Sunday, 23 May 2010

Hope springs eternal

Finale Results: 22nd May 2010

We're back, and we're live! This makes a nice change - I'm so used to getting the results at around 10.30pm on the Digital Spy forums, I don't quite know what to do with the prospect of actually seeing them announced properly and have it be a surprise. Well, "a surprise". Like Danielle isn't totally winning this thing. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Titles, for the last time ever. No more Andrew gurning terrifyingly into our living rooms every weekend. Unless he happens to pop round for tea and scones at any point, which is unlikely, but not impossible.

Back in the studio, the orchestra plays 'Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead'. Poor Lauren: talk about adding insult to injury. Graham arrives...on a bicycle, being gently lowered from the ceiling on wires. Are we casting for ET: The Musical next? I can't wait for them to shortlist a load of 22-year-olds and then sneer that they're too old to play Gertie. Graham reminds us that Sophie and Danielle are the two girls left standing, and we get a shot of Lauren, who is definitely not the most unpopular girl in the world (she's got to be several hundred places below Heidi Montag on that list, at least). We're reminded of Lauren's exit, and Backstage Lauren says that going out at this point is bittersweet, but she lost to two amazing girls, and the whole experience was amazing and she's going to remember it for the rest of her life. Which probably doesn't amount to much, considering she is SO RIDICULOUSLY OLD, eh Andrew?

Graham reminds us that the phonelines are still open, unless we want to vote for Sophie. The panel are reintroduced, but must share one collective round of applause, rather than getting individual bursts. Andrew's cuckoo-clock theme music plays again to remind us he has lost his power, then we're reminded of the performances from earlier in the evening. Sophie says she feels so much like a Dorothy now that she's going to be Dorothy forever. Or at least for the next 30 minutes. Danielle says that she knows she can do the part justice.

Graham's sitting with the girls, and asks Sophie if she ever expected to make the final. No, she didn't: she came here looking for experience, and she'll be happy whatever the outcome. Danielle says that all the girls are amazing, and she's very proud of everyone. It's so much harder to mock these people when you're basically left with two of the most normal girls in the competition. Curse you, voting public!

From there, we go to their final Dorothy mission, where they must learn to get to grips with Dorothy's most famous scene. Is it not a bit late to be wondering if they can do that bit now? What if neither of them can? I doubt anyone reading this saw any of Legally Blonde: The Search For Elle Woods on MTV in America last year, but in that show the contestants were tasked with the musical's biggest scene (Act One finale 'So Much Better'), on the reasoning that if they couldn't pull that off, it was better to find out sooner rather than later. I think this show could've taken a lesson from that. Anyway, Sophie and Danielle are each armed with a dog, but since DOGS LOVE DANIELLE, I think we know who will emerge triumphant. Sophie's accent is still a little bit peripatetic, whereas Danielle's is, I imagine, full of inner truthy goodness. Danielle says that 'Over The Rainbow', the song is very difficult because of the octave-leap and the fact that it's massively famous. She doesn't think she has to act Dorothy any more, she thinks she can just "be". Someone's been listening to Sheila. Sophie really feels that she is Dorothy, and would be so gutted for it to slip away at this point. Both girls talk bollocks about the Acting Techniques they will use to create Dorothy, and I can't imagine anyone cares so long as they get it together for opening night, am I right? [I don't really care anyway now. I wasn't all that fussed about this show in the first place, and I'm bothered even less now. - Carrie]

Back in the studio, Graham turns to Andrew and asks what we should be looking for in their performances of 'Over The Rainbow'. Andrew tells the girls that they must think why an audience would come to the West End to see them. That's an excellent question.

Sophie goes first, and it's hard to get used to seeing someone singing this song without trying not to cry. Them, I mean, not me. Sophie's voice sounds sweet and clear, and there's a real sense of wonderment and longing in her performance. The audience, goons that they are, cheer and applaud wildly at the key change. As well sung as this performance is, there's still something slightly lacking stage presence-wise with Sophie. She's got better, but I'm still not sure she's quite there yet. Without further ado, Danielle does the same song directly afterwards. Her accent is much more secure than Sophie's, and she's got lovely phrasing. She plays it rather more determined (whereas Sophie's was wistful), and there's an occasional yelly moment, but it's another good performance. There's not a lot to choose between them at this point, to be honest.

Both girls run over to join Graham, who reveals that the winner will be releasing that song as a charity single. Quick, run to iTunes now! Rather than turning to the panel, the girls are instead given a chance to talk directly to the viewers and say why they should be Dorothy. Ooh, it's just like The Apprentice! Bonus points if either of their answers include a variation of "I'm just like you when you were younger, Lord Webber". Sophie goes first, presumably speaking directly to WALES WHERE SHE IS FROM, oggy oggy oggy, and says that she really feels she's grown, and she hopes she's the Dorothy that the public wants - and she really likes wearing gingham. Heh. Danielle can't believe they've been doing this since January, and says that she used to have to search for who and what Dorothy was, but now she feels that it's her.

Now time for the panel's responses: Sheila thought they both captured Dorothy's emotion. John is very proud of Sophie and the way she has blossomed. Yes, yes, John, we've all noticed her rack. He thinks Danielle really is a star. Charlotte thought they both did the song justice, and she thinks the song really suits Sophie's voice, while Danielle has been captivating from the start.

Despite Sheila's protestations last week, it is now time to see who has the nicest grandparents. Sophie's dad is so pleased to see his daughter doing what she loves, while Sophie's mum has 100% faith in her and thinks this is where she's destined to be. Sophie's grandparents think she's always been a little singer even since she was wee. Sophie's mum gets tearful about how Sophie doesn't need their help any more, but it's sweet rather than creepy.

Danielle's nan thinks she's Dorothy because she looks the part. Danielle's mum thinks she deserves to be there. Danielle's nan recalls her singing and dancing as a child. Are we picking up a theme yet? Danielle's mum thinks she's so natural. Danielle's dad thinks the stage will not need lights because Danielle's smile and eyes will light it up by themselves. Aww. Though I suspect he's risking a severe rebellion from theatre technicians at the Palladium with comments like that.

It's time for their final performances: in each case, the girls have picked what they believe was their best performance from the series. Sophie has picked 'Reflection', which I think is the best option she had, though it's a shame she's reprising a performance we only saw last week. That said, the idea that her best performance is her most recent one does fit her "journey" narrative rather nicely. It's a very strong performance again - quite possibly better than last week. It's at this stage I feel slightly saddened that it took Sophie so long to find her mojo, otherwise we really could have had a competition on our hands. Danielle reprises 'Mambo Italiano', despite the unfortunate implications that she peaked halfway through the series. Again, I can understand the choice, because her performances have all been of a fairly consistent standard, but this was probably the most memorable, and at the risk of sounding cynical, it's probably the most obvious vote-getter of the bunch. Again, she does a fine job with it, despite the challenges posed by SINGING AND DANCING AT THE SAME TIME. Continuing my general theme of attempting to re-stage the competition, I wish they'd given Danielle more numbers like this that allowed her to let her hair down, rather than bogging her down with solemn truthy truthy performances, because I like this Danielle much better.

Graham's with the families. He points out that Sophie's mum is her spitting image (and she really is), and Sophie's mum is thrilled at how much she's grown. As a performer, I assume, not in a literal sense. Danielle's nan is reminded that Danielle turned 18 during this competition, so have they seen her grow up? Danielle's nan says that she's seen her grow in confidence (though not BAD CONFIDENCE like Lauren has, I assume).

The lines are now closed! The audience gasps, as though this is some kind of shock. While the votes are counted and verified to make sure Danielle's definitely the winner, we get to recap the series. Huh. Someone really doesn't appreciate all the hard work Carrie and I have been putting in since the end of March. How rude. We begin back at Top 20 (Camille! Yay!) as the Top 10 were selected, and then there was the horror of Emilie being selected as the wildcard. Random performance highlights are recalled, including Jenny's 'So What', Steph's 'It's Oh So Quiet' and Jessica's 'There You'll Be', which was world-class lest we forget. There are also the group performances to recall, and the mash-ups that weren't. Seeing the awesome Gaga medley again is pleasant, seeing the ill-advised mental health medley (and within it, focusing on Emilie's vocals) is not so much. Hey, remember when the missions had winners? Yeah, so do I, distantly. Then came "the ultimate test" - working with animals. Look out for that bus, Jenny! SPLAT! Too late. Also, apparently there was a search for Toto, but only about six people in the entire universe cared, and most of them owned one of the contestants. Then there were singoffs, as we dispatched: *deep breath*: Amy, Bronte, Dani, Emilie, Stephanie, Jenny, Jessica and Steph. And then the sing-out, on the moon. I shall miss that.

Back in the studio, Graham tells us that our votes have raised over £430,000 for the BBC Performing Arts fund. How many years at college will that buy Bryony? Finally, it's time for the results, as Sophie and Danielle are welcomed back to the main stage. Sensibly, they do not at this point ask the panel who should win, having been so roundly embarrassed two years ago when the voting public disagreed with the majority verdict that they'd had to drag CamMac in to secure. Even now I half-expect him to burst through the studio doors screaming "Jessie is Dorothy! Call off the search!" before being bundled into a secure van and driven to the nearest padded room. Both girls look very sombre, and Graham reminds us that they are young, not like that CRONE Lauren. The winner is....

...Danielle, of course. To her credit, she's really not expecting it, judging by the look of absolute horror on her face. Hee. Sophie hugs her and tells her well done, then kisses her on the cheek and attempts to book it off to the sofa - presumably having assumed she was supposed to scarper and give Danielle her moment, but of course Graham wants to talk to her, so he grabs her and pulls her back to take a bow before rejoining her family. Everyone's on their feet and cheering for Danielle. "You're a West End star!" Graham tells her. "I'm not!" she scoffs. Danielle says that she doesn't think "thank you" is enough for everyone who's supported all the girls throughout the competition. It's not the most articulate speech I've seen a reality show winner give, but it's definitely up there with the most gracious ones, so points for that. Andrew's very pleased with the result of course: "the nation has never got it wrong yet", he says, despite the fact that they didn't vote for the Nancy he wanted last time. Still, justice for Jodie is better late than never, I suppose. He tells Danielle that the hard work starts now, but she knows how to act from the soul. Danielle must hand her shoes to the Lion, but gets to replace them immediately with the ruby slippers that have been sitting in Andrew's crystal ball all series. They fit. "CONSPIRACY!" scream a thousand people on the internet. It is quite funny though, as the whole studio looks on anxiously to see if her shoes will fit, and Danielle turns to the audience and confirms "I'm in!" with a look of mock-relief on her face. Bless. There's a shot of Sophie's mum crying, though with pride or sadness I guess we'll never know.

Having been crowned the nation's Dorothy, Danielle gets to sing 'Over The Rainbow' one last time, with all of her truthy truthy truthiness, while looking faintly overwhelmed by the whole situation. Instead of climbing onto a moon this time, however, she's led into a basket filed with balloons, which gradually raises her up as the rest of the contestants flock onto the stage to wave her off. She bottles the final note very slightly, but the look of "OMG!" on her face immediately afterwards as her victory sinks in is brilliant.

So there we have it! Andrew got the Dorothy he wanted, and in all fairness, she probably was the best candidate for the part. Hopefully we'll all be here again next year to sift through a new batch of West End hopefuls (can we have some boys again next time please?) - but whatever happens, we'll be back for The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing in the autumn, so I hope you'll join us then.

There's no place like home

Final - part 1
Tx: 22nd May 2010

Now, you may not know this, but Andrew Lloyd-Webber has been looking for a girl to play Dorothy, and people auditioned and were put through and sang on live television and were eliminated thanks to your phone vote and NOW IT'S THE FINAL. Ready?


Graham marches on, and the girls aren't made to stand around on steps clapping along. They are elsewhere. Notably, Sheila is clapping but she is refusing to clap in time; she is merely applauding the appearance of the show's presenter. Anyway, he introduces the audience, the panel and Lloyd-Webber, and once more recaps the entire concept of the show before calling on the final 11 Dorothys who perform a Wizard Of Oz medley. Danielle, Lauren and Sophie descend on swings with roses entwined up the cables. Then some children appear to be munchkins, dancing round with the girls, and Graham fakes playing a gay-rainbow-pride violin. Incidentally, the Lion costume looks like it's been at the back of a wardrobe somewhere for at least three years. Jessica pulls some crazy faces, of course; it's nice to have her back.

Graham explains YET A-FUCKING-GAIN what the point of the show is. As with the previous series, the third-placed girl will be eliminated at the start of the first programme, and the final two will fight it out in the results show. And then he introduces the panel again, even though they will be doing pretty much nothing tonight, but it is worth noting that Andrew is wearing a brooch in the shape of ruby slippers. We're also supposed to be getting excited about the fact that there will be a Toto selected tonight. Yes, for ONE BLOODY PERFORMANCE. Anyway, the phone lines open.

And yet we still get no singing. Instead we go to Lloyd-Webber's big fat Tory house, for a fake-out Dallas title montage. Sophie is the first to get her own VT, and bless her, she wheels out a bunch of cliches about "being Dorothy"; Lauren cannot believe she is in the final three, and is excited about recreating the role (shouldn't she be redefining the role?); Danielle says she has never wanted to do anything else with her life. You're 18. You've barely HAD a life.

Lloyd-Webber has chosen the girls' first set of songs. He delays the performances by having a quick thank-you session for the production staff and the girls, and then listing all the qualities his winner should have, which surprisingly does not consist of the two-word answer "Be Danielle".

Sophie is first to perform, and in her VT she finds it hard to believe that she is in the final, and reminisces about the scariness of the audition process, playing rugby, and all sorts of other useful skills you need to be a West End leading lady. [Maybe she's auditioning for the role of Hazel in Up 'N' Under: The Musical? - Steve] She knows that she can do it. And the way Andrew Lloyd-Webber has chosen to illustrate this is by asking her to sing the most famous song ever sung by a red-headed girl, 'Tomorrow' from Annie. Sophie is standing on circular perspex steps, and employs a bit too much rubato for my tastes, but some of her top notes are very nice indeed. She's even getting the American accent dead-on. Incidentally, John Partridge is SINGING ALONG. Interesting acting choice from Sophie for her last note, opting not to belt, but going for a quiet whisper for "away".

Sophie reminds us that she is from Tonypandy, and she gets a VT from Dame Ruthie Henshall, who tells her that she is a winner regardless of what happens. Sheila says Sophie has true glamour, not in a "WAGgy, blingy way, but old-fashioned allure", and her transformation is amazing. John says he has been her harshest critic but he is very proud of her and WALES WHERE SHE IS FROM HAS A WINNER IN HER. Charlotte says Sophie looks pretty and has an emotive face and WALES WHERE SHE IS FROM SHOULD BE PROUD OF HER, "good girl". Andrew says WALES WHERE SHE IS FROM SHOULD INDEED BE PROUD OF HER and 'Tomorrow' is also sung with a dog. Seriously. That's what he says.

Lauren's next up. She has been in the bottom two a gazillion times and she is worried that she is the most unpopular girl on the planet. She thinks the public haven't warmed to her because she hasn't shown vulnerability. But she shoehorns in some humility, saying she never thought she'd be here and thanks Andrew for saving her.

For some reason she is singing 'I Could Have Danced All Night' from My Fair Lady, beginning by sitting on the Brian Friedman Memorial Chair Of Shiny Seating. Brilliantly, she points to her head when she sings the word "head". And for an even more opaque reason, the audience decide to clap along. WHY? It is the least clap-along-able song in the history of musical theatre. Lauren's last note is DEMENTED - she goes for the top B flat rather than sticking to the F (I believe), and she's very shaky, though the range is clearly there. [I love how we're 0 for 2 on closing notes at this point. MOST TALENTED GROUP EVER! - Steve]

Lauren does the humility thing again, then she clearly wins at life because Sheridan Smith does a VT for her - "I feel like a proud mother. Well, big sister" (adorable wink). John says Lauren is definitely not the most unpopular girl on the planet. Resounding praise there. [I was half expecting him to say, "look, Amy's over there." - Steve] He says she is a leading lady and she is ready for the challenge; and if he was producing the show he'd have cast her weeks ago. Well, that would have been a little bit naughty to break the rules of the competition. Charlotte lies that the top note was gorgeous and that she is jealous of Lauren. Then Sheila reminds us all why she is the best reality TV judge around by saying that she initially thought that Lauren was all "eyes, teeth and tits" and when the idiot audience gasp, she dismisses their horror with, "I don't care, it's the end of the show, they can't sack me." Incidentally, Stephanie's face when Sheila says "tits" is something to see. Andrew says it was the first top B flat on any of the shows, so well done for that. But it wasn't a GOOD one, was it? [I'm not even sure it was actually a top B flat. - Steve]

Danielle reminds us that she is a little girl from Urmston [there's two ways to get to Urmston - Steve] and has had to make a HUGE decision between education and performing, because of course they don't let you back into college after the age of 17. She is scared that the public might not be behind her, and then hilariously says that as a performer you have to be able to handle rejection, despite the fact that she is 18 and has never auditioned for anything before.

Holy moly, she's singing '76 Trombones' from The Music Man. She seems to have some backing vocals from somewhere. I really don't understand why she shouts so much; is that her Acting, or is she going for volume? Also, at the key change, her "Se-ven-ty-SIX trom-bones" is a HIDEOUS ROW. On the plus side, she can certainly dance.

Danielle reminds us ONCE AGAIN that she is a little girl from Urmston, and then loses at life because Tamzin Outhwaite does her VT and says, "If I was as good as you at your age, I'd have been laughing." To be fair, Outhwaite, if you were as good as her now, you'd be laughing. John says Danielle has always been a contender; Sheila is grateful to the public for picking up on her ability; Andrew argues that the song is witty and THE AUDIENCE AT HOME SHOULD REMEMBER THAT DANIELLE WAS DANCING DURING THAT NUMBER.

More VT bollocks at Lloyd-Webber's house. He has found a dog from somewhere, and sits on a bench with Danielle and the dog so DANIELLE LIKES DOGS AND THEY LIKE HER, REMEMBER THAT, THANKS. When Lauren sits at the table with Lloyd-Webber, the dog is sitting on the lawn, about five metres away. Andrew advises Lauren to forget all her training. Right. That sounds good advice. And when it's Sophie's time for a little chat, the dog is nowhere to be seen. OK? Have we all got that? Understand?

Recap. (See above.)

Time for the girls to perform side-by-side with the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow. Danielle seems to have developed a really irritating habit of flicking her hair back, for which I judge the hair department. I also get sidetracked at the thought of Toto possibly chasing the Lion's tail round the stage. Sheila says Lauren was fantastic; Charlotte says Danielle is one of the most remarkable talents that has ever emerged from these shows; John says that nine weeks ago, Sophie couldn't even walk down the stairs in her shoes. Andrew says he is purring away (ew) and all three girls could be Dorothy.

Oh, for fuck's sake, Toto montage where all the crazy owners talk about how lovely their dogs are, which I'm sure is true, but seriously, this is for ONE PERFORMANCE. Or as Dani and Pirate Jessie would sing, ONE NIGHT ONLY. How much time and money has been wasted on this? Anyway, the panel sit down and talk about the dogs, and Lloyd-Webber is there too, despite not being a dog-man. Also, they say that Spider would be the first performing beagle ever, though I feel Snoopy would take issue with that.

So, who will be Toto? It is Dangerous Dave! The Prenj comes on with him and says how awesome he is and then fusses him. Love the Prenj. [I wish she'd been on the real panel rather than on the stupid dog search. - Steve] She wishes the girls luck. And then she and Dave go away again.

And the lines are now frozen! So while the votes are counted, time for another VT of all the eliminated Dorothys, who go to see Sheila in Sister Act. Sheila wants them all to have a good, well-planned future - Emilie has a scholarship, Steph has some auditions, Stephanie has an agent, Dani is doing her A-levels, Bronte looks like she was actually in Chicago as Roxie. Amy Booth-Steel looks really, really odd, and says that I'd Do Anything opened so many doors for her; for example, being in a show that closed after three performances.

Back in the studio, the former Dorothys sing Empire State Of Mind while leaning on black boxes. Emilie is fucking awful and cannot do melisma. Add that to the list of things to cover in those well-publicised singing lessons, please.

So, time for the results. Danielle could still be Dorothy, of course; and so could Sophie. Lauren is out in third place, and does a little curtsey as the audience and panel rise to their feet to applaud her. Danielle is clapping too, while Sophie is flapping about like a lunatic, though she does eventually get herself together. Lauren says she has learnt a lot about herself and made some friends for life. Yeah, we'll see, girlie. Andrew says he is not surprised by the result because she is SO VERY OLD but he will be in touch with her in the future. Fnar.

Graham's autocue seems to break at this point, or he's being shouted at through his earpiece, and he is really odd. Anyway, Lauren has to hand back her shoes and sail off on a sparkly moon. The Lion applauds. I wish I knew who that was. The Tin Man and the Scarecrow are on their feet at the end too.

So the lines are open again, all votes will be carried over...and Steve will be here shortly to recap the results!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Let me be your Dorothy. No?

Semi-final results
Tx 16th May 2010

Graham welcomes us, resplendent in a shiny spludge-coloured jacket. He advises us to get tissues ready (fnar) and the girls swing into a repeat of their song that is not from The Wizard Of Oz. Steph is getting significant screams and whooping from the audience. Sophie looks like she is going to slip over in one of the little quick-step routines.

We are reminded that Andrew has a bulging collection (seriously, it's double entendre week) and one more Dorothy will be adding to it later. Graham introduces the panel, and Charlotte looks like Morticia Addams. He previews another non-mash-up and Sierra Boggess is the night's special guest star.

By the way, I've looked ahead, and there will be a LOT of time-wasting Toto action tonight.

Recap of last night - Sophie was really very good, and was over the moon with the nice comments; Steph was underwhelming with an unimpressive song, but couldn't have asked for better comments from John, who said she was the girl he was looking for (except not like THAT, obviously); Lauren's mum thought she was good; Danielle's vocals were FLAT until she threw in some vibrato but was thoroughly praised anyway. Sheila has been wrong every week, she says; Charlotte thinks they could all be Dorothy (isn't that the point of the show?); John is biting his nails.

Back in the studio, Charlotte says she wouldn't have a clue who should be Dorothy if she was watching at home. Some cruel people might say she doesn't have a clue when she's watching right there. Lloyd Webber looks deranged and makes a really odd gag about swallowing chipolatas. And then he realises what he's said and crumples in his seat with a fit of giggles. Anyway, this is all a prelude to the mash-up/medley/megamix, which is of songs to do with raining, starting with Singin' In The Rain, leading into Umbrella. Sophie struggles with the steps again. And interestingly with the vocal leaps in Singin' In The Rain, it is very evident who has range (Lauren, mostly) and who doesn't. Weirdly, Lauren is in yellow, Steph is in pink and Sophie is in green. Partridge is dancing in his seat, like he wants to rush the stage and join in.

Oh, time for a lot of footage of the search for a dog to play Toto in one single show that about 2,500 people MAXIMUM are going to see. And it's not even new footage, it's a montage of drivel we've seen earlier in the series and I'm really not recapping this. Sorry.


...oh, and there isn't even anything new,there'll be another VT later. Seriously, more dogs?

On the Dorothy bleachers, Sophie is beaming and would like to get to the final; Danielle is worried she might be in the bottom two and spouts some cod psychology; Steph did the best she could have done and hopes it was enough; and Lauren thinks it would be brilliant if Lloyd Webber wrote a musical for her and Danielle because they would be GREAT. [The musical itself, on the other hand, would probably be shit. - Steve]

More filler - the Over The Rainbow "live events", where people around the UK have been singing with Jodie Prenger, and reject Dorothys Amy, Dani, Bronte and Emilie. Emilie? REALLY? Teaching other people to sing? [She's had lessons! She KNOWS HER CRAFT! - Steve] People says how much they like the Prenj and the girls. And that's it. Weird VT.

And here's another weird VT - Sierra Boggess observing the girls in rehearsal and then sitting down for a little chat. She's a little less miserable about EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK than Outhwaite, saying that it isn't a job, it's a lifestyle, but seeming quite positive that it's a great life to have. She advises the girls to act more, like Lauren needs that particular tip.

Oh, gosh, and now she's in the studio and singing Love Never Dies, partly from the West End show of the same name and partly lifted from The Beautiful Game. Anyway, this is not the best showcase of the score, so fuck knows why Lloyd Webber keeps wheeling the poor girl out to sing it. She puts in about half the required amount of consonants, though, so that's a progression.

Not had enough canine action yet? Why, fret not! Time for another task - "acting out Toto's big scene". After a trip to the dog grooming parlour. Really? Is my licence fee really paying for slices of cucumber to be put on a dog's eyes? REALLY? The dog trainer lady reckons that these dogs are now household names. Oh, dog trainer lady. Your self-delusion will go down in legend. Anyway, the dogs are acting out the scene where they pull the curtain back to reveal the Wizard, aka Lloyd Webber himself. Some dogs can do the trick, some cannot. This is prime-time entertainment, kids. Lloyd Webber gives his award for the day to Troy; the panel give their award to Eddie. Now, tell me honestly that you know which dogs they are just from their names.

There's time for a quick VT in which the girls talk about why they want to be in the final. It's the usual platitudes - cut-and-paste the stock phrases of "fighting", "upping my game", "don't want my journey to end", etc etc.

And the panel are asked who is not Dorothy - Sheila says Steph; John says Steph (WHO JUST A FEW HOURS AGO SAID SHE WAS HIS FAVOURITE) [bloody turncoat - Steve]; and Charlotte says Steph. The audience howl their disapproval. The girls are given a recap of their comments they got earlier, and then it's time for the results - Danielle is OF COURSE the first one through (and Lloyd Webber surreptitiously hides his mobile phone under his chair, satisfied with a job well done); Lauren is in the bottom two; Sophie is through to the final, which leaves poor Steph in the sing-off again, with resignation written all over her pretty little face. Lauren is looking just like Idina Menzel at the moment, by the way. If it was down to viewer votes alone, Steph would be out. She's plastered a grin on and so clearly knows that whether she sings Another Suitcase In Another Hall or not, she's on her way out. Lloyd Webber adds insult to injury by telling them they're both too old to play Dorothy, and gives a big-up to Tim Rice, at which the idiots in the audience applaud (to his credit, Sir Tim tells them all to shush). [If there's one reality TV trope that irritates the living shit out of me, it's telling someone halfway through the run that they're "too old" - they're hardly likely to have got younger since you started, are they? - Steve]

So the girls sing. And Lauren's voice is better, though her acting is still musical-theatre-by-numbers (I particularly like her face for "gloom"). Steph sings it perfectly well but she has lost her spark. Lloyd Webber fusses a bit about it being like losing a member of his family, but of course he saves Lauren, who looks crushed for her friend. Steph gets a standing ovation from everybody (including Lauren's fans), and she cries a little bit. Lloyd Webber says he doesn't get the connection between head and heart with Steph's acting, but she is very talented and she will go a long way. Steph's dad is beaming with pride as she shouts her thank-yous to everybody. Oh, bless him, he's had a few tears as well.

The Dorothys bid us farewell. And with the numbers thinned out, the girls all have chance to have a bit of a cuddle, which is oddly sweet. Lauren really isn't singing very much at all. Sophie is gazing into the distance. Steph begins her solo and Lauren seriously falls apart. Oh, Lauren, bless you. As the sparkly moon rises, the applause from the audience threatens to drown out Steph's vocals. Her dad, God love him, is still smiling at his little girl and clapping vociferously. And she belts the hell out of the last notes. Well done, Steph, another classy exit to be proud of.

So next week is the final! Will Lloyd Webber get his opportunity to svengali Danielle, or will the great British public thwart his nefarious plans? Join us then!

It's not about aptitude, it's the way you're viewed

Top 4: 15th May 2010

Last week! The producers chartered a small fleet of buses to pass through the studio on Saturday evening and ensure that they left a flattened Jenny in their wake, following which the general public decided that they'd had enough of mad faces and quirkiness and thus Jessica took the second bullet in the double elimination. Tonight! We're in the semi-final, and this is the last time that Andrew can save one of the girls from the unending horrors of a contract with We Will Rock You, so naturally the girls are determined not to be sent packing. They all spout various reality TV show clichés about how this is THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT OF THEIR RELATIVELY SHORT LIVES THUS FAR! It's times like that that I miss Stacey Solomon and her "there's always Asda" approach to reality show fame. Although, where is she now? Is she, in fact, now working in Asda? That's a question for another recap, because this! is! Over The Rainbow!

Titles! I assume they meant for it to look like Andrew was peering into my living room through his opera glasses, but either way, I still feel incredibly violated every time it happens.

Studio. 'We're Off To See The Wizard', instrumental version, and a shiny Irishman. Graham spoils the fact that Chelsea have won the FA Cup for anyone who may not have seen the match yet, though I imagine that the crossover audience between this show and The Football is fairly slim. Even Andrew is looking comparatively unimpressed by the pyrotechnics these days. The four remaining girls sing 'Together Wherever We Go' from Gypsy, which as far as I know has no relation to The Wizard Of Oz, other than the fact that it was once recorded by She Who Must Not Be Named and her daughter, and suddenly I am glad that we're nearing the end of the series if they can't even be bothered to find Oz-themed songs to open the show with any more. The good news, however, is that they all sound in fine voice tonight, and the choreography doesn't hamper them too much either. In fact, it's quite nicely set up, as each girl gets a moment alone on camera for her solo line, and then is joined by two of the others appearing as if from nowhere for a harmony at the end. It's cute, although it does remind me of this a little bit.

Post-performance, Graham reminds us that everyone remaining has been in the sing-off at least once and been saved by The Lord, which is completely unprecedented on shows of this nature. Please feel free to ruminate at your own leisure about what this says for the viewing public's general level of investment in (a) this batch of girls; (b) this production as a whole. [I did, last week, and got called a bitch for my troubles. - Carrie] We're reminded also that Jenny and Jessica were ousted last week and their shoes now hang from the Chandelier of Doom, which is growing more precariously heavy by the day. The panel are back, of course: "first lady of theatreland Sheila Hancock, twinkle-toed EastEnder John Partridge [and] Wales's finest export, Charlotte Church". The hyperbole on this show is LITERALLY THE MOST EXCESSIVE I HAVE EVER WITNESSED. Graham quizzes Andrew about the lack of a "clear frontrunner", if you believe such a thing to be true, and I personally do not (I still consider this Danielle's competition to lose), and Andrew makes an ill-advised attempt at topical political humour. Luckily no one suggests having a coalition of Dorothys in the parts. Andrew says that all of the rejection they've experienced in the sing-offs is good experience for the theatre, which continues the thread of sunny optimism begun by Tamzin Outhwaite and her tales of the mind-numbing boredom of EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK last Sunday. Andrew encourages us to think of the girls as individual actors, and to think of them as people: can they be Dorothy? Can they go on a JOURNEY?

From there, we're gifted to a few teasers of what's coming up, and from there we're onto the first two girls: Sophie and Steph. Sophie says that last week was tough, and she's thrilled that the public kept her in. Having been buoyed by the chance to watch a Betamax recording of some old ladies saying they supported her" a few weeks back, she now has the opportunity to go home and be hugged by some old ladies in person, and sign autographs outside the post office. (Which is closed, by the way, presumably as a direct result of BROKEN BRITAIN.) Sophie meets up with her Very Supportive Granddad Haydn, who's the same one who chastised Wales as a whole the other week for not keeping her out of the bottom two. Steph, meanwhile, has made the treacherous trip back to...London to see her family, who are all very excited to see her. She takes us to the bar that she worked in before she was in the show, and hugs someone who is presumably her (former?) boss. She says that she enjoyed the job, but does not want to be pulling pints for the rest of her life.

Before the girls get a chance to sing, Graham has a quick chat with Andrew about what he's expecting: he would like Sophie to come out of her shell, and for Steph to de-age by about four years connect her head with her heart. Sophie takes to the stage first and sings 'Reflection', which is either from Mulan or by Christina Aguilera, depending on your perspective. I don't remember being especially impressed with this the first time that I watched it, but on review, it is actually a pretty good performance. It's one of the best vocals she's given on the show, easily, and while the performance part is still a little wooden, there is at least a sign that she's managed to attach a personal emotion of some sort to the song, so it resonates more strongly. Steph's singing Take That's 'Rule The World', and appears to be doing so in a key slightly too high, which both sounds slightly strange and, I think, leads to her delivering an unusually subdued performance. It's not a bad performance, at all, and Steph's always a pleasure to watch, but there's just something missing tonight, and my gut feeling after watching it was that she might be in trouble this week, because both of her previous visits to the sing-off were after technically-fine-but-still-underwhelming performances.

Graham asks Sophie who the biggest threat is in the top four, and she says everyone, because Steph's a triple threat, Lauren's a great singer and Danielle's brilliant at acting. So, wouldn't that make Steph the biggest threat, then? Steph, in turn, is asked what it would mean to make the final, because as we all know backwards by now, she was in the singoff in the first week. Steph says that she never imagined she'd make it this far, and hopes she's done enough to still be here next week. Charlotte is asked who has the vocal edge, and sits on the fence a little bit. She calls 'Rule The World' "a classic" (really?) while pointing out that it's a "man's song" and therefore gave Steph an extra hurdle to overcome, but she likes the fragility in the lower part of Steph's voice. She also thinks Sophie's had a breakthrough and gave a lovely vocal. Sheila thinks Sophie took a big leap forward, but could've been a bit more subtle and given a bit more puzzlement, but it was a step forward. She thinks Steph, on the other hand, was great, even though it's a pop song so Sheila doesn't have a clue what the words mean (and seriously, every time she says that, I go off her a little bit more). She tells Steph to watch her shoulders and push her hair back, like we're suddenly on America's Next Top Model and dressing for go-sees. John says that Steph's the girl that he wants out of the final four, and tells her that to be a leading lady you need talent and a break: she has talent, and he hopes the public give her that break. Aww. He loved Sophie's performance too, and tells her it was her best performance to date. Andrew tells Sophie she did well, despite singing A POP SONG, but he would've liked her to play it a tad more innocently because they're looking for Dorothy. I've honestly lost track of whether they're supposed to be channeling Dorothy or not in these main songs, but even if they are, I challenge anyone to find me an appropriate context for Dorothy to sing that song over the course of the damn show. He also thinks Sophie turned a corner tonight, despite having a difficult song.

Toto preview: this week's task appears to involve grooming, and Andrew being made to look scarier than he normally does. I'll let Carrie fill that in for you later. [Cheers. - Carrie]

From there, we're off to rejoin Lauren and Danielle. Lauren says that being in the bottom two doesn't get any easier second time around, but she's so happy to be in the final four. She goes home, where everyone is waving placards at her. She makes a special visit to her nan and granddad, the latter of whom she explains hasn't been able to come and see her perform because he suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and doesn't like to leave his living room. And if you're expecting me to make a joke here, you're going to be disappointed, because I once suffered from panic attacks so badly that I could barely make it to the end of the front path without collapsing in a hyperventilating heap, so for once I'm going to can the sarcasm and sit here quietly empathising. Lauren's grandpa tells her he's impressed, and she's pleased that he's had a chance to see her perform. Danielle recalls last week's visit to the bottom two and thinking she was a goner, but is relieved to still be here. She goes home, and immediately cracks up at the rapturous reception that's waiting for her, which is super-cute. She skips up a makeshift yellow brick road and hugs a load of her pals. She visits lots of local shops where people have hung "vote Danielle" posters and baked "Danielle for Dorothy" cakes, which makes me wonder if she's related to Robbie from So You Think You Can Dance.

Back in the studio, Andrew says that he would like Lauren to display some vulnerability, while Danielle is a raw talent who has grown the most of all the girls in the competition so far. This, just in case you've forgotten, is in response to the question of what he would like them to deliver tonight. You may have spotted that he did not answer the question for Danielle, which perhaps suggests he thinks she's perfect as it is. Hmm.

Lauren's up first, singing 'Heaven', the DJ Sammy version. She inserts a bit of a playful giggle into the lyrics, which is a nice touch, but it's not long before she reverts to her biggest flaw: literally acting the lyrics out line by line. That includes reprising last week's Joey Tribbiani Confusion Face for "I'm finding it hard to believe", and then looking skyward for "we're in heaven". And, my personal favourite, standing very still for "I'll be standing there by you". The song's key change is very awkward and results in some deeply unpleasant noises as Lauren swings randomly between her lower and upper register, and there's a touch of hysteria to the closing notes as the giggle that sounded nice at the beginning rages out of control. Danielle sings 'When You Believe', which starts out sounding lovely as she carefully negotiates the Stairs Of Doom, though in the second half of the song, she appears to be singing directly through her nose, which is unfortunate. Danielle probably gets the honours for best solo performance this week, though none of them were exactly perfect.

Lauren tells Graham that she's grateful to have been saved last week, and she hopes she's given Andrew enough faith in her again this week - and an uncharitable observer might assume that she thinks she's destined for the bottom two again based on that comment. Danielle is quizzed about her alternative career plans, and admits that she wanted to be a crime scene investigator, though this was probably just because she's nosey. Sheila thinks they were two cracking performances, and that Lauren caught the "wonderment of love", and applauds her for not getting carried away even when the idiot audience started cheering. Heh. Once again, Sheila does not understand what Danielle's pop song was about, but apparently this is a good thing, because Danielle did not impose a meaning on it. Yep, Sheila's kind of losing me here. [I really didn't understand this. So it's OK not to convey a meaning because it's up to the audience to interpret? - Carrie] John calls them "the voice and the actress" - and seriously, how long has Danielle been the acting wunderkind of this show? I always thought it was her strong singing voice that was keeping her afloat despite some so-so acting performances, rather than the other way around - and says that it would be great if they could mix the two together. Sheila, sensing a threat to her beloved Danielle, cries foul and says that Danielle has a great voice, and John's all "yes! I know!" John had precisely the opposite reaction to me with Danielle's performance, in that he loved the second half but wasn't sure about the first, but he thinks that even divas have an off day. He thinks that Lauren adopted some of Danielle's sensitivity and truthfulness, and combining that with her voice makes her unbeatable. Charlotte thinks Lauren is incapable of giving a bad performance, and that she took on board what Andrew said last week about occasionally getting a bit shouty. And here we have our weekly tiresome battle between John and Charlotte, because he jumps in and claims that she called Lauren "screechy" last week (I no longer have last week's episode to refer to, but the recap seems to be on Charlotte's side here). John, incredibly rudely, insists that Charlotte said Lauren "screeched the whole way through the song", at which point I call bullshit for sure, because even if Charlotte did utter the word "screechy" at some point, and I still seem to recall that being Andrew, Charlotte doesn't have it in her to say anything that sharply critical. Anyway, Charlotte finally gets him to shut up and says that she missed some of the power of Lauren's vocal this week (at which point John pipes up about what he thinks she said last week, and seriously, SHUT UP, JOHN) and finally it's over. Charlotte tells Danielle that she works really well with substance to the lyrics, and the vagueness of that song meant it wasn't one of her best performances, but she made some lovely noises, apparently. And then Charlotte says happy birthday to her nana. No, seriously.

Andrew tells Lauren that she'll always give her best, and thus she is a producer's dream, but he wonders if there should've been a touch more sweetness in her performance. To Danielle, he says that she's one of those actresses who relies on her inner truth, and gave an extraordinary performance, and that "you've got a long way to go in the theatre." By which I suspect he means "you'll go a long way in the theatre", because what he said wasn't quite the same thing.

It's not over yet! The girls have a mission ahead, in which they must learn to speak like a genuine Kansan. We'll get that in more detail later, because the girls will now be doing duets. Sophie and Steph are up first, and they get a mock-rivalry VT in which Sophie refers to Steph as one of her best friends. They do bicker very cutely, it has to be said. Sophie is worried that Steph is a triple threat, while Steph is worried that Sophie is a very funny and charismatic performer. She must be seeing something we aren't. She talks about having to rise to Sophie's level as a performer, and come on now. I like Sophie a lot, but that's clearly a load of crap. Sophie says that she really needs to start shining. "I really want Sophie to do well, but I just want to do a little bit better than her," Steph concludes. Heh.

They sing 'I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair' from South Pacific in polka dotted towels. Vocally, they're both giving it some, and they've both chosen to play it rather angrily, which I think is a bit of a shame because I think they're missing some of the comedy they could've got out of it if they'd played it with a touch more amused exasperation. Oh God, I sound like Sheila. Cameron Mackintosh will be pleased to see that the choreography calls for both girls to touch their hair as a way of showing emotion, anyway.

From there, we go straight into Lauren and Danielle's VT. Danielle thinks Lauren's a strong contender, but isn't going to let that faze her. Lauren doesn't want to be overshadowed by Danielle. They're singing 'Popular' from Wicked, and Lauren's sure that Danielle's acting skills will make her shine on stage. Danielle says that they have to work as a team while also trying to stand out.

They sing at matching vanities, and it begins with Danielle kissing a gold-framed picture of herself, which I have to admit kind of wins me onto her side from the outset. She's very good in this, actually - very animated, very good at doing business with her props without seeming hammy (something that Lauren's not quite so adept at), and she sounds great. Lauren's acting, on the other hand, is a little bit overstated, and has the unfortunate effect of aging her, to the point where I wonder if she's actually playing the role as Norma Desmond, given the giant vanity and everything. I also struggle to suppress a giggle when Lauren has to sing the line "I know about popular", considering the reaction she prompts on a lot of the messageboards I've been reading. Vocally they're matched evenly all the way, but Danielle makes the performance look easy, and that's why she wins this one for me.

John's asked who came out on top, and he thinks they're both sensational, but if he had to answer, he'd pick Danielle. Between Steph and Sophie, Steph was the more polished choreographically, but Sophie has really been raising her game tonight and may have had the performance edge. Charlotte thought Steph was brilliant, and wants someone to write a musical for Lauren and Danielle. Sheila thinks Danielle is a gifted comic, and thinks that they had a slightly wittier, easier number, and thinks the public should bear that in mind when voting: "their past history, how well they've been doing - don't care whether they've got nice grandparents, it's what they've been doing up there". Okay, she might have won me back a little bit. Andrew worries that the producers of Wicked might want to steal Lauren and Danielle from him after seeing that. He praises Danielle's "comic gift" and backhands Lauren by praising her "experience". He's then vaguely pervy to Steph and Sophie about the content of their number, and thinks they could've got more humour out of it. He thinks Sophie is "deliciously funny" and wishes them both luck.

Right, time for that promised accent mission VT. The girls are taken to a West End theatre which is currently vacant to learn a Kansas drawl from accent coach Jill McCullough, who's worked with Robert De Niro, Dame Judi Dench and... Keira Knightley. They tells them all to flatten their tongues. Lauren says that she thought her accent was quite good, but she's being picked apart. The girls all have to say "my name's Dorothy and I have a dog named Toto" over and over again, before finally being put to the test in front of Andrew in a scene, the one where Dorothy asks how to get home to Kansas. Sophie's accent goes all over the place a little bit (Ireland, mainly) and her performance is a tad flat, Lauren's is over the top, of course, but her accent seems fairly constant. Steph gives a lively and emotional performance with a fairly decent accent, and Danielle gives a still but resonant performance, and her accent seems fine as well.

Andrew gives his verdict: Danielle's accent was BRILLIANT and she MADE THE ROLE HER OWN, just in case we're in any doubt who his favourite is, Lauren is the most accomplished but they need to eke more vulnerability out of her, Steph was very professional but was too much in her head and not in her heart, while Sophie struggled the most with her accent and that affected her performance, though Andrew thinks she'll be stronger when she's more comfortable with the accent. He thinks all four of them can do the accent, and it's pretty clear to him who the actresses are. It's interesting how he seems to keep trotting out the same old criticisms for each girl most of the time, regardless of the performance she's just given. I have my suspicions that Andrew has his ranking order all set up in his head now, and little short of a miracle is going to upset that.

Then we're back in the studio for a group performance of 'I Cain't Say No' from Oklahoma!, which I'm sure will appal Sheila with its general air of sluttiness. Again, the vocals are strong all round, though there's a bit less common ground in the performances: Danielle's probably the strongest here, closely followed by Steph, with Sophie and Lauren somewhere behind. Graham asks Sheila who got the Kansas drawl best (and make a note of that, it'll be important later): Sheila says that she can't be bothered to worry about that (heh) because they'll all get the accent in time. She was focused on the acting, and it reminded her of something that John (Thaw, not Partridge) used to say to her: "don't demonstrate, be." She thinks they were all demonstrating, apart from (wait for it) Danielle, who was "totally simple". Nah, that joke's too easy. John thinks all the girls have developed hugely and should all be proud of themselves, but he thinks Lauren gave the best performance in the last number. Charlotte thinks Steph stood out, and so did Lauren. Then there's a bit of confusion, because Charlotte comments that she's "disagreeing with Sheila" because she liked that Lauren was big and brash and it suited that number, and Sheila points out that she was talking about the acting VT, not the number they just did, and in fairness, it does seem like that's what Graham asked her about in the first place, though it seems odd that she was asked to comment on that while the others passed judgement on the song-and-dance number.

Andrew's asked for his feedback, and he says that there's no question that any of them could do the accent. He doesn't want to lead the viewers any more VOTE FOR DANIELLE and he wants us to evaluate them as individuals OF WHOM DANIELLE IS THE BEST. We've seen them all acting and he knows where he'd like the competition to go, WHICH IS TO SAY DANIELLE WINNING, but he doesn't want to lead anyone DANIELLE DANIELLE DANIELLE. I mean, seriously. Don't get me wrong: I like Danielle, I think she's done more than enough over the past few weeks to prove she'd play the part well, I have absolutely no problem with her winning, but for Andrew to say that he doesn't want to "lead" the public when he's offered criticism to all the girls tonight except her is a tad hypocritical. In the interests of avoiding a flame war here though, I really must stress again that my beef is with Andrew, not Danielle. She has no control over how they react, so I don't blame her at all, but it doesn't mean I can't feel at least a little annoyed at Andrew's pretense of impartiality.

Graham asks Andrew about television versus theatre, and he says that they need a girl who can command the stage and have a rapport with Toto. He definitely, definitely doesn't want to lead anybody (see above), but we should all bear that in mind.

The lines open, and we get a quick recap of tonight's performances, duets included, while the numbers scroll across the screen - though I daresay if The Lord had his way, only Danielle's number would be shown. Not that he wants to lead us, you understand. Just like he totally didn't want to lead us when he declared Pirate Jessie to be the second coming. I suppose I should be grateful that at least Danielle does at least justify some of the praise she gets, unlike her seafaring predecessor.

That's it! Don't forget to join Carrie for the results to see who gets the boot at this crucial stage.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

On Boro-ed time

Top 5 Results: 9th May 2010

Previously on Some Children Are Waiting: it was double elimination week, and several buses were chartered by the production crew so that they could be completely sure they would have at least one to throw Jenny under, thanks to their strategic deployment of Jodie Prenger's Moment and a suspiciously poorly-trained professional dog actor. Meanwhile, in the land of those who were given half a chance, Danielle blanded her way through another adequate performance but was still the second coming of Pirate Jessie as far as the panel were concerned, Jessica finally found an appropriate outlet for all of her tics, Steph continued to deliver all-round pwnage, Sophie added 'I Enjoy Being A Girl' to her previous performance of 'If I Were A Boy' and is set to get a high 2:1 in her Gender In Contemporary Performance module, and Lauren did a lot of strange facial expressions during 'Being Alive', otherwise known (to me, at least) as the second-worst song in the history of musical theatre. (If you're genuinely puzzled regarding what's above it, I refer you to last week's singoff. ) All went to plan, and Jenny was in the bottom two and quickly disposed of, and then the phone lines opened again to determine the fate of one more hopeful - but who will it be?

Titles. Despite having a conniption fit the second he realises there's a camera pointing at him, that scarecrow still looks more comfortable than Sophie does most weeks.

Studio. Graham. The five remaining girls stand on the Stairs Of Doom, and the place does look kind of cavernous and empty now. Maybe Stephanie's mouth was bigger than I ever realised. Graham reminds us that "last night" Jenny was shoved out of the door by an overzealous producer eliminated from the competition, but it's not over yet because there's another ouster coming up. Poor Jenny is in the audience smiling bravely, despite having been axed from the competition about an hour ago. The remaining five Dorothys sing 'Defying Gravity' again, and it's still not a song that you can sing as an ensemble. Danielle does some nice skirt-swishing though, which I'm sure the panel will use as yet further prove that she is 100% WEST END READY.

Graham reminds us of Jenny's elimination once again (rub it in, why don't you?) and re-introduces the panel. Charlotte's still looking happy, despite having demonstrated yesterday that she probably needs a bit more practice before relaunching her singing career. Or her songwriting career, for that matter. Graham teases another "mash-up", and a performance from Tamzin Outhwaite. Before all of that, though, we get a brief recap of what happened in the performance show. Danielle took on 'On My Own', and a rather unfortunate piece of VT editing means that we're exposed to "all my life, I've only been PRETEND-AAAAAAAANG" again. If she really is the chosen one, they might want to think about compiling highlights packages for her that don't showcase the worst part of an otherwise acceptable performance. Jessica took on 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' in a performance that seems to have divided opinion (personally I liked it, but can see why many others didn't). [It would have been much more acceptable if she'd had a chorus line of cartoons accompanying her, or at least a couple of chirpy Cockernee chimney sweeps. - Carrie] Steph's emotional performance of 'Somewhere' moved John, while Jenny's no-win performance merely moved her UNDER THE BUS. Sophie did a song that no one has heard of [except for musical theatre geeks - Carrie], and John and Charlotte argued over whether she could fill a West End stage, while Lauren closed the solo portion of the show with a Tribbiani-worthy performance of 'Being Alive'. Charlotte wobbled her way through what I assume is her new single, then Jenny and Lauren found themselves in the sing-off, with Jenny getting the boot, obviously. John thought it was "another shock result", then everyone lined up to do a few lines from the few songs that are actually in the show, where Danielle was the only one who actually got to sing as Dorothy and thus turned me even more into some sort of alarming conspiracy nut. [You really are getting worse. Have you considered valium? - Carrie]

Back in the studio, Graham's with the panel. Andrew says that we must remember the importance of comedy, because there was a lot of vaudeville performance in the original movie. So we're supposed to remember the vaudeville performances, but forget the central one? Just making sure we're clear on that. Apparently the cast is going to be rounded out with "very experienced comedians" in the Palladium, which makes my heart sink even further. Sheila says that everyone who's left is very special, and she's very glad the decision isn't up to her at this point. John says it's incredibly important that they all hold their nerve, because "the bottom two is changing week on week" (it would have to, dear, because inevitably one of the bottom two must go home, surely?) so it's anyone's game. Charlotte is asked if Jenny was the right girl to leave, and Charlotte's all "yes, because that's what I said 'last night', like."

Oh God - it's Toto time. A yellow brick road has been laid diagonally across the stage, and the girls have all been matched with a potential Toto: Jessica's with "Dangerous" Dave, Danielle with Troy, Lauren with Eddie, Sophie with Missy, and finally Steph with Spider. Spider bounds out to a series of "awws" from the audience, and Steph cracks up. Hee. The whole thing's accompanied by some hilariously arch narration from Graham, but I can't really capture that in recap form. Sorry. From here we segue to a VT: Jodie tells us we're at the Richmond Theatre to see how the girls bond with the dogs. Since there are six girls (Jenny's still there at this point) and five dogs, the dogs will get to choose who to perform with, and one girl will not get to perform. The girls line up to call the dogs over, and Dave is unleashed first, running over to Jessica, before switching to Sophie at the last minute. Eddie runs past all of them, but we're told eventually picks Danielle. Troy picks Steph, Spider picks Jenny, and Missy with the casting vote, runs to Lauren at first, but then runs past her and into the wings, at which point Jessica darts across to be in prime dog-catching position for when Missy returns. If the West End thing doesn't work out, I think Jessica may have an excellent career ahead of her in animal control. So Lauren is kept out of this week's competition: "maybe they could sense that I have cats at home?" she wonders. I would've thought they'd have mauled her if that was the case, but I'm no Barbara Woodhouse.

The girls who did get dogs have a chance to bond with them. Things do not appear to be going well - Eddie ignores Danielle, Troy sneezes on Steph. A group of scary stage children arrive at the theatre to sit in judgement. Missy and Jessica perform first, and make their way through the scene with minimal disturbance. Danielle manages a better performance with Eddie than she did with Bobby yesterday. Steph is less fortunate: Troy is completely uninterested and keeps wandering off while she's trying to sing. Hee. Rumours that Lauren was seen shortly before the performance offering Troy a box of Bonios to throw the performance remain unsubstantiated. Sophie sings to Dave, but he yawns his way through it. Jenny appears to struggle with 'Over The Rainbow', and Spider howls along. Jodie thinks Spider might have a career in stand-up comedy if the Toto thing doesn't work out. The kids vote for their favourite dog while the judges confer. The panel choose Spider as their top dog because of his enthusiasm, while the kids vote for Dave, which pleases Sophie.

In the studio, it's mash-up time again. Andrew suggests adding "a dash of olive oil" to his mash. Well, la-di-dah. Tonight's "mash-up" is the worst one yet, seguing awkwardly from 'Matchmaker' from Fiddler On The Roof into Gwen Stefani's 'Rich Girl' (at a tempo that none of the girls can keep up with), while Sophie struggles with the shawl-waving choreography. Then it's briefly into about 12 bars of something I don't recognise, and then into 'I Gotta Feeling'. I assume they choreographed all this just for five girls, but didn't necessarily know which five were going to be doing it? It doesn't bear thinking about too closely, I suppose.

After that, it's time for a bit more filler as the panel talk about the contenders thus far: Charlotte thinks Danielle is very West End, while Sheila thinks she needs to retain her uniqueness and not lose her subtlety. Sophie has the most natural voice in the competition, per Charlotte, but needs to be less sensible, according to Sheila. John thinks Sophie has it in her to play this role, but he's not sure that she knows that. Sheila thinks Lauren was "a bit too glib" before she hit the sing-off, but transformed after that. John thinks she's delivered solid performances and sets her up for the Rachel Tucker Memorial "you probably don't like her but she's a safe pair of hands" edit, while Charlotte thinks Lauren's vocals are phenomenal and she wants to see her in the finals. John thinks Jessica was the obvious choice at the beginning (really?) but he's not sure if that's true any more. Sheila thinks she needs to be careful not to overdo the kookiness, while Charlotte thinks her kookiness is her best selling point. Steph has had a tough journey, but has blown Charlotte away every week. Sheila thinks she's an all-rounder, while John thinks she needs to step it up a level and keep pushing.

Graham's on the Sofas Of Sanctity with the girls, commenting on how "it's very spacious" now. He asks Steph where her strength comes from, and she's all "dunno, really. Drugs?" He asks Lauren if she was shocked to be in the bottom two, and she carefully replies that she wasn't, and hopes she's done enough to stay out of it second time around. He then turns to Jessica and asks her about being the only girl remaining who hasn't hit the bottom two yet, and she credits her fanbase (she actually uses that word) and thanks them all for supporting her. [Oh, Jessica. You haven't been paying too much attention in your short kooky quirky life to the way the fickle finger of fate operates, have you? - Carrie]

What's this? More filler? The girls went to the West End opening of Sweet Charity this week, and get to be snapped by the paparazzi. [There's a nonsensically short clip of the show that carefully edits out the featured supporting cast, making it look like it's simply the Tamzin Outhwaite Show. - Carrie] Afterwards, they get to meet Tamzin Outhwaite backstage, and Lauren says it's got them all thinking about what the buzz of their opening night might be like. Tamzin says that whatever happens, they will all have an opening night of some kind. Then, back in the studio, Tamzin performs 'If My Friends Could See Me Now'. The audience clap along to the entire thing, because they're morons. I've not seen the show, but the performance seems...a bit small. Especially on the heels of John complaining that Sophie's performance from "last night" wouldn't have filled a West End theatre, because I wouldn't say this straight-from-the-West-End performance is noticeably more dynamic. [To be fair, she's been off sick this week, and her understudy, the lovely Miss Tiffany Graves, has been on... - Carrie] Graham joins her for a post-performance discussion and asks her what progress she thinks the girls have made. Tamzin says she's very proud of them all because their voices hold up and their dancing is coming along. Wow, steady on there! Don't go inflating their egos with your effusive praise! Graham asks her about opening night, which prompts her to get all sage and talk about EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK and having to make the most of opening night because it's never that exciting again. Well, that's my desire to go and see that show kind of destroyed.

Time for a Why Do You Deserve To Be In The Semi Final? VT. Steph thinks she deserves it because she's had a rocky ride but come back fighting every week. Danielle feels she has more to give and doesn't want to leave now. Lauren wants to be in the semi-final because it is one step closer to her dream, bless her. Sophie wants to be in the semi-final because she's been knocked down a lot but always comes back, and Jessica thinks she deserves it because she always pulls something new out of the bag. [The bag of QUIRKINESS. - Carrie]

The girls are on the bleachers again, which means it's time to announce the results in no particular order. Sophie is declared safe first, and she looks shocked. She wishes the others good luck before rushing over to the Sofas of Sanctity looking tearful. Danielle is told she's in the bottom two. Lauren looks horrified, most likely because she thinks this means she's in the bottom two with Danielle, and knows full well that Judy Garland herself (whoever she is) would not survive a sing-off with Danielle at this stage. Luckily she's safe, and breaks a huge sigh of relief. So that leaves Steph and Jessica awaiting their fate, both thinking they're doomed. It's Steph who gets the reprieve, which means Jessica is in the bottom two. Graham reveals that Jessica received the fewest votes overall, but there's still hope because Andrew might save her. Jessica does well by not laughing in his face at this absurd notion.

The sing-off is 'Take That Look Off Your Face', which Andrew, in his position as songwriter, explains is about wanting someone to take that look off their face. That's why he earns the big bucks, folks. Both girls sing well, though Jessica seems unsure whether she's going for resigned or angry, while Danielle has a general air of defiance. Jessica's voice hits the skids a little bit halfway through, but she battles on valiantly and manages to get it back under control by the end. With the song over, it's down to Andrew to decide who to save. Andrew tells them they're both terrific, but he has to make a decision, and thinking about who's more suited for the role of Dorothy, he opts to save Danielle. Jessica knew this was coming, of course, and takes it with a smile. Andrew tells Jessica that he sees her doing something more like Sweet Charity or Funny Girl, which Jessica seems fine with. She tells Graham that she's going to train in September, "unless something major comes up", heh. [But how will she afford it in her POVERTY? - Carrie] She's enjoyed every moment and can't wait to go and see whichever of the girls eventually wins.

Graham reminds us that the remaining four will battle it out in the semi-final next week, and then it's time for Jessica's sing-out. Jessica hugs Danielle warmly after the shoe-removal, and heads to the moon. Her version of 'Over The Rainbow' is a little patchy with a few sharp notes, but there's definitely a good voice in there that can be prised out with a little training. Steph is openly weeping at this point, and the audience come to their feet as Jessica rises into the air. Jessica goes all out for the last note and grins at the girls, telling them she loves them as the song finishes.

And there we have it. Who would've thought at this point that Sophie would be the only girl not to have been in the bottom two more than once, or that whoever wins would have been in the sing-off at some point? It's been a very interesting series, and we'll be back next week with a recap of the semi-final. Don't miss it!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Don't bother, you won't be here

Final six
Tx: Saturday 8th May, 2010

Last week on Over The Rainbow - the most SHOCKING result so far as Stephanie left the studio, still beseeching us to call him Mr Bojangles! Now, our six remaining Dorothys need us! Jessica's intonation is really annoying! Let's see what transpires in this Special Double Elimination Week!

Clap, clap, clap - here is Graham, who reminds us that two girls are going this weekend, and then introduces everyone as usual with the green pyrotechnics. And oh dear me, the girls are singing 'Defying Gravity', because that is from Wicked, which is almost like The Wizard Of Oz. Steph would make a good Elphaba. Jenny is struggling at the bottom of her range. I'd totally forgotten about Danielle AGAIN, and she is flat on her "leeeeeeeeeeeap" leading into the first chorus. Disappointingly limp belt at the end, but I guess they can't really let them riff when there are six of them singing in unison. [This song really does not suit being sung as an ensemble number. - Steve]

A few election-related puns from Graham, before he introduces Sheila, John and Charlotte, and then has a little chat with Lloyd Webber. He then has a little jabber about Stephen Schwartz not going to the opening night of Wicked because he was scared it would flop, "so Dorothys, good luck." What? Charlotte is going to give us an exclusive later, snarf, and once more Graham tells him that she can't be Dorothy. There will be more canine interludes later, by the way.

Time for some singing. Danielle really wants to be Dorothy and thinks she will be great because she is raw and youthful and fresh and gritty. Not memorable, you'll note, but then we can't have everything. Jessica did another peculiar unrestrained performance last week and can't believe she's in the final six. She says she is quirky and has weird facial expressions. Who knew? She thinks she would be "a different Dorothy". Different to whom? Nobody has ever played the part in the history of the world, have they?

Up first, Danielle, singing 'On My Own' from Les Miserables, as sung by every teenage girl in the whole world who's ever had any kind of interest in musical theatre, so she should do well with this. Except everyone knows this song back to front so a competent performance, like this, isn't that interesting - you need to do something exceptional, and that nasty harsh belt she tries to get away with really isn't it. [I thought the singing was decent, apart from the hideous phrasing of "PRETEN-DAAAAANG", but the acting just wasn't there. She basically acted it the same way that she did for 'Just A Little Girl', and all the huffing and eyerolling wasn't appropriate here. - Steve]

Jessica has a little hat pinned to her hair and I wonder at first if she's going to give us a bit of Eliza Doolittle, but no, she has a horrible floral mini-dress, which is apparently what one wears to be Mary Poppins and sing 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious', which she gurns her way through. She also has an umbrella which enables her to do a dreadful Dick Van Dyke tribute dance routine. She seems to be incredibly out of breath, and veering out of tune. This is not a good start to the show. [Weirdly, I quite liked this. I actually thought this was the most sense Jessica's ever made on this show, performance-wise. - Steve]

Danielle and Jess went shopping in Covent Garden this week and were accosted by strange people who think they're famous. Jessica isn't superstitious, which is why she danced with an open umbrella. Marvellous. Charlotte thinks Danielle's top notes were shouty but enjoyed the overall performance, and that Jessica being out of breath didn't bother her. It'd bloody bother you if you saw that on stage. Sheila thought Jessica should have relished the funny word a bit more, and loves what Danielle does, likening her to a 12-year-old Catherine Zeta Jones, or something. John enthuses about Danielle's energy and grace, but thinks she's a better actress than she is a singer, and then calls Jessica a "Marmite Dorothy". Andrew says they chose Danielle's song deliberately as a contrast with 'Mambo Italiano', and then says that she has to learn better technique with her singing.

Steph was sad to sing off last week but thought she would go, not Stephanie. She thinks Dorothy must be courageous, and she has courage. Well, yes, perhaps, but you have to ACT the role, it's not about whether you are most like her. Then I love her a bit for saying that Dorothy is a 12-year-old girl "and I'm the height of a 12-year-old". Jenny says performing is just her, and muddles up her words. She would be a "real" Dorothy, not a "staged performance - just me, doing it from the heart". That sounds a GREAT idea. Don't act it!

Steph is singing 'Somewhere' from West Side Story. Her voice is so beautiful, but I really think it sounds too mature for Dorothy, or even Maria, come to that. Still, it's nice to see someone manage to act a song as well as hit the notes. Her belt is much better than Danielle's, particularly as it hits right on her break too. Obviously it's a Streisand interpretation rather than the performance from the show itself, but it's nice.

Jenny is taking on one of the songs Jodie Prenger did brilliantly two years ago, 'Send In The Clowns', and she has the opposite problem to Steph - she sounds too young to be singing a song like this. She is endeavouring to act it, though, even if it isn't entirely convincing, so kudos to her for that. She's screwed over slightly by the mad cuts they've made in the song to fit it into a two-minute time-slot. [Yeah, this really was a no-win situation for Jenny, wasn't it? She tried her best, bless her. - Steve]

Steph tells Graham that nobody's trying to poison each other yet [not now they no longer have to contend with Stephanie's cooking, I should think - Steve]; Jenny talks in reality TV show cliches. Sheila thinks Steph was wonderful and is glad that she's still there, and says that Jenny's song should be more ironic rather than opting for "sad" all the way through. John loves Jenny's up-tempo work but her acting is half-baked. OUCH. [People in glass houses... - Steve] He thinks Steph is very versatile, and comments on the truth and beauty of her performance. Charlotte thinks Jenny had moments of magic, and that Steph is superb. Lloyd Webber gives us some mad anecdotes and thanks them both.

Next? Why, it's Sophie, who wanted to get experience from the show and didn't imagine that she'd be in the final six. She thinks she is innocent, sweet, and that the part suits her the best. Lauren says she consistently gives her all in ALL her performances, and as Dorothy she would hit the top level all the time. She thinks she'd be a safe pair of hands because she's very professional. She keeps dreaming that she could be Dorothy, and now she COULD be Dorothy. Well, I keep dreaming that I'm having a passionate affair with Richard Armitage, but THAT's not going to happen.

Sophie is singing 'I Enjoy Being A Girl' from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Show. She actually sounds quite comfortable doing this kind of stuff vocally, but she doesn't seem to be able to convey the meaning of the words. It's a JOKE song, Sophie! Have some fun with it!

Lauren is giving us some Sondheim - 'Being Alive' from Company. She normally does a good job of the songs with content that let her act. This, though, just makes me wonder if she can do any extreme emotion other than VERY ANGRY. I do enjoy her face on the word "confused", though, which denotes confusion in a Joey Tribbiani style. Maybe Steve will screenshot it for us if we're nice. [This one? - Steve]

Still, it's another polished vocal show from her.

Lauren says she gives herself a talking-to before each show; Sophie says she is getting more confident. John loves Sophie's openness and says the camera loves her, but that's the problem - she's small and understated and she'd get swallowed up in a theatre. He says Lauren is singing songs that other girls in the West End wouldn't even dream of attempting, and she has the best voice in the competition. Charlotte thinks Sophie did a great performance, John interrupts, and then she dismisses him with, "Yeahyeah." HA. She suggests to Lauren that she could rein in her voice a little bit, but still liked it. Sheila wanted Lauren to do more with the lyrics, and thinks Sophie should have done something more funny with her material, but thinks she'll get better once she realises she can make a fool of herself. Lloyd Webber agrees with Sheila - Sophie isn't happy with movement, and Lauren is vocally strong but should avoid her tendency to shoutiness.

Ooh, lines are open! If you've not already had enough of voting, do so now! There's a recap, interspersed with the girls telling us how brilliant they are and why theyd be good Dorothys. Worryingly, Sophie already thinks she IS Dorothy. Should someone tell her it's not real? [Somehow I do not believe the girls on this show are especially concerned with what is or is not real. - Steve]

Canine VT time. The girls go to a film set to meet Bobby the Westie and act out a scene with him. Jessica loves dogs; Steph keeps calling him "it"; Danielle's dog isn't that well-trained; Jenny breaks things. The scene is the one where Dorothy is reunited with her only friend, the dog. Steph does some amazing crying. Jessica does some crazy faces but does seems to like the dog. Danielle is strangely subdued when Toto returns. Jenny is rubbish with the dog, who runs away. [I smell sabotage. - Steve] Lloyd Webber is sniffy about her not having a connection with him, despite being a cat person himself - he mentioned that earlier in the series. He then mocks Sophie for packing up her bedding when she runs away - "If she does that every night, it may get rather expensive on the scenery front", he says. Except she's not REALLY running away, is she? She's acting. The bedding would be in the wings. Jesus, what's wrong with everyone on this show tonight? He notes that Steph wasn't good with the dog, but thinks [erroneously - Steve] that Danielle was strong , and that Jessica was decent too. Jenny was not good, and Lauren has a natural rapport with animals, as does Sophie, who needs to polish up her acting but has time to do so. [The timescale in Lloyd Webber's head is so weird. These girls apparently have time to learn how to act, but not to cultivate a friendship with a dog. - Steve]

Oh, srsly? The girls are singing 'Talk To The Animals' from Dr Dolittle. There's a quick switch of camera away to a beaming John Partridge, who is an increasingly peculiar colour. Danielle's high notes are still not good - and she can't now decide whether or not to belt. Sigh. Young people today. Lloyd Webber makes a relatively good pun about being "Totogenic". He tells everyone to remember what they've seen throughout the series when they're voting tonight.

Montage VT of tomorrow's mission, where the girls have to bribe dogs and impress children. Looks a stormer. Have fun, Steve!

Ooh, another montage to waste a bit more time before the votes come in, telling us about the BBC Performing Arts Fund that we pay for with our phone calls. Ooh, it's Briony, who didn't get to be Maria, and was very insanely teenage! The Fund is paying for her to go to Arts Ed at the moment. We also meet Fra Fee (no, really), who's also had his tuition paid for while he's starring as Billy in Dirty Dancing in That West End. Aw, and there Briony is in the audience tonight. Good for her.

Then Charlotte sings, and it's fucking awful. Although I've decided I don't like her any more because she says she'll change her name when she gets married.

Who Is The Bitch That You Think Will Go This Week? Danielle thinks Steph is in danger because she was bottom two last week; Jessica says Danielle was shit in rehearsals; Lauren thinks Sophie is rubbish on the live shows; Sophie thinks Jenny may go; Jenny thinks Steph; Steph thinks Jenny, because she knows fuck-all about musical theatre.

What do the panel think? Sheila says Sophie is not Dorothy; as does John; but Charlotte thinks Jenny should go. Ooh, regionalist!

So the results - Steph is through; as is Danielle; incidentally Jessica sometimes looks exceptionally beautiful and other times completely crazy, as she does here when Graham says, "Jessica, you are - still in the running to be Dorothy!" and then scurries to the Dorothy bleachers muttering, "EVIL, THAT WAS EVIL!" like she doesn't know her microphone is on or something, and we all know that can only lead to bad bad things [even better - my boyfriend the lip-reading expert is convinced that after a sound technician swiftly turned down her mic, Jessica went on to say "that was BLOODY EVIL". Hee. - Steve]; Jenny is in the bottom two, as is Lauren, which means Sophie could still be Dorothy. If it were down to votes alone, Lauren would be going. Ooh, controversial.

The girls' sing-off song is Bridge Over Troubled Water, like they want to be in Hear'Say or something. On the plus side, at least this has some harmonies and isn't just a contest of volume and vibrato. Lauren would win that, anyway. Graham bewails a "terrible situation", ie the situation around which this whole show is based. Lloyd Webber saves Lauren, obviously, and at least Jenny knew that would happen. He says that Jenny is talented but she is so small in her performance and rubbish with dogs that she wouldn't be a good Dorothy. Brilliantly, he then says that Lauren's top range is screechy, and maybe that she is a "cat man". Jenny says some reality TV cliches and manages to keep a hold on her tears.

So she goes to sing her final number, and Danielle kisses her, though not on the mouth as she did with Dani. And Jenny takes her seat on the sparkly moon and gives a performance much better than any she has ever done in the live shows. Though with an occasional bit of sidegob, which is an offence automatically warranting elimination. She then beams at the end and winks at the girls, which is a much better look than defiance or torrential weeping.

Graham PERSONALLY reopens the phone lines, ready for tomorrow's second elimination. Then there is another recap. Danielle's "pretendinggggg" sounds even uglier for the third time of hearing. And then our final five Dorothys do a box-step-style medley of songs from The Wizard Of Oz. [And Danielle, of course, gets the only song that's actually sung by Dorothy. I mean, there was no doubt that she's this year's Pirate Jessie Who Can Do No Wrong, but must they make it quite so obvious? - Steve] Lauren does a bit of an Elvis sneer for reasons uncertain. John informs us that we should pick the girl who is best for the part. Charlotte is not ready to lose Lauren. Lesbian. Sheila wants the girls to raise their ideas of what Dorothy should be.

And it's down to the final five! Who will go tomorrow? Join Steve to find out!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Don't leave in silence with no words at all

Final 7 - Results
Tx: 2nd May 2010

So Graham welcomes us back and informs us the phone lines are "now" closed, as they have been for nearly 24 hours, and introduces us to the Dorothys, who perform that bastardised train-wreck of Don't Rain On My Parade again. Lauren really hams up the cringeworthy moment where they sing 'Mr Lloyd Webber'.

Last night the girls sang big band numbers, or at least numbers with a big band; tonight there'll be mash-ups, Legally Blonde and a mission in a haunted forest, including a flying monkey. Or a stuffed toy that looks like it's been hanged.

Anyway, some backstage action while the performances are recapped. Steph was living the dream; Jenny had fun; Sophie's family assured us that she'd come back from her horrid comments, presumably while she was crying in a corner somewhere; Danielle felt incredible; Lauren failed to look over her shoulder and convey heartbreak adequately, but none the less she and her family were pleased with the comments; Stephanie was upset that John didn't like her performance, but hey ho, her dad did; Jessica is passionate about the song 'Cabaret'. Sheila thought the girls were knockout, John thought some are getting lost, Charlotte can't work out who'll be in the bottom two.

Back in the studio, Andrew says they are "such talented kids". Sheila says the girls are reaching West End standard with their talent, but she is unsure whether they are in terms of work. John says three girls are consistently strong. Charlotte says there are no weak links.

Graham introduces the "mash-up" but admit that it's "more of a medley, really". FINALLY. The girls sing songs about parties. Stephanie's face is really unattractive when she sings. Jenny does the Claire-from-Steps patented nose-scrunch. John is bopping his head and looking more orange and gay than he did last night.

Toto time. Do I really have to recap this shit? Suffice to say, the owners love their dogs. They all go to see Amy Lennox, Margot in Legally Blonde, to perform the bit in the middle of Omigod You Guys where Bruiser runs on to tell her that Elle is trapped in the Old Valley Mall. To be fair, the chihuahaus who are actually in the show sometimes fuck this up. Missy is good; Eddie runs all over the place; Spider skids around the stage and nearly falls into the pit; Troy just wants to eat the treats; Dangerous Dave is very cute but doesn't "speak". Anyway, Missy gets the day's rosette as "top dog".

Back on the Dorothy bleachers, Danielle is glad that people might not think she is solemn. Sophie is always worried that she might be in the bottom two. Lauren doesn't know how she will top the comments from this week, because she is HUMBLE. Jessica thinks this has been the best week so far. Stephanie doesn't know what went wrong this week and doesn't feel ready to go. Jenny and Steph do not get to speak.

Time for the mission, minus Jessica who was too busy being ill. The girls have to walk ALONE through the haunted forest. Stephanie doesn't think it's good that there's a full moon. The girls' mums are in tents around the forest watching their progress (BABY D! In a tent!). At some point during the walk the girls have to choose between home, ie their mums, and the emerald tent of Oz. Danielle is first, and talks herself into bravery with "Come on, you're 18 now!" Steph gets whacked in the face by branches and then giggles. Lauren chants, "There's no place like home!" All the girls scream when faced with the "flying" "monkey" except Danielle, who plods on stoically regardless. I'm not sure she even saw him. [Either that or she was injecting the same level of emotion into this mission as she has into all of her songs so far. - Steve] Then they must choose - home or Oz? They all agree that Dorothy wants to get home, but should they be opting for Oz? Baby D concurs that this is a horrible choice. Stephanie thinks it's a trick. Jenny decides she is going to go home, and then blubs when she sees her mum. Stephanie is still prevaricating and eventually decides to go to Oz, which her mum thinks is the right choice, but she wanted a hug. Aw. Anyway, Stephanie, Danielle and Sophie go to Oz, which apparently makes them winners in a game where they never knew the rules. Brilliant. [Bonus points to Steph for totally overthinking it and picking "Home" because "Dorothy wants to go home", God love her - Steve]

Time for another musical number - the girls and their dancers in 'The Happening', and after all that fuss John made about heels, they're now performing in bare feet. John says Danielle is really special, and Charlotte and Sheila both agree. Andrew says he is getting a feel as to how the competition should go, and then starts wittering about training dogs, dancing and accents, all of which Dorothy will need to do. Well, yes. Perhaps your casting competition ought to take account of that, then?

The girls are asked who they think would struggle with performing in the West End. [It's not quite "Who Is The Bitch That You Hate?", but it'll do for now. - Steve] Danielle says Jenny because she can't dance; Jenny says Stephanie because she never shuts up; Stephanie says Jenny because she has no experience in "long-running shows"; Lauren says Stephanie because she is just too young and has already shown in the house that she is still a kid; Steph says Jessica because she lost her voice this week; Jessica says Jenny because she struggles with dancing; and Sophie says Stephanie because she's just an immature baby. I'm paraphrasing here, obviously, but the sentiments are the same.

Based on this week's performances, who isn't Dorothy? Stephanie according to Sheila and John, and Charlotte says Sophie, even though she too IS WELSH. Here are the results - Steph is in the bottom two; Danielle goes through, as do Jessica and Lauren, then Jenny. Stephanie is already sobbing, and when Graham tells her that it is she in the bottom two, not Sophie, she loses it. If it were down to votes alone, Stephanie would be going. She's muttering to herself and this is demonstrating that her fellow Dorothys were right when they said she would struggle with handling pressure.

The song this week is 'Tell Me On A Sunday'. [Which is either the worst song ever written, or just not the right song to ask two emotional girls to perform in a sing-off, because both on this show and on I'd Do Anything it's been the most godawful noise. - Steve] Steph does some excellent diction. Stephanie composes herself and sings well. Sophie and Danielle are looking moist-eyed and mouthing the words along with them. The stupid audience start to applaud when the girls belt.

The verdict, and Stephanie is clutching on to Steph for support. Lloyd Webber says, "I can't imagine what you were going through then. I'm afraid I shared it." What? Stephanie is seriously in pieces now. And then he saves Steph, who's open-mouthed and then cries too. Stephanie is trying to act the part of a non-crying grown-up but failing, and does an embarrassing farewell speech. Lloyd Webber says he's had fantastic reports of her from everywhere she's worked, which does nothing to stem the tears. Graham looks quite upset too.

The girls say their goodbyes over the sound of Stephanie snivelling. Steph takes her shoes and then they hug for so long I worry they might not get over to Lloyd Webber in time. Stephanie begins her solo through her tears, which works quite well as an acting choice, but is excruciating when you know that this is a teenage girl whose misery is being screened on national television. Her "where - you'll - find - me", as her voice breaks and she starts to sob again, almost moves me to weeping too. And the thing that finally tips me over the edge is Steph urging her to pull herself together and mouthing "DO IT!" to her before the final line - which she does, I really don't know how - and then punching the air with glee.

Well, that was incredibly sad. And next week there'll be a double-elimination! Join us then!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Band this filth

Top 7: Big Band Night
1st May 2010

Last week! A cartoon Graham Norton briefly appeared during the last thirty seconds of some old guff about a spaceman, and the nation collectively lost its shit. Also, it was a night of outstanding performances. And Emilie's. The Lord thought that Jessica gave him a world-class performance (he did not, however, specify which world - my money's on Super Mario World, I think she'll make an amazing Wendy O. Koopa), and we were all put out of our misery when the voting public finally realised that Emilie was hopelessly out of her depth and sent her packing. Hooray! Tonight, the remaining seven Dorothys are performing with a big band, and spouting various reality TV clichés about this being the most important thing they have ever done and will ever do!

Titles. Girls attempt to steal shoes from each other; first-time viewers wonder why the BBC commissioned How Do You Solve A Problem Like Imelda Marcos?

Studio, no longer Television Centre-based. Thanks to last week's commenter Josh, by the way, for informing me of the show's new location, and consider me suitably embarrassed for not having worked that out beforehand. Graham enters, wearing another waistcoat that aims to give hard-of-hearing viewers a better impression of what Jessica sounds like. The big band play a few stings, and various pyrotechnics erupt feebly. The top 7 take to the stage to sing 'Don't Rain On My Parade', and group numbers are a little bit less fun now that I'm not waiting to see if Emilie can come in on-pitch or not. Jenny appears to be cultivating a sidegob worthy of Pirate Jessie, Lauren plays with her skirt during the "I'll beat my drum" line (dirty!), and of course the "hey, Mr Arnstein" line is changed to "Mr Lloyd Webber", and Andrew cackles like it's the funniest thing he's ever heard, even though some loser did exactly the same thing during the auditions. I guess he had better things to do than watch the rushes.

Once that's over, Graham tells us that we're past the halfway stage, and there's no clear frontrunner because "a different girl" has been hitting the bottom two every week. I think you'll find that's two different girls, Graham. Also, surely the frontrunners would be the girls who have yet to find themselves in that position, i.e. Stephanie, Jenny and Jessica? That's what the internet is saying, anyway, and obviously the internet is always right. The panel are present and correct: Sheila (demure), John (orange), and Charlotte (burlesque). Graham asks Andrew what sort of perils the girls should be wary of this week, and before answering, Andrew informs us all that Lee and Denise welcomed their sprog Betsy into the world this morning. Look out for Betsy on Take Me Or Leave Me, the hunt for an actress to play Maureen in the next revival of Rent, in around 18 years' time. I know I've got it marked on my calendar. The crowd applaud the general concept of heteronormativity, and Andrew makes a rubbish gag about Dorothy and Toto having equal-sized dressing rooms. Lauren's all, "as long as it has room for my relatively expensive double-quilted eye make-up removal pads, I'm good."

Graham teases that the girls will be performing a song made famous by Judy Garland (whoever she is - I might have known once upon a time but Dani's rendition of 'Ego' by The Saturdays completely banished all such knowledge from my mind), and then it's time for Steph and Jenny. Steph's VT reminds us that Andrew actually liked her last week, much to her astonishment. Steph hopes she's shown Andrew that she's versatile and changed his mind about whether she can be Dorothy. She's excited about big band week because she loves jazz, and she's amazed that she's still standing after being in the bottom two. Such heavy foreshadowing, in addition to the fact that she's on first, makes me suspicious that she might be the first contestant to end up there twice. Jenny's VT reminds us that she has never seen a West End show, "which is funny, because the first time I might've seen one might be the time that I'm in one." I'm not sure she quite understands how this "theatre" malarkey works, y'know. To cure her of the apprehension that actors tend to have out-of-body experiences and simultaneously guzzle fruit pastilles in the stalls while watching themselves perform, Jenny is taken to see Mamma Mia!, and even gets to go backstage to meet some of the cast to boot. We see numerous shots of Jenny rapturously enjoying the show, and several other audience members who are possibly a tad put out at having a camera shoved in their face during their quiet night out at the theatre.

Steph's on first, singing 'Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend' in a choreography-heavy number that sees her twirling around a sparkly cane while hurling herself bravely at her backing dancers and hoping that they'll catch her - which they do, thankfully. It's a fun, game performance - Steph twinkles every bit as much as her cane does - though the glory note at the end is perhaps a little bit rough. Jenny takes on 'Feeling Good', and her attempt at sultry is a little bit on the squinty side - she reminds me of Jane Horrocks impersonating Shirley Bassey - though the transformation of Jenny between her pre-performance VTs and her live show appearance makes me think that the make-up artists on this show really deserve a raise. Vocally, it's totally on the money, and I don't think she'll be in any trouble this week.

Graham asks Steph what the challenge was like of opening the show with a full-on production number this week: Steph says that while the lifts looked worrisome, it was actually walking on the boys' backs that she was most concerned about because she didn't want to hurt them. Apparently they kept going "ow!" in rehearsal, so she's glad they're not mic-ed up tonight. Jenny says that having the band behind them really got their hearts racing and got them into the spirit of the performance. John thinks they made a cracking opening to the show, and he thinks that Steph's new "BFs" after that performance will be the scarecrow and the tin man, because she handled a big number and made it look effortless. [Oh, Partridge, you get gayer by the week. - Carrie] He thinks that Jenny got her mojo back and really grew throughout the performance. Sheila says that despite her misgivings at the start of the series about anyone being able to rival Judy Garland's (what? who?) iconic performance, both of these girls would make wonderful Dorothys. She thinks Jenny could've used the lyrics a bit more to colour it, and Steph could've gone a little bit further, but they were both great. Charlotte calls Steph a "diminutive diva" and praises her performance, and tells Jenny that she absolutely owned her song. The Lord congratulates Steph for saving the day last week when the band came in early at the end of 'Oklahoma!' last week (I don't remember exactly what happened, but Steph is my favourite, so I'll just assume she did something completely awesome) and blathers on for ages about understanding the lyrics and uses the terrifying phrase "a big bump-and-grind number", but seems generally impressed by both performers.

Getting a slot all to herself this week is Sophie, who tells us that being in the bottom two is not a good feeling because you feel like the public have completely lost faith in you. Well, yes, but on the bright side, they lost faith in Emilie more, so it's not all bad news, right? Sophie's grandpa Haydn thinks that Wales has let her down (because we are, of course, voting for postcodes and not performances), so Sophie goes home to Tonypandy to LAY DOWN SOME BEATINGS. Oh, sorry, my mistake: she just watches a video of some nice old ladies and her old drama studio telling her that they're supporting her, and that they're kidnapping people from the English borders and holding them at gunpoint while they vote for Sophie. I may have added that last bit. Watching the video lifts Sophie's spirits, anyway.

She's singing 'What A Wonderful World' and has made the odd-but-not-necessarily-invalid acting choice to play it in a depressed sort of way. It sort of works, but on a night where everybody else is going to be running around and dancing, it doesn't really do a lot to make the performance linger in the memory. Her vocals are pretty decent - she cracks on a few of the longer notes, but her singing's of a better standard than usual. [I love the tone of Sophie's voice. That's what makes her a possible Dorothy. - Carrie]

She talks a bit more to Graham about how much it means to have the support of Tonypandy, and Charlotte thinks the vocals were wonderful, though she could've pushed it further (we seem to be getting a lot of this particular line of criticism from the panel as a whole this week, and I rather question how useful it is - would it kill them to provide specific examples?) and Charlotte would've liked her to smile rather than be all SRS BSNS about the whole thing. Sheila thinks the interpretation was a viable one, but she wishes Sophie had chosen to really love it. She thinks Sophie's nerves are holding her back and she wants to kick her (Graham: "Don't worry, Sophie, we'll stop her.") and then Sophie smiles and Sheila's all "THERE! RIGHT THERE!" [gay or European? - Carrie] and we've perhaps had a breakthrough of some kind. John doesn't want to kick her when she's down, but he wishes he could've seen the colour in the rainbow (at this point, I could do with seeing a colour besides ORANGE, because seriously, dude, lay off the tanning for a bit) and thinks that she worried so much about singing that she forgot to act. Andrew agrees with the panel, but thinks that Sophie is really capable of much more, and wonders if the big band led her astray a little bit. In the background, the band are all "well, excuse us, Princess."

Toto teaser: they're off to Legally Blonde this week, and it's Carrie's turn to recap it again. Hahahahaha. [BITCH. - Carrie]

Up next are Danielle and Lauren. It was Danielle's birthday this week, and Andrew was going to buy her a celebratory shandy until several quick-witted public relations experts took him to one side and suggested that might not be the BEST idea, so instead the girls threw a surprise party for her back at Dorothy Manor. Everyone's dressed as West End stars: Lauren is Sandy from Grease (or possibly Julie Goodyear in Calendar Girls), Jessica is the Cowardly Lion, Steph is being Sheila Hancock in Sister Act, Jenny is presumably something from We Will Rock You, Stephanie is Elphaba from Wicked, and Sophie is someone from Mamma Mia!, I assume. Danielle, of course, gets to be Dorothy, which I'm sure will not have gone unnoticed by the conspiracy theorists. Although, the fact that Danielle gets video messages from the cast of Wicked (including Rachel Tucker as Elphaba), Niamh from Love Never Dies and the cast of Mamma Mia!, all wishing her a happy birthday, does seem perhaps a bit excessive. I bet Sophie's not feeling quite so excited about that video from the Tonypandy Mothers' Union any more. They conga around Dorothy house, and Danielle is very happy. Lauren thinks that last week was her best show so far, but she thinks she's been mechanical and robotic about her approach to the show so far, and thinks her friends at home wouldn't even recognise her from her edit "the Lauren they've seen on TV". So she goes off to a crappy-looking funfair with said friends to relax for a bit, and they really are just copy-pasting the Danyl Johnson I'm Not An Arrogant Fiend Redemption Arc here, aren't they? Lauren throws some balls and wins a teddy, and then hits a friend over the head with an inflatable hammer, possibly because she suspected said friend of stealing her relatively expensive double-quilted eye make-up removal pads.

Danielle is singing 'Mambo Italiano' this week, and begins her performance with an ill-advised wink at the camera which makes her look a bit simple. Once the song turns uptempo, she's actually pretty good - it's not the best vocal she's ever given, and I'm still not wholly convinced that her emotional range is that wide, but it's the most animated I've seen her on stage so far. It's the closest I've come to feeling inspired to vote for her, anyway. (I didn't in the end, just in case you were wondering.) Lauren is singing 'The Man That Got Away', and regular readers will I'm sure be entirely unsurprised that I spent the entire performance screaming "Where is he? Look over your shoulder! Touch your hair in anguish!" Ahh, happy days. [I was so excited when she went to lift her hands to her head, and then didn't follow through. How is heartbreak supposed to be denoted without that? - Carrie] I'm not suggesting that Lauren's performance is a masterpiece of subtlety and nuance (she does have melodramatic tendencies of her own), but the fact that she does manage to develop an emotional narrative for the song without just acting out each individual lyric demonstrates just how amateurish Jessie's performance was two years ago, despite what Andrew Lloyd Webber said. I feel rather bad for not judging Lauren's performance on its own merits and just using it as another opportunity to bash Pirate Jessie, but...oh, wait. Never mind, I never feel bad about bashing Pirate Jessie.

Danielle tells Graham about her birthday cake, which was apparently two pieces of Soreen smushed together because she doesn't actually like birthday cake. I'd call her a weirdo, but my boyfriend doesn't like cake either. I attempted to make him a cheesecake for his birthday this weekend, but it didn't set, so he ended up getting a bowl of cheesy-yoghurty slush with a few lumps of biscuit in it. I am the worst boyfriend ever, aren't I? Anyway, no one ate Danielle's cake and it went hard. And then it's time for another story about how Lauren is an alien who doesn't understand our earth customs: hooray! Apparently she's a neat freak (SHOCKER) and cleans up after everyone - she says that Steph is good when it comes to cleaning, but STEPH-ER-NEE is a liability, and they all keep a log of how long she leaves her pots and pans out without washing them. Stephanie cringes as her complete lack of domestic skill is broadcast to the nation once again. Presumably she'll be getting Anthea Turner round for her VT next week. Lauren waves at Stephanie and mouths "sorry!", and I actually love her a little bit. Oddly enough for someone who spends this much time on the internet, I know what it's like to have no social skills whatsoever, so I'm starting to find her post-performance chats incredibly endearing.

Sheila thought those were two knockout performances, and both girls assume a character when they perform. She was particularly pleased to see Danielle going mad and having fun, and being appropriately silly with it. Similarly, Lauren brought the necessary desperation and grief to her song. John is amazed at Danielle's improvement, but thinks her vocals were affected by the choreography. He handwaves it by saying that normally performers get six weeks to develop the necessary stamina to support their vocals in such situations, and...this is the fifth live show of the series, and I'm assuming they would have had a few weeks' rehearsal before then, so I'm not sure I'm ready to buy that one. Lauren's the most experienced girl here, and he thinks that's starting to show, and he loves her. Charlotte thinks Danielle has grown the most of all the girls, and that her performance was brilliant and joyous this week, while Lauren gave "one of the best performances I've ever seen in my life". Andrew makes a mental note to take Charlotte backstage afterwards and show her Pirate Jessie's DEFINITIVE performance. Oh, and he tells both girls that he's proud of them, and that Danielle showed us humour and fun, and sang live while dancing, while Lauren took on one of the most tricky songs of all time, and Andrew gives us another potted history of the song despite no one really caring. Apparently Lauren breathed in the wrong place, but it was really the right place, and that was why her performance was brilliant. I won't even pretend I understood that.

Mission trailer: this week they abandon the girls in the woods at night. Awesome.

And so we come to Stephanie and Jessica. Stephanie gets to go home this week to see her family, and thinks it feels like years since she's been back to see her family. They're all out in force to greet her, though I can't see any evidence of cousin Gemma. Hmm. They've made a makeshift yellow brick road for Stephanie out of wallpaper, and then Stephanie goes out into Liverpool city centre, where lots of people stop her and ask for her autograph and get their pictures taken with her. Stephanie is agog, because this is just what she used to do when she saw Atomic Kitten. She takes a ferry 'cross the Mersey while the aforementioned song plays behind her. Heh. Jessica is very excited that Andrew was so impressed with her last week, but came down to earth sharply when her voice went on "Sunday evening". But hang on a minute, Jessica, we all saw you on Sunday evening and there was no evidence of this! Next you'll be telling us that show wasn't 100% live! "You mustn't speak, you mustn't sing," her voice coach tells us. What the show does not explain is that this segment was in fact recorded two months ago, when the voice coach met Jessica for the very first time. Jessica goes to see a throat specialist, and basically has to keep quiet all week (hooray!), which means she can't rehearse this week's song. Sucks to be her, I guess.

Stephanie is singing 'Mr Bojangles', and it's a rare mis-step from her this week. She doesn't really seem to be able to get a handle on the song terribly well, and it doesn't give her much opportunity to show off her vocals, relying instead on her acting ability, which isn't really Stephanie's strongest suit. In evidence of this claim, I submit: Stephanie sings the line "call him Mr Bojangles" by glaring ferociously at the camera and pointing her finger, leaving me absolutely terrified of what she'll do to me if I don't call him Mr Bojangles. "Kneecap me" seems the most likely outcome. I like Stephanie a lot, but this was a really rough week for her. Jessica, on the other hand, is singing 'Cabaret' (her favourite song ever, apparently) and looking right matronly in her sequinned jacket and school-run hairdo. Her voice seems to have returned to her, though judging by the snarls and twitches, I think she could've still made herself heard even if she'd been rendered mute all night. She also disappoints me greatly by not singing "when I go, I'm going like Rachel", which I think we all know is the correct version of the lyrics.

Post-performance, Graham informs us that Stephanie also lost her voice this week, but this was apparently not worth mentioning in her own VT. Poor Stephanie - robbed of the sympathy vote. Jessica said the others finally had some peace and quiet this week. John thinks they didn't let their vocal problems show, though he didn't like Stephanie's performance. He didn't know who Mr Bojangles was or how she felt about him - at which point Charlotte cashes in her I Disagree Completely Card for the week and interrupts, saying that it was "different" and she made it new and fresh. Then she tells John he can carry on now, which I admit did made me giggle a little bit. John didn't think the choreography went with the lyrics (not really Stephanie's fault though, is it?), but he knows people will pick up the phone and support her. Jessica, on the other hand, gave the performance he's been waiting for, because it showed passion and attack, both qualities that Dorothy should apparently have. Charlotte says that all the girls stepped up their game tonight, and tells Stephanie not to listen to John, and then tells Jessica that she gave her best vocal performance of the series. Sheila likes that Jessica got the context of 'Cabaret' and that this was an embittered, sad, lost girl (I'm not entirely sure that was deliberate, but I'm not about to contradict Dame Sheila Hancock) but she would've liked a few more colours. She thinks Stephanie should've told the story of Mr Bojangles more simply, but concedes that it was a very difficult song. Andrew agrees that both songs are very difficult, and thinks that Jessica got the acting side of it right, while Stephanie could perhaps have told two sides of the story, though he thinks they both did very well in challenging circumstances.

Filler time! Andrew gets his own VT to give us his thoughts on each of the contestants: Danielle is "one of the most talented girls we've got in the competition" and they haven't seen all that she can do; Lauren is DEFINITELY NOT ARROGANT AT ALL and has a vulnerability that we've not yet seen; Stephanie is "an interesting talent" with a lot of personality, but needs to develop her acting skills; Steph has made a huge journey and completely turned a corner for him, becoming a strong contender; Jenny surprised them all at the start and has great instincts; Jessica has so much to offer, but has only given us glimpses of her true potential so far; Sophie may have turned in on herself a little bit, and Andrew wants to see the homespun quality of Dorothy in her. In short: he's very proud of them all.

It's not over yet, either: it's time for another group number as they sing 'The Trolley Song', as made famous by Whatshername. Everyone mugs for all they're worth throughout, and once again it's not as much fun when nobody really fucks up. Jessica gets a much shorter solo section than everyone else, though I wonder if that's a result of her aforementioned voice problems this week which didn't give her much rehearsal time. Steph and Lauren probably work the hardest of everyone in the song, but no one really embarrasses herself.

Andrew thinks there is "real excellence" in here, and asks us all to think about them not just as Dorothys but also as "real talents" when we vote. The lines open, and it's time for a quick recap of the performance: Steph dazzling, but perhaps on reflection not standing out quite as much as she usually does; Jenny feeling good; Sophie feeling like she might want to cut herself; Danielle delivering some Latin flavour; Lauren forgetting to touch her hair and look over her shoulder; Stephanie threatening to knife us if we don't call him Mr Bojangles; and Jessica loving a cabaret.

That's it! Don't forget to join Carrie later for the results show, and remember: CALL HIM MR BOJANGLES, MOTHERFUCKERS! OR I'LL END YOU!