew banging on about the virtues of getting a good musical theatre training, it does sit slightly at odds with his previous criticisms of auditionees he’s seen who’ve come out the other side of that training, and his championing of these shows’ ability to find “raw talent”.
Some of the girls competing this week really do need the additional training that Bronte and other students of musical theatre courses will get. One or two will require some intensive training should they win. However, there are also the odd one or two who could walk into rehearsals quite quickly — if they managed to overcome some of the wobbles in what turned out to be one of the most inconsistent shows yet.
And in a week which was supposed to showcase dance ability, not many of the solo numbers actually included that much dancing…
First out of the block was Dani — although not before Andrew tried to be funny. “I’m not going to have to save George, Dave or Nick, am I?” he quipped to large scale bafflement. We later worked out that he meant Gordon, not George, and it was a general election ‘joke’. Nope, still not funny.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand, and Dani performed One Night Only from the musical Dreamgirls. Yes, that’s right, a song from a musical! Very little choreography was in evidence from Dani, though, and vocally she didn’t seem very secure at the top of her range. But these minor niggles were eclipsed by the fact that Dani is a very charismatic performer, and on that score she’s one of the better girls in this competition.
Sophie followed up with Avril Lavigne’s I’m With You. She did well to try and bring out the emotion of the song, and delivered a reasonable vocal line for most of the number. Unfortunately, the closing stanzas required her to produce a sound not unlike nails being drawn down a blackboard. That, coupled with even less movement than Dani had to deal with, meant that Sophie was the least accomplished of the first two performers.
Next, Lauren performed Sway with possibly the strongest choreography yet. The vocal strength suffered at times as a result, but considering that last week she was in the bottom two it was an accomplished recovery. It was more controlled and less showy than her previous performances, which (as is so often the case with shows like this) may not work too well on a real stage, but comes across much better on television.
The next contestant was Emilie. And she didn’t get off to a good start in the VT package, by basically dismissing the panel’s comments about her weak vocals. She was given Moon River to sing — another ballad with little in the way of movement save for a very brief waltz in the middle of the song. Which, naturally, meant that the greater emphasis was placed on her vocal performance. Which again was out of tune. She doesn’t have a bad sense of phrasing, getting a good sense of the song, but her pitchiness continues to let her down. The waltz was nice, though.
Stephanie followed with Let’s Get Loud — and what a contrast to Emilie. A fair bit of movement done well, and a strong vocal creating one of the more entertaining solos of the week. While I don’t think she’s as strong as some of the other performers but she’s a pleasure to watch.
Singing next was Steph, singing Out Here On My Own from both of the Fame movies. I loved the tone of Steph’s voice as she started this number - it’s really tough to get that sense of a voice about to break with emotion whilst retaining a sense of musicality. Later on in the number she overworked the same effect a little too much, but other than that it was a stunning, beautiful rendition. Unfortunately, it was another number where “choreography” seemed to mean standing up, walking a bit, then sitting down.
Jenny followed up with Why Do Fools Fall in Love. After the VT showcasing Jenny’s lack of dance ability, it was perhaps inevitable that she didn’t have the most strenuous choreography, with the energetic male dancers helping to compensate. That said, compared to some of the balladeers she managed to cover a fair bit of the stage. I’m warming to her voice as well, although the number itself doesn’t have much light and shade and there wasn’t much attempt to bring some in.
Starting the last pair of soloists, Jessica did a frankly overblown version of Crazy Things Called Love. Commendably throwing herself into the choreography, which was more demanding than many of the other girls’, inevitably the vocal suffered as a result. Out of breath a lot of the time, it affected her ability to keep her pitch.
The final soloist, Danielle, had Could It Be Magic. Starting as a slow ballad (as per Barry Manilow’s original), it soon kicked up into the more frenetic tempo popularised by Take That. Unfortunately, that tempo change marked the point at which Danielle — one of my favourites throughout the competition — really let the vocal get the better of her. Every over-exuberant exhultation of “Come!” was so awful to listen to I began to look back on Emilie’s distinctive vocal stylings with more affection.
We finished the Saturday show with a baffling rendition of America from West Side Story. It was certainly a better test of choreography than some of the solos, and I didn’t spot any particularly bad flaws from any of the girls. The decision to make all the girls attempt Puerto Rican accents, though, was hysterically funny for all the wrong reasons. After the solo songs, though, it was nice to get a routine that at least acknowledged that we’re supposed to be casting a musical theatre performer.
On to the Sunday show, and we were treated to another ‘mash-up’. Which is to say, that we heard a medley. I don’t think the musical team have quite worked out that a genuine mash-up involves using elements from two songs at the same time. Here we had three songs — Losing My Mind from Follies followed by Crazy in Love by Beyoncé and Crazy by Gnarls Barkley — with the latter stages of the medley alternating between the pop songs. Fun, but not a mash-up. And there were a few mic problems, though unfortunately from some of the weaker girls.
The final group number was Buenos Aires from Evita. Unfortunately the little touch of star quality mentioned by the song was missing from a few of the vocal performances. And by that I mean Emilie.
When it came to the results, though, bizarrely Emilie had managed to evade the sing-off once more. Who is voting for her? Is there some form of Rage Against the Machine-style campaign designed to bring down this show from within? As it was, Danielle and Dani were in danger. Apart from the whole ‘neither is Emilie’ thing, this wasn’t a bad call by the public, as both girls delivered weak solos this week.
This week’s sing-off song, Maybe This Time (this week’s “previously on Glee” moment) ensured that both girls has a song they could cope with, and both gave a far better performance than they had with their solo. In the end, Andrew saved Danielle, which I was immensely pleased with as I love the girl. On the downside, that did mean losing Dani who, on her moon-based departure, demonstrated that she can deliver a barnstorming ballad even while swinging above an audience.
And so this coming weekend there will be only eight. And Emilie can’t survive another week, surely?