Sunday, 25 April 2010

Girls just wanna have a few more years of training

Top 8 Results: 25th April 2010

My God, this show has been on for weeks and I've just realised that the yellow brick road in the titles isn't made of bricks. Call OFCOM!

We return to the studio with Graham already atop the stage, informing us that the lines have closed. NEARLY 24 HOURS AGO, in fact, but of course we do not dwell on this because the results show is sitting in some odd, dusty corner of the time-space continuum, both happening now and yet also confined to the past. The top eight Dorothys return to the stage to reprise 'If I Only Had The Part' from last night. Is it wrong if I admit I did actually find this quite funny? It's little touches like these, reminding us that the show doesn't take itself too seriously, that make it so much more bearable than the likes of The X Factor. The vocals are better than they were "last night", though I'm quite glad that none of these girls will actually be singing this song in the show itself. As the song finishes, Jessica is the only one who continues to hitch up her skirt as she runs off the stage. Perhaps she's Method.

Graham reminds us of the basic mechanics of the show: to wit, one girl will get a house dropped on her by the end of the credits. We still have our panel: theatrical treasure Sheila Hancock (nods graciously), musical maestro John Partridge (winks unsettlingly), and Welsh wonder Charlotte Church (entirely immobile). Andrew Lloyd Webber is here too, still with that strange posture he has which always makes it look like he's about to dash off set and take an important call.

Coming up tonight: another "mash-up", more Totos, and the girls performing an ensemble number with Charlotte. A trailer hints at them all having attacks of the vapours while she sings at them, which seems entirely understandable.

First, though, we've got our extended recap of last night, for the millions of people who watch the show and yet do not read this blog. Those bastards. Jenny opened the show with a competent but uninspiring rendition of 'Warwick Avenue', and Sheila questioned her motivation. Backstage, Jenny regrets not being able to give them exactly what they want. Someone who was not even in the same postal district as "giving us what we want" this week was Emilie, whose ill-advised petulant rendition of 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' went down like a cup of warm sick, and Sheila chewed her out for not being able to take the criticism that will inevitably be thrown at her should she enter the profession. I mean, it sucks that people aren't enjoying your performances, and to a degree I do sympathise, but at the same time: stop being shit, then. Attempting to make a silk purse out of the sow's ear that was her evening, Emilie assures the cameras backstage that they were "good comments" because it's all stuff she can work on. Well, her attitude's improved: fingers crossed her singing and acting follow suit.

Stephanie sang 'Nobody Does It Better' and Charlotte and Andrew lapped it up, while Lauren took on Pink's 'Nobody Knows' and was one of the evening's standouts, earning praise from Sheila and John. "Sometimes I just want to slap myself around the face," Lauren says afterwards. Somehow I suspect she's not alone in feeling that way. Except she means in terms of not being able to believe it, of course. Lauren's mother is very proud. Sophie was given Sara Bareilles' 'Love Song' in a really odd key that made it sound like her voice was breaking throughout her performance, and John thought it was too understated, while Sheila thought she was terrific. Sophie's mum complains that the judges are giving conflicting feedback. Jessica took on Faith Hill's 'There You'll Be' and was better than usual, though got mixed reviews from the panel for her efforts. Andrew, however, thought she looked "world-class" at times. Of course, as Carrie pointed out yesterday, he said that about Pirate Jessie too, and look how that turned out. Backstage, Jessica is very happy. Danielle performed 'Cry Me A River' in a performance that seems to have been divisive: I personally thought it was awful but a lot of people seemed to like it. Sheila tipped her for stardom, and Charlotte thought the vocals and acting were perfect. Danielle's mum says that she's been waiting for a song she can really belt out. Steph closed the evening with 'Use Somebody' and was again one of the best performers of the evening. Charlotte found her engaging, while John was possessed by the spirit of Alesha Dixon long enough to throw her some snaps and call her "fierce". Backstage, Steph's gobsmacked that even Andrew liked it.

Underscoring footage of the two group numbers, the judges are interviewed: John (speaking from a corridor that does not look like BBC Television Centre - have they gone walkabout this week?) has no idea who's going to be in the bottom two. As opposed to last week, when he claimed to know EXACTLY who was going to be there, and was almost certainly wrong. Charlotte thinks some girls are really pushing through and delivering. Sheila thinks they're all good and is sure she won't agree with whoever ends up getting voted off. [Except not. Oops, spoilers! - Carrie]

Back in the studio, Graham asks Andrew if any frontrunners emerged this week. "Yes: eight," is Andrew's reply, and with some needling he narrows it down to six, though he won't specify who. John is asked if all the girls are where they should be at this stage: unsurprisingly, he says that some are while some are not. Sheila is asked about the pressures of delivering EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK [although she's only doing seven at the moment - Carrie], and she says that you need stamina to do a long run in the West End, and she thinks three girls have that ability now, while the others will all be able to do it in the end. Finally, Charlotte is asked why she's chosen 'No More Tears' to perform with the girls later: she explains that it's a very dynamic song that's going to be a challenge for everyone.

Oh, God: it's "mash-up" time. Graham asks The Lord if he can handle any more mash, and Andrew says that he just needs a couple of pork sausages. Someone in the audience who clearly has a mind as filthy as mine cackles loudly. The girls begin with 'A Fine Romance', and if you didn't immediately guess that they were going to segue into Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance', then I think you need a few more years of pop culture finishing school. I mean, Steph's wearing a hooded leotard, which kind of gives it away. Sure enough, they soon break into 'ba-ra-RA-ah-ah", although from there they break seamlessly into 'Just Dance', and dare I say, that's quite close to being an actual mash-up. At least they're moving in the right direction. The Lord is singing along in his throne. Heh. Then they go into the chorus of 'Bad Romance', then back into 'Just Dance', and then into 'Paparazzi'. Yeah, so at this point it's becoming a medley again (or perhaps more accurately a megamix, as Sara Cox pointed out on Twitter). And there were mixed feelings about that on Twitter, but I loved it. If they're going to completely misunderstand what a mash-up actually is, they can at least give me a shitload of Gaga while they're doing so.

The Dorothys scamper offstage, and then it's time for the search for Toto. I've been dreading this. A VT carries us to Andrew's luxurious estate, and eleven dogs are making their way up to see The Lord. These people are doing absolutely nothing for the public reputation of dog lovers, because they all seem to be completely nutty. Jodie giggles that a couple of dogs are going to scare Andrew silly. Andrew reminds us that we need a Toto with character who can make us laugh and cry. A dog turns up in "ermine and purple, so he can be a prince and outrank a Lord". Yeah, that's the best way to get into Andrew's good books: trump him. Another lady has coloured her hair to match her dog's. She does a little skit with her dog, Troy. More dogs audition. No one except for those directly involved care even slightly. Although there are a couple of gorgeous beagles, who melt my heart a little bit. Andrew keeps reminding us he is a cat man. Unless I am mishearing him, and he's actually Batman. Well, they're both millionaire philanthropists, aren't they? The judges confer, the owners wait anxiously. It's down to Noted Cat Lover Andrew to announce the top five: Dave, Eddie, Missy, Spider and Troy. And if that means anything to you, then I pity you a little bit. Next week, they embark on their first Toto task, as they go to Legally Blonde. [Ooh! Ooh! Steve! We should go and see Legally Blonde! - Carrie] One dog appears to get trapped in a seat. Fun times!

From one group of dogs to another, Graham's back with the remaining Dorothys. (Too mean?) [Yes! - Carrie] He asks Danielle, who was "saved by the Lord" last week, though has not yet begun toting a Bible everywhere she goes, about how important Andrew's approval is. She says that as the biggest man in musical theatre, obviously it is very important. Following on from last week's shocking revelation that Jenny has never seen West Side Story, Graham unveils another scandal: Jenny has in fact never been to see a West End show at all. That's a far better sob story than "I used to be fat", surely? Apparently this is her first time in scary London, and she was hoping to catch a few shows in her spare time, until she realised she wasn't going to get any. Spare time, that is. Not the other thing. Graham turns to Steph and recalls her excellent comments from last night, with John expecting to see her in the final, and asks if she's feeling confident. The answer to this question, as Lauren has recently discovered to her cost, is of course "NO". Steph vows to keep working hard and hopes the public keep supporting her. Sophie talks about having worked hard during the week, and is determined to continue doing so. Graham asks Jessica if, as a self-avowed REALLY NORMAL NORTHERN GIRL, being called world-class by Andrew Lloyd Webber made her head explode. "Not really," is the rather unexpected answer. "It's thanks to the Boro that I'm the performer that I am." Well, at least we know where to direct our complaints about the faces, I guess.

Mission time! The girls are deployed to a church where Charlotte Church (see? see?) is singing 'Summertime' rather piercingly. Charlotte VTs that she wants to test the girls' vocals, and they're in a church because of the acoustics, and not because of any opportunities for crashingly obvious puns or anything like that. The girls tell the cameras how much they're in awe of Charlotte, and then she gives them all some individual tips on how to perform 'No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)', "which is A BIG SONG TO SING", she tells us, having apparently been temporarily possessed by the spirit of Masterchef. Above a well-edited shot of Emilie, Charlotte tells us she will be looking for tone and pitch in the girls' voices. HA! Steph's in first, and Charlotte thinks she looks scared of the top notes. Charlotte seems to like Sophie's natural take on the song, while Jessica needs to be careful of the sound she produces in her mid-range, apparently. Stephanie gets good notes, while Jenny manages not to be nasal, to Charlotte's delight. Danielle has an "obvious West End voice", while a nervous Emilie expects to be shouted at. Charlotte tells her to massage her own face, and Emilie sings in tune for the first time ever. Lauren is "pretty flawless", but remembers to take these compliments modestly this time. Charlotte thinks there are four standouts, and then breaks the news that she'll be singing the song with them on the show. Their reactions of unbridled delight make it clear that they've never seen her duets on The Charlotte Church Show.

Back in the studio, the girls are lined up on the Stairs Of Doom, while Charlotte perches on the balcony to open the song. Each girl gets a line and Charlotte and Stephanie have a quasi-lesbian moment before it goes all disco and the levels are all out so it's hard to hear them properly. The choreography and camera-blocking are a bit odd too, resulting in some girls inadvertently hiding each other, and then Charlotte's voice bottoms out a little bit on the middle eight, but returns for the final chorus. [She's not that strong on her lower register, is she? Also, she looks too thin. And if I were Gavin Henson I would be a bit worried about the vehemence with which she delivers these lyrics. - Carrie] They all sass to the front, and some limp fireworks explode. Charlotte tells Graham that working with the girls was a privilege. Next week: they all act out a gay love scene with John Partridge!

VT Vox Pop time: the girls are asked who they think is the public's favourite Dorothy. Emilie names Stephanie, while Jenny thinks Emilie because she was the wildcard. Steph thinks Jessica because she's so "animated" on stage, and you can just tell that they're basically all picking from the five girls who've not hit the bottom two yet, but they're all too media-trained to say it. Jessica picks Sophie because she's got the Welsh vote, Sophie picks Stephanie, Stephanie picks Emilie because she was the wild card and hasn't been in the bottom two (hurrah! Some honesty!), Danielle thinks Sophie because she's lovely and genuine both on and offstage, while Lauren picks Jenny because she's fun-loving and has the Scottish vote.

It's almost time for the results, but first it's time for the panel to name the girl who is not Dorothy. They all pick Emilie, with varying degrees of apology. Emilie's face crumbles. [I ALMOST felt sorry for her then. But then I reminded myself of her performance this week and felt sorrier for me having to watch it twice. - Carrie]

Steph is the first to be named safe, and walks over to the Benches Of Sanctity looking relieved. Danielle is called next, but told she might still be in danger, just to fuck with her. Jessica and Stephanie are called together, and could both still be Dorothy. They skip off-stage, arm in arm. See, told you they were Method. [Danielle's face at this point could curdle milk. - Carrie] Lauren and Jenny are also called together, and are also both through. That leaves Sophie, Emilie and Danielle awaiting their fates. Emily is stoic, Danielle looks resigned, Sophie is fighting back tears. Emilie is the first to be informed that she is in the bottom two, and she smiles wanly. Danielle is finally put out of her misery and told she's safe: she hugs the other two and makes it over to the benches, wiping away tears. [NO MORE TEARS! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Did this week's mission teach you NOTHING? - Carrie]

Emilie and Sophie, then, are the least popular Dorothys this week, and Graham reveals that the girl with the fewest votes this week was Emilie - but there's still hope, because Andrew may decide to save her. Hahahahaha, yeah. That'll happen. They'll be singing 'I Know Him So Well' from Chess, and I can tell you even before they sing a note that their version won't be nearly as good as when Carrie and I bring this bad one home on the karaoke. Andrew babbles on about it having wonderful lyrics for two girls to sing, and he wants to see their acting performances on this one.

Emilie begins and is a little croaky, while Sophie is sweet-sounding, and dare I say it, is actually acting. There are moments where Emilie genuinely sounds very pleasant, but her pitch is sadly all over the place, so this is pretty much solidifying my belief that she is nowhere near ready for EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK right now. [And again we see that Emilie's break seems to come fairly low down. This is not a HUGE problem; it can be worked on a bit, but she doesn't seem to be able to manage it at all. - Carrie] By contrast, this is probably the best job, both in terms of singing and acting, that Sophie has done since the live shows started. I know, I know: hollow praise, but still.

It's time for Andrew to decide who he will save. He blathers on for a bit about wishing he'd written that song, [Lloyd Webber would NEVER think of a harmony like those minor thirds in the chorus. Dream on, the Lord - Carrie] but ultimately opts to save Sophie, which was of course the right decision. Sophie hugs Emilie, who has taken the news with a smile. Graham tells her to be proud of herself, because she was the wildcard who was voted in by the public and made it halfway through the competition (or thereabouts). Emilie thanks her mum and dad, "because I wouldn't be here without them" (yes dear, that's kind of how it works), and vows to go off and train and toughen up, because we will see her again, she swears. She thanks everyone politely for the opportunity and tells the remaining girls that they're all amazing. Andrew tells her that they all love her, and Sheila's comments from last night were the clincher: that it might all be too much for Emilie at the moment, "but you will go somewhere, because you're the prettiest little thing." That sound you can hear right now is Emily Davison spinning furiously in her grave.

With that, Graham reminds us to tune in for "big band week" next week (oh good gravy), and Emily and the Dorothys begin the singoff. It sounds a little bit subdued this week: perhaps they really are quite sad she's going? After Sophie relieves her of her shoes, Emilie heads to the moon and begins singing 'Over The Rainbow', so at least Charlotte's getting her wish, I suppose. Again, there are moments of beautiful clarity, but also of honking flatness, so I hope she can iron that all out with some training somewhere. [And I can finally hear what they mean about the 1940s tone to her voice. She sounds like Judy Garland would, if Judy Garland had been a bit shit. - Carrie] In a moment that is sad and hilarious in equal measures, Emilie biffs her last big note on the show, which feels like an appropriate enough metaphor for her journey in the competition. And then we're out: I can't say I'm not relieved she's gone, but I'm glad she was such a good sport about it. Until next week, bitches!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Register emotion, jealousy, devotion

Tx: 24th April 2010
Top eight

Last week there was skirt-swishing and sparkly-moon-flying, now let's cut out some of the dead wood, please. This is Over The Rainbow!

Titles!

Graham's waistcoat looks like it's on fire; his suit looks like it's made from tarnished sheet copper. He welcomes the audience, the judges and Lloyd Webber, and then introduces the girls singing If I Only Had A Heart, except with lyrics changed to If I Only Had The Part. The ingenuity is astounding. They fling their skirts around a lot again.

Then we're introduced to the judges and the panel again. In case we'd forgotten who they are, perhaps. Lloyd Webber says the competition is wide open and everyone must vote in case we end up with a hung Dorothy. [I bet certain members of the panel would like a hung Dorothy. Fnar. - Steve] He implores us to judge on the group performances as well as the solos. Fortunately we will get the opportunity to do this later when they sing song from Oklahoma! and Calamity Jane. Quick VT of the girls mock-fighting. I hope their acting in the number is better than that.

First up, Jenny, who shares with us the information that when she was in school, she was seriously overweight. Like obese. And she never had the confidence to do anything because she was bullied and feared people would laugh at her. One day she got weighed and realised she had to do something about it, so she lost the weight and now she is happy and healthy. She judges her weight loss to be an impressive achievement, more so than this competition, and she's right. Good for her.

Also, there is Emilie, who was fucking dreadful last week and cried about it. This week Charlotte has been attempting to teach her to sing - "the top can go a bit sharp," says La Church. Yeah; what about the middle and the lower notes? Emilie grins that it is fantastic to work with Charlotte.

Jenny sings 'Warwick Avenue', and vocally this is beautiful. Though her pronunciation and diction is a bit grating in place. Also, her hair looks lovely. But that's about all I have to say about it.

Emilie prances round the stage singing 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun', occasionally straying towards something approaching the right note but never stays there for long. Her arms are all over the place, and even a finger-phone. There's an excruciating bit of business with a hand mirror (not feminist consciousness-raising, thank fuck, just some face-concealment in the line "hide her away from the rest of the world"). This is particularly lame because it's pitched right on her break, so she can't decide between chest and head voice for most of this, and it's a mess. But then it's Emilie, so you'd expect nothing else. [The acting was slightly terrifying - she ended up making Lolly's version look mature and dignified. - Steve]

Graham talks to Jenny about "the curse of the blondes", which is pathetic. [And it sounds increasingly misplaced since last week's eliminee was a brunette. - Steve] Emilie says it was amazing to work with Charlotte - "thank goodness, someone's hearing my voice!" Emilie, that's the fucking problem, we can all hear your voice and it's TERRIBLE. Charlotte says Jenny did quite a good job with a rangy song, but thought it was a bit small and self-contained; and that Emilie was fun and frivolous but missed notes, but her voice's tone is like Judy Garland's (who, I might remind you, we are supposed to be forgetting about) and she would LOVE to hear her sing 'Over The Rainbow'. Ha, oh, Charlotte, so would I! In the results show. This week. Kthxbai. Sheila says Jenny is good at being perky and witty, but not so hot at acting anguish, and that Emilie was cute but not anguished, and if she wants to go into performing she needs to buck up and develop a thicker skin, BITCH. John says that he is losing Jenny a little bit because she was acting on one level despite a great vocal performance, and commends Emilie for her attack. He reminds them they are looking for Dorothy, not an understudy. [Someone tell that to Aoife. And Sarah. - Steve] Lloyd Webber agree with Sheila that it's a tough profession, and if you haven't got the inner strength, then fuck off out of it. His tears were not jerked by Jenny, who then confesses to never seeing Duffy's video for 'Warwick Avenue'. Ouch.

Next, it's Stephanie, who cannot cook, and is mocked by Steph for not being able to butter bread. So Aldo Zilli turns up to teach her to make pasta for the girls. And that is it. [Although there is a moment where she confuses Pesto with Bisto, at which point I decided I can never in good conscience root for Stephanie to win. - Steve] [Oh RIGHT. I get it now. I didn't understand what the fuck she was on about. - Carrie]

Lauren used to have a hearing impairment, so she is NOT CONFIDENT, remember. Her mum cries in the VT. But it has a happy ending because Lauren's hearing improved when she was about 17. Except it's NOT a happy ending because Lauren warns us that it might get worse again. Well, that's a bit of a downer.

Stephanie sings 'Nobody Does It Better' reclining on a perspex chair from the Brian Friedman house of seating. Another really inappropriate song choice there, but it's a lovely performance. I like that her vibrato (that's THE WOBBLY STUFF IN HER VOICE, for the idiots amongst us) is natural and unforced. Also, she totally confuses the cameraman by doing a little kneebend as she hits her money note and dipping out of shot.

Lauren sings 'Nobody Knows', and this is a stand-out show from her. She looks younger and more vulnerable than she has done in previous weeks, and she acts the hell out of it while not letting her vocal slip (and there's a fabulous belt in there).

Stephanie gabbles about ringing Aldo for cooking advice and does a vaguely offensive impression. Lauren gabbles about "double-quilted cotton pads" which I initially think are sanitary towels, but then she explains that she means cotton WOOL pads for taking off eye make-up. Anyway, someone has been nicking them, and she thinks it's Jenny, who has been stuffing them in her sporran. [Are we SURE they're not sanitary towels? - Steve] Hmm...also kinda offensive. And the story goes nowhere. Let's get some comments, shall we? Please? Sheila didn't know what the "it" was that Stephanie's man was doing better, but then neither would Dorothy; and thinks that Lauren has made a huge step forward. John thinks that Stephanie needs to bring a big performance to her smaller numbers, and didn't want Lauren's performance to end. Charlotte thinks Stephanie could have been more exasperated and less "singy", and that Lauren needs to be less slick. Right - so our singing expert wants less singing from the contestants in a singing contest? Lloyd Webber would be happy with either of them as Dorothy, by the way, and makes mention of 'Nobody Does It Scouser'. What? Seriously, what?

Crazy dog interlude as the lovely little doggies and their mad owners go to Sydmonton. But Steve has to recap that in full this week. HAHAHAHAHA! [Oh, raspberries. - Steve]

Sophie was pleased about last week being her best ever, and in order to celebrate her new-found toughness, she goes to train with London Welsh. (They're a rugby team, by the way.) So she tackles and practises line-outs and...how is this going to help? Especially if she breaks a rib? [I did love the incongruity of this VT in what was apparently sob story week. Everyone else cuts their arms open and shows us the blood, while Sophie...goes off to roll around in a muddy field. - Steve]

Jessica is worried that she has been losing the judges' support, and doesn't know what she's going wrong. She wails that she wants to be loved. Charlotte agrees that it must be confusing for her to be getting different advice from different quarters, and basically tells her to just do what she thinks is right. Wow, Charlotte's really earning her money, isn't she?

Sophie sings 'Love Song' and it's fine. She begins by sitting on the stairs and I wonder if the constricted diaphragm is why she seems to be struggling on the lower notes, but then she stands up and is still having the same problem, so it's probably not that. She gets backing singers singing her line in the chorus, which helps her, but that's cheating a bit. She has a few issues going into the key change but quickly gets it back on track.

Jessica is singing 'There You'll Be', and whoa, she really gets some unflattering outfits to wear. This looks like a cut-off batwing jumper and lycra skirt combo circa 1985. She acts this nicely and there's no problem with the notes per se, but her vibrato is just an odd wobble, coming from the throat, which constricts her voice.

Sophie enthuses about her new-found fighting spirit and enjoying being thrown around by big strong men. Jessica tells a pointless anecdote about the Dorothys' curry club, and Steph getting free poppadoms. John tells Sophie that she really has to work harder than the others because she isn't as good, and that Jessica's performance was the most truthful evah. Charlotte says Sophie's song is hard to sing and hence it went "pitchy". Somewhere in the world Randy Jackson is on the phone to Simon Cowell and saying, "See, dawg, I told you it was a word." [*cries* - Steve] She says that Jessica doesn't have enough control in her voice. Sheila thought Sophie was terrific and kept it light, and that Jessica pushed it too hard. John starts talking over her. Rude. That's SHEILA HANCOCK you're talking to, Partridge. Lloyd Webber thinks Jessica could be a world-class star. But you also thought that about Pirate Jessie, didn't you? He suggests she could cut back on the facial expressions. He's one to talk. He prefers Sophie looking less sophisticated, and reminds the viewers to judge on the Dorothys' talking as well as their singing. He also says that Dorothy doesn't have many big notes to sing. He's not got around to writing any new numbers for her yet, has he?

Charlotte goes to a church to sing with the Dorothys. They are all excited. We will see the fruits of that particular endeavour tomorrow.

Danielle had to sing off with her room-mate and best friend Dani last week, which she describes as "horrendous". Then there is some soft-focus montage about Danielle's grandmother and I'm half-expecting them to announce that she DIED this week or something, this show is so fucked this week. But she isn't; she's just proud of her granddaughter.

Yay, montage VT of Steph's family! They are awesome. They all sit downstairs and watch her performances on Sky+ over and over and over again. Baby D is proud, as are Nanu and Nana, Steph's grandparents. Meanwhile, Steph is sitting in her room bellowing, "CAN YOU TURN IT DOWN?" See, if we hadn't been having pointless anecdotes about curry and cotton wool, we could have had more of this kind of stuff, which is what I pay my licence fee for. [Although it did make me worry that the great British voting public would see this as a lack of gratitude in the same way that they didn't quite grasp that Lauren was joking two weeks ago. - Steve]

Danielle descends from the ceiling on a swing singing 'Cry Me A River', and looks ethereally beautiful tonight. She's not a very natural mover but her vocal is pretty.

Steph begins her song lying down for reasons unknown - it didn't do Asbestos Andy any good. And then she sings...and I've forgotten what she sang already. Her voice is beautiful and she is a great performer, but it is not a good song. It's something I know but I don't like. What was it? [It was 'Use Somebody', just in case you weren't kidding. - Steve] [No, I wasn't; I seem to have entirely blocked the song from my memory. - Carrie]

They both wail about having been in the bottom two. Charlotte loved them both; Sheila says they are the best actors, and Danielle will be a big star with her subtlety and gravity. John really outgays himself. Andrew Lloyd Webber thinks they were both fantastic and wishes Danielle a happy 18th birthday for Monday, suggesting they have a whipround to buy her a shandy.

Time for Wild West-themed group number. Lloyd Webber turned up at rehearsal, "just by chance". Jessica, Danielle, Sophie and Steph are singing 'Oklahoma!' and the Lord attempts to give them direction; interestingly he really doesn't seem to be able to sing. Jenny, Lauren, Emilie and Stephanie are singing 'Deadwood Stage', which he informs them is "very American". Steph wishes they'd got that song instead. Heh. Lloyd Webber reminds us to judge on the GROUP NUMBERS. Yeah, all right, your lordship, we've GOT IT.

The Doris Day wannabes go first. Stephanie has some really unflattering trousers on. Emilie opts for sidegob over the right notes. There is a point where I think Lauren's about to do a cartwheel, but she doesn't, fortunately. Also, their combined diction with their newly-assumed accents means you cannot HEAR A FUCKING WORD THEY ARE SINGING.

The Oklahoma! girl are hamstrung by some rubbish sound and a really peculiar arrangement where the key changes prior to the first chorus. Incidentally, Steph would be a fabulous Ado Annie, and Danielle would be a good Laurey. I might go and watch my DVD of the Jackman as Curly in Oklahoma! now. Still, you can hear what they're saying.

All the judges think the Oklahoma! girls were best; Lloyd Webber suggests we stop the competition now and have a job-share between the eight of them. Everyone laughs politely.

And the lines are now open! Time for a recap (see above) and we're out. Join Steve tomorrow for the result. Surely Emilie is going this week. Surely.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Three weeks only

Top 9 results show
Tx: 18th April 2010

Wild applause! Graham welcomes us, and informs us that the lines are closed and the votes are in. Obviously. Time for a reprise of 'Ease On Down The Road', which is still from a DIFFERENT BLOODY SHOW and has some appalling skirt-swishing choreography and some increasingly noticeable sidegobbery. [Dear Andrew Lloyd Webber: I assume you are actually going to write some new songs for this show as you've suggested. Since you seem to have run out of existing songs for the Dorothys to perform, perhaps you'd better get a move on? - Steve]

"Last" "night" the Dorothys sang and danced and hoped to avoid the sing-off, and Graham introduces our lovely judges and increasingly deranged impresario. He promises us a mash-up and dogs and high-heeled shoes. Worn by John, much to Lauren's delight.

Time for a recap with backstage bitchery - Dani sang 'One Night Only' and was better than Pirate Jessie; Sophie had a breakthrough performance and jumped up and down; Lauren had a bunch of boys to 'Sway' with, and she was delighted and overwhelmed with humility; Emilie was Emilie and then sobbed about losing her confidence, while her mum declared ignorance of why everyone was being so mean; Stephanie didn't construct a coherent sentence; Steph was beautiful but didn't get to talk to the camera; Jenny's mum was disappointed with John's comments; Jessica gave it her best shot; Danielle sang and Lloyd Webber looked bored, and she says she wants to avoid the bottom two. O rly? Oh, and then they did that really weird performance of 'America'; Charlotte thinks some of them are great; Sheila doesn't want anyone to leave; John clearly does.

Back in the studio, Lloyd Webber isn't confident about anything because the talent among the Dorothys is so huge, and everyone is unsure about the result; Sheila thinks that this week revealed how much stamina the girls have to deliver performances; John thinks there are at least four contenders for the ruby slippers; Charlotte couldn't cope with the pressure the Dorothys are under because she can only dance after a few drinks. Everyone laughs.

Oh, a "mash-up". Which is in fact a fucking MEDLEY. And more to the point it is a MEDLEY of songs about lunacy. Srsly. It starts with 'Losing My Mind' from Follies, and then there's a bit of really inappropriate stripping choreography as they move into Beyonce's 'Crazy In Love', and then Gnarls Barkley's 'Crazy'. Also, there is a lamp-post on the stage. I'm not really sure why. Maybe Steve knows? [Don't look at me, I'm just the recapper. - Steve]

It's Toto time! Last week, our trio of judges got a final 50 together, and Gerry hopes to find the Wayne Rooney of the dog world. This week, we see Jake the terrier, who could be Toto, and his owner loves him as much as he loves himself. Some dogs are clever; some are not concentrating; some sing. Or howl. And some dance, which seems to please Jodie, who immediately joins in. We meet Strider, a great Dane, who was on DEATH ROW because nobody wanted him. He could be Toto. Thomas Cook was born with a hare-lip and cleft palate, and now he works with children with physical disabilities. Jodiebursts into tears as she tells the owner he is not going to be Toto. An obnoxious ginger child says that the panel will regret not making her dog Toto. Hmm. Don't think so, girlie. It's ONE PERFORMANCE. We meet Bumble, an assistance dog, who does an incredible job at helping her owner, who's in a wheelchair. And then the panel have to whittle them all down to ten. They are unsure whether Lloyd Webber will know what's hit him - Jodie suspects he may be scared by a couple of them. Good!

Graham talks to the Dorothys. Emilie respects Lloyd Webber's opinion and says she intends to go to drama school regardless of how well she does in the competition. Yeah, if you get in. Dani is glad she entered the competition and is learning so much and has much more to give. Lauren hopes she's done enough not to sing off, and thinks it's a buzz to get nice comments from the judges.

VT time! John takes it upon himself to help the girls with their performances, beginning with being able to walk in high heels. And so he demonstrates. With his own pair of bright yellow shoes. He brags that he is better than them at walking in heels and they must learn to be as good as him. Steph thinks it's hilarious; Lauren reckons he's a natural. The girls dance and scurry across the floor in their heels. Jessica notes that she runs like an elephant. And then time for a task - the girls each have to walk down the stairs, and then when they get to the bottom they have to dance an unchoreographed routine with John. Emilie reckons it's simple. And then Lloyd Webber and Arlene Phillips turn up, for no reason. [I was kind of hoping Arlene would be unceremoniously sacked mid-VT and replaced with Alesha Dixon, just for the lulz. - Steve] Montage of the girls dancing with John. John says that Steph is an excellent partner but wishes she had looked at him; Jessica was great, and she thinks she might take up ballroom dancing; Sophie committed to it; Lauren lusts after John's arms; Dani is a bit stiff and didn't read where John wanted her to go; Jenny cackles about John picking her up; Emilie was cocky so John just threw her around the floor to teach her a lesson. John was most impressed by Stephanie ("a mini-Ginger Rogers") and Danielle, who adopted a character and acted the routine.

And another group performance - 'Buenos Aires' from Evita, which sounds like it is in a higher key than it is in the show's score, but the girls still can't get the low notes. Danielle makes a good Eva; Emilie has teeth like Madonna. The boy dancers' braces keep falling down, which rather defeats the object. Andrew is sad that he will never see those girls perform together again, and wonders if they are casting the wrong show because there are a few great Evitas in there. Graham reminds us that one of them has to go, but wonders who they would all miss the most. Danielle would miss Dani; Emilie would miss Stephanie; Dani would miss Steph; Jenny has FUCKING AWFUL SKIN, wow, that's some good stage make-up; Steph would miss Sophie; Jessica would miss Dani; Lauren would miss Jenny; Stephanie would miss Emilie [well, I suppose someone would have to - Steve]; Sophie would miss Steph.

Before the results, the panel decide who is not Dorothy - Sheila says Jessica, John says Emilie, and Charlotte says Jenny. Time for some teenage girls' dreams to be shattered - Emilie is safe and hugs Stephanie; Dani is in the bottom two; Stephanie is safe; Jenny is safe; Steph is safe and Baby D is very happy; Lauren is safe; Jessica is safe. So it's between Danielle and Sophie for that last automatic spot...and it's Sophie who gets it.

The room-mates Dani (who had the fewest votes, which frankly sucks, and at this point she looks like a rabbit in the headlights) and Danielle must sing 'Maybe This Time' from Cabaret. Lloyd Webber tells them to be themselves, they are both terrific, and go for it. Dani is on the verge of tears, which oddly works well for the song, and she manages to do a really good job. On the Dorothy bleachers, Stephanie looks like she's about to faint. As the key changes, Dani yodels her way through a sob, and the rest of the girls stand up to cheer her on. That poor little girl. Danielle holds it together and has a beautiful clarity and purity of voice when she gets chance to show it off properly in a decent song.

Lloyd Webber's verdict - he knows they are special to each other, but the competition is unpredictable, and he is saving Danielle, who kisses Dani firmly before leaving the stage. Everyone whoops poor little Dani. Lloyd Webber says she is a fantastic singer but in a couple of years' time she will be more at ease in herself and has a great future. Dani pulls herself together, though a few tears are leaking out, and thanks everyone while wishing the rest of the girls luck.

Time for the sing-out, and Danielle clings to her friend's hand as she walks past. She doesn't seem to be singing, actually. And then again to Dani's immense credit, she puts on an outstanding 'Over The Rainbow'. Seriously. It's amazing, with a narrative arc and an accent and a lovely tone. In fact, it made me cry a bit. Particularly bearing in mind she's 16 and just had her dreams crushed on national television. Though at least it wasn't live. So Dani sails off on a sparkly moon, while Emilie remains to assault our eardrums for another week. Join us next weekend to see if her luck really can last another week!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

I have confidence in confidence alone

Top 9: 17th April 2010

Previously on A Star Isn't Born: there was shock and horror in considerable measures as presumed frontrunners Bronte and Lauren found themselves in the bottom two, for the respective crimes of being middle class and expressing confidence in one's own abilities. The fools! Ultimately Bronte was cut loose and sailed off on a sparkly moon, while every other contestant lost their shit, with the possible exception of Emilie, who simply removed one more pin-ravaged doll from her scale model Dorothy House and started playing ippy-dippy over which of the remaining eight was going to get a little acupuncture next. In unseen backstage footage(!), Bronte apologised for letting The Lord down, and he told her that was nonsense. Once again, the remaining Dorothys have had a fire lit under their pert little hineys, and they're all realising just how very vulnerable they are. This! Is Over The Rainbow!

Titles. I sincerely hope Andrew Lloyd Webber is next on Sheila Hancock's list for an acting masterclass, because that shit is not going to cut it around here. Even Jessica is watching this and thinking "sheesh, dial it back a bit."

Graham enters, with another Turner Prize-worthy waistcoat, flanked by our ever-enthusiastic potential Dorothys. With impressively little ado, he introduces the panel, who are "here with their brains" (more pyrotechnics go off, and once again Sheila looks for her heart medication), and our final nine Dorothys have plenty of courage (except in the cases where courage would come across more like being a CONFIDENT BITCH, of course) and the Lord has a great big heart (two feeble sparklers go off either side, and Andrew fans under his nose, inadvertently giving the impression that he just farted into a cigarette lighter to produce the aforementioned effect). Smoke from the pyrotechnics floods the studio, and Graham snarks: "I feel like I'm in Iceland!" Heh.

The Dorothys open the show by performing 'Ease On Down The Road'. Forgive me if I'm being a bit of a pedant here, but isn't that from The Wiz? Are we doing that show instead now? [I wish we were. - Carrie] The girls do a bit of country-style hoofing while they sing their solos: Jessica unfortunately looks more like a rugby player than a Kansas farmgirl in this particular instance, and somebody has finally taken pity on us and turned down Emilie's mic so she can barely be heard.

Graham informs us that it's dance week this week. Does this mean that Steph will be performing the 1994 club smash 'Let Me Be Your Fantasy' as a tribute to her parents? Oh, hang on: he means that the girls will be put through their paces in order to demonstrate their dance skills, rather than singing an assortment of songs from Now That's What I Call Bangin' Choons 18. Graham reminds us that last week, which is now apparently being termed "Brontegate", has served as a timely reminder to all the girls of just how quickly they can be dismissed. I wish people would stop tacking "-gate" onto everything they want to make sound like a national scandal - I mean, they do know that the Watergate scandal didn't actually have anything to do with water, right? The panel are introduced: legendary actress Sheila, West End and soap star John, and newly-engaged Charlotte. Aw, apparently her personal life is her career these days. Poor mite. And, of course, there's Andrew, who's quizzed about last week's tough call in the bottom two, and gives us some good news about Bronte: she's had a good week and gone for several auditions, of which he thinks she's likely to get one of them, and she's got a place at stage school. But hang on, won't that gloss over all her realness and RUIN HER FOREVER? Andrew continues that Bronte needs to develop the stamina to perform EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK, which she can learn at stage school. Hmm - never mind the fact that Pirate Jessie needed a few years' tuition to knock those annoying tics out of her system, and yet you couldn't throw her onto the West End stage fast enough? Stupid moving goalposts.

Apparently the show's musical director has been stuck elsewhere as a result of the general airport chaos this week, which Andrew reminds us is proof that this show is LIVE and full of REAL talent, presumably a dig at what'll be on the other side in an hour or so. The crowd applauds the Substitute Musical Director, and Graham teases a group performance of 'America' from West Side Story later, but before that, we must get to our first two Dorothys: Dani and Sophie. Could they not shake up the running order a bit? Sophie's been in the first couple to perform for two weeks in a row now, and Dani has been on third, fourth and second so far. Anyway, Dani got good notes from Charlotte last week and was thrilled. She's so pleased that she's here on the show, especially since her parents didn't want her to come and audition for it in the first place: Dani's mum says through possibly-gritted teeth that their daughter is very "determined" (I can't help wondering if she really wanted to say "wilful") and applied for the show without their knowledge, only telling them about her audition the week before it happened, the young scamp. However, having seen her perform, they think that this is what she was born to do, and Dani is grateful for their support. Last week, Sophie was upstaged by her Boy Dancers, and the show makes out like he has some kind of vendetta against her. Sophie says in a confessional that John doesn't like her as a performer (I don't think that's strictly true) and she needs to change his mind. As it happens, John popped into training this week to give her a bit of one-to-one assistance, which seems to chiefly involve pointing out some fairly obvious things about her performance, but hey, if it works, that's the main thing I guess. Sophie says that this is exactly what she needed, and now she hopes to "rock it" on Saturday.

Graham tells us about the show's red-button interactivity, and Andrew asks if he has to save "George, Dave or Nick" next week with the red button. Graham has no idea what he's talking about, and even I'm slightly confused. Was that meant to be a general election joke? If so: George? Oh dear. Dani's on first, wearing a sparkly jacket and a mustard-coloured dress, singing 'One Night Only' from Dreamgirls. In order to judge this performance fairly, I went back and reviewed Jessie's performance of the same song in all its sidegobbed glory, to see how they stand alongside each other. Dani's take on the song is fairly subdued, with less snarling and considerably more earnestness. Her dancing's a little bit stilted though, and she performs it in some sort of vacuum without really interacting with her Boy Dancers. [Jessie's performance of this was the first appearance of the swinging pirate arm, if I recall correctly. - Carrie] The vocals are definitely better than Jessie's, though - she's on-key nicely throughout.

Sophie, meanwhile, is doing Avril Lavigne's 'I'm With You', standing on the Stairs Of Doom and looking very small. Some Boy Dancers walk onto the stage during the chorus, and Sophie starts to sing to them, which kind of makes the song look a bit like it's about prostitution. Er, oops. Her singing's nice, although she's a bit painful to listen to on those top notes, which are kind of more yelly than singy in the original anyway, and have a bit of sloppiness about them.

The two girls join Graham for their feedback, and Graham asks Dani whether she prefers doing ballads like last week, or being a diva like tonight. Dani hastily clarifies that she's not a diva, because she saw what happened to Lauren last week and wants no part of that, but says that she loves trying something different every weekend, and says she's had a fun week with her male dancers. Ooer. Sophie says she poured her heart and soul into her performance, and she's really grateful to John for helping her out.

John's apparently looking at movement skills this week, but says that since there wasn't much movement in either performance (I suspect there was supposed to be movement in Dani's, but it didn't really turn out that way), so he was looking for connection with the audience and the lyrics, and he thinks both girls did him proud. He thinks Dani stood out despite having lots of dancers and sold the emotion of the song, and gave her strongest performance to date. He thinks that Sophie gave a very credible performance, and he thinks she won't be going home after that performance (which I thought seemed like a really odd thing to say the first time I saw the show, but I've since realised that he's referencing the song's lyrics, which involve looking for someone to take you home). Charlotte loved Sophie's performance - she thinks she got all the notes and had a beautiful tone. She started off shakily, though (I personally took that as a deliberate acting choice, but YMMV, I guess) but she got all her emotion across. Charlotte likes that Dani is not self-conscious, but needs to watch for her voice getting nasal. John didn't think it was nasal, but Charlotte did. God, are those two going to have a really tiny dispute every week? This is encroaching into PRECIOUS SHEILA HANCOCK TIME, people! Speaking of Sheila, she thought they were both great, but she's going to be picky: she longs to see Sophie do a humorous song ('That Don't Impress Me Much' was humorous, though, surely? I mean, I know it's no 'There! Right There!', but it could be pretty funny in the right hands, I would've thought) and hopes we can see her having some fun, because she's always so intense. Sheila thinks Dani didn't quite make it clear to her what the song was about - it worked as a pop song because the audience were clapping along, but she thinks that Dani was misled by that. Sheila explains her interpretation of the song: that it's about a young girl who's not interested in commitment and looking for a one-night stand, which she points out is "not very Dorothy", and not very appropriate for Dani's age group, "but then I'm a silly old fa- ahhh..." Snerk. Although, that particular assessment of it makes me wonder if La Hancock has actually seen Dreamgirls, because I would say it has an entirely different meaning in its proper context (although, in fairness, it does ultimately get disco-fied and turned into a free sex anthem by Deena shortly afterwards, so she's not entirely off the mark here). Anyway, Sheila would've liked more light and shade in the song to clarify what it was about.

Andrew wants to ask John something, because he worked with the girls this week, about the dancing side of things: he basically accuses Dani of having no rhythm and says that these two are not the strongest dancers in the field. John tries to defend them both, saying that Dani's performance this week was self-confident and not self-conscious, which she has looked in the past, and as such, this week was a bit of a breakthrough. Sheila interjects that Dani was "superb" during 'Home' last week, but then John points out that had no choreography. Heh. Andrew says it's about getting the whole package together, they need a Dorothy who is credible and can really move with the music. In other words, I wouldn't bet on this pair's chances of surviving the bottom two when they eventually end up there.

Next up is Lauren, who got a wake-up call last week when she landed in the bottom two, and now gets a segment all to herself. She is, predictably enough, getting the full Danyl Johnson treatment this week, where her VT focuses on how hurtful it is to be called arrogant: she cries a bit, and says that while she projects an air of confidence, she's made of jelly on the inside or something. Her dream was nearly taken away last week, and this week is going to be tough, but guess what? This has made her realise just how much she wants this! I mean, what are the odds?

This week Lauren is singing 'Sway', complete with Boy Dancers, and her performance this week is playful, though in a step up from last week, there's a coherence to it rather than a different emotion in each line contributing to a general air of chaos. Some of her notes are a little scratchy, though it seems a much better performance on re-watching than I thought it was the first time I saw it. Graham asks her if she's done enough to win back her public support, and she says that it's been a tough week, and she put a brave face on and tried to do her best, and it felt like a comeback performance. I think a good rule for Lauren in the future is to end each sentence about two clauses before the point she's currently ending them at, though as a babbler myself, I do sympathise. Charlotte, who admonished Lauren for her alleged arrogance last week in a proper Women Beware Women moment, is asked for her opinion this week: Charlotte thought Lauren smouldered her way through it, and she hopes people vote for her this week because her voice is so special. Sheila thought it was a very elegant performance, and praises Lauren's navigation of the Stairs Of Doom in particular, while John -- being a much-needed voice of reason at this point -- tells Lauren that it's okay to be confident, because confidence is a good thing. I mean, finally. I know it's a tricky line to negotiate, because any sign of confidence from a woman on reality TV is generally taken for arrogance, but I'm glad someone's pointed out that she doesn't have to be all meek and grovelling instead. He says she proved that she's a good dancer tonight, so she's got the full package. The Lord says that she didn't do all the knowing gestures from last week, which was a good thing, and she had fun with it, giving her best performance yet. Lauren looks very relieved, BUT NOT IN AN ARROGANT WAY, obviously.

Our next two Dorothys were respectively "panned and praised" by the panel last week: Emilie and Stephanie. A brief snippet of last week recalls the horror of Emilie's rendition of 'The Boy Does Nothing' and the subsequent notes she got about her vocal control. Now, my boyfriend and I interpreted Emilie's comments in this VT somewhat differently, so in an effort to remain fair, I'm going to transcribe them verbatim: "I disagree that the voice is where I need a lot of work, but this is a tough competition, you're always going to get negative comments [...] The voice is there; I've trained, I've had lessons, I can sing." To be fair, the first time I was faintly incensed by these comments, and thought they were just as rife for interpretation as misplaced confidence as Lauren's thoughts were last week, but yeah, watching it back: she is just pointing out that she didn't just roll up on a whim on the 226, she's had a lot of vocal training and thinks that her voice is up to the challenge of this show. However, just as I defend Emilie's right to her own opinion, I also have a right to mine, wherein I would point out that lots of auditionees on The X Factor have had a lot of vocal coaching, and a lot of them still sound like refried ass, so coaching alone is not an automatic ticket to future melodious consistency. Hell, I took and passed two drama exams from a professional body as a teenager; but if I went to a professional acting audition these days, they'd laugh me out of the room, and rightly so. Also, I don't know if the contestants ever get a chance to review their previous performances, so I'll give Emilie the benefit of the doubt and assume she has not, because if she's listened back to 'Breakaway' and 'The Boy Does Nothing' and still doesn't see the problem, I can't help wondering if she's actually tone-deaf. Anyway, Emilie refers again to the public's faith in her, and she feels she has more to give, and she's determined to woo the judges.

Stephanie loved last week's song, and was really pleased to show the judges that she's got another side to her. Of course, Stephanie also saw what happened to Lauren last week, and so her VT is about how she's always really nervous and lacking in self-belief. Apparently, someone told her she wasn't good enough a few years ago, and she believed them. Well, that's showbiz, kid. However, she's regained her faith in herself, and she's never going to doubt herself again. Though she'll probably keep quiet about that in order to avoid being branded a she-devil by Charlotte.

Emilie goes first, singing 'Moon River', in a slightly shrill but not entirely unpleasant tone. Ultimately I feel a lot like I did after watching Kate Gosselin's tango on Dancing With The Stars: it's wonderful to see improvement, but when you were starting from such a low point to begin with, it's hard to get too excited about it. Also: it's 'Moon River'. It's really not that taxing a song, and she has no choreography to worry about this week (well, there is some, but it's when she isn't singing). So: I can see her point about how she's had vocal training and can deliver a song, but she's still got a lot of work to do to convince me that she can cut it against the Stephanies and the Stephs of the competition who are knocking it out of the park on a regular basis.

When that's over, Stephanie takes to the stage for a complete change of mood with Jennifer Lopez's 'Let's Get Loud'. I for one am disappointed, because there are going to be Jennifer Lopez songs on this show, then this one should be at the top of the list:



Amazing.

Anyway, where were we? Oh, right: Stephanie's giving it some Latin fever in an alarming black dress with yellow polka dots, and this song isn't a natural fit for her at all, but she's selling it like a true pro, and that's what I mean about the difference between the likes of her and Emilie. There's some odd choreography going on, but Stephanie has command of the stage, and while it's not the best vocal she's ever given, on a fairly sub-par night it's definitely one of the better ones.

Graham asks them, NatWest-style, if it's all work-work-work or whether they get to have any fun in the Dorothy house. Stephanie says that they work and play hard, and Emilie agrees. Sheila thought Stephanie was wonderful, and she's pleased that she's shown she can do different styles of performance. One small problem: "I haven't the slightest idea what the number was about, but never mind - it looked nice." Heh. Similarly, with Emilie she could've done with more pointers as to what the song was about - she didn't understand why the Boy Dancer was there for the performance, but she's sure Emilie did. John didn't get Emilie's performance - despite what Sheila said, he's not sure Emilie did know what she was doing, because he didn't understand who she was singing to or what she was singing for, and there was no connection with the guy she was singing to, or possibly not singing to, and he didn't understand the waltz, or the bit where they turned away from each other, and Charlotte disagrees, but about what I'm not entirely sure, and she didn't sound supported vocally. Stephanie, on the other hand, gave another excellent supported performance, but needs to learn when to pull back. Charlotte thinks Emilie has found her vocal control and she got the whole story, and Stephanie is awesome. Andrew tells Emilie that he thinks there's a reason why they didn't put her into the Top 10 initially, and he agrees with John that she's not vocally secure, and he worries about her in a large theatre doing EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK, while Stephanie was brilliant. He does throw Emilie a brief bone by saying that she's "possibly our best mover", to which I say:



The cooch-punching! Make it stop!

Andrew talks briefly about the West Side Story performance coming later, and says that they wouldn't ask a West End company to do as much as these girls are doing tonight and "tomorrow" night. Yes, but they are doing EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK, not TWO SHOWS A WEEK, as you keep telling us. You can't have it both ways, chum. Anyway, he thinks 'America' will be a defining moment in the history of the competition, if they can pull it off.

Steph and Jenny are on next: last week, Steph gave us a showstopper, and was really pleased with how it all turned out. Steph's mum Baby D is very proud of her, and so is her dad, the Phil Fearon of Galaxy featuring Phil Fearon. Her parents talk about how being in the studio is a bit like when they used to do Top Of The Pops, and they're kind of adorable. Steph has apparently been teasing her dad about being more famous than him now. CAREFUL, STEPHANIE FEARON, THAT MIGHT LOOK LIKE CONFIDENCE TO SOME. [Steph doesn't have a punchable face like Lauren, though. She's fine. - Carrie] Jenny impressed with 'Songbird' last week, and says that she feels the pressure to keep the good comments coming, but this week is choreography week, and she's the worst dancer here, she reckons. Sucks to be Jenny, then. However, Jenny suspects Dorothy "doesn't really dance", and reckons she's up to "a wee skip and a hop". Fair enough.

Steph is singing 'Out Here On My Own' from Fame, and it's easily the best performance of the night: there's a stillness and a confidence (the good sort, not the EVIL SORT) to it, amid a sea of vamping and hamming, there's a sincerity to it which is quite rare on this show. Jenny is singing 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love?', and while there's nothing especially wrong with this performance (she moves easily about the stage and her vocals are on form), it's just not really an attention grabber like 'Songbird' was. I don't think she's in any danger this week, mind: as I pointed out earlier, it's a week where several people have underwhelmed, and so merely being decent is probably plenty to keep yourself in it.

Steph tells Graham that she's confident in her own abilities (CAREFUL!), but always gets nervous during the live shows. Jenny says that Bronte going last week was a big shock, so they're all having as much fun as possible because no one knows when they'll be ousted. John says that Steph dazzled with her dancing last week and this week she dazzled with her acting. Jenny on the other hand, he thinks could be faking it. Charlotte thinks Steph is a triple-threat, but needs to watch her vibrato, "which is the wobbly stuff in your voice". Our singing expert, ladies and gentlemen! She thought Jenny was pretty good, but got nasally at parts and she needs to be careful. Sheila thought Steph was beautiful, and that Jenny could've gone further with the choreography and had fun. Andrew thought Jenny did well with a tricky song, and then he deals Steph the killer blow by telling her that even though she's talented, he's not sure the role of Dorothy is the one for her. So, Steph joins Sophie and Dani on the "gone the next time she hits the sing-off" list. Curse you, Lord Webber!

Oh, God, I'd forgotten about Rover The Rainbow: there's another teaser VT about that search, which will be covered in more detail in the results show, so once again, Carrie has the joy of recapping that. HAHAHAHAHAHA! [Fuck off. The end. - Carrie]

Our final two Dorothys are up: Jessica and Danielle. Jessica didn't feel like she'd nailed it last week (because she hadn't), and she thought she would be in the sing-off, though Bronte being in it wasn't a much better alternative, because Bronte was Jessica's best friend. Jessica's also missing her best friend from home, Rebel the Dog, but her mum's brought the dog down to cheer her up. I'm sure Bronte's thrilled at how quickly her place in Jessica's affections has been usurped. Jessica coos over the dog, but at least does so in a way that suggests she is a genuine dog lover, rather than someone who just wants to show how well she would work with Toto. Danielle brought Amy Studt back to primetime last week, and got great reviews: she tells us in her VT that she started musical theatre late in life and was quite shy. In fact, people called her "The Victorian Child" because she was always seen and not heard. I find it hard to imagine that a bunch of other kids would ever nickname someone "The Victorian Child"; that just sounds too much like one of those stories you make up later to spice up a potentially boring anecdote. Danielle recalls the horror of playing Rizzo in Grease when she was in year six, but was taken under the wing of her high school drama teacher and subsequently blossomed.

Jessica is singing 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', "from" We Will Rock You. From the way she's perched on a motorbike and surrounded by guys in white t-shirts and leather jackets, I wonder if she might not have been better off doing a number from Grease 2. [GOD YES. - Carrie] The facial tics are still present, though not quite at the horrific levels of week one, but her vocals are still all over the shop, especially when she's having to dance and sing at the same time. Danielle finishes things by taking on 'Could It Be Magic', and sings the entire thing to the lighting rig. Well, lighting rigs probably look like magic if you're not used to them, I guess. Her vocals are okay - she sounds a little unsupported in her top notes, and the whole performance is a bit anticlimactic, though.

Graham asks them how they're coping with the pressure, and Jessica's answer is "great". Heh. She and Danielle are enjoying the test of their stamina, the maniacs. Charlotte thought Jessica owned the stage, but she would've liked her to blues it up a bit, while Danielle was good, but should colour up her top notes with some vibrato, "which is the wobbly stuff, like I said earlier". Somewhere, Zoe Tyler is weeping. Sheila thought "Steph's" choreography was so complicated that she wasn't on top of it, while Danielle needs to love the camera more, and consider it a friend rather than an intrusion. Graham clarifies that she was talking about Jessica, but Sheila misunderstands and thinks Graham meant the second set of comments she gave, and says that she meant Danielle, and then Graham muddles things even further by saying "when you were talking about Jessica, you meant Jessica". Apparently being LIVE has its disadvantages. John didn't love Jessica's performance: he thought the choreography was laboured and he didn't enjoy it, while Danielle is just sticking at what she's good at and needs to take some risks. He thinks her performances have been the same for the past four weeks, which Sheila disagrees with. Charlotte wants her to sing "something joyous". Andrew says that he'd be keen to cast Jessica for Funny Girl, [which is what he said to Abi Finlay years ago and that still hasn't happened - Carrie] and is impressed that she worked the room and the cameras, while Danielle is a remarkable performer, but needs to come out of her shell a bit more.

Graham plugs the touring events that the show will be doing, and then we're into the girls having a choreography session with Kevan. Jessica's been in West Side Story three times before and is very excited, whereas Jenny hasn't even seen it. Lauren says that they're all focusing on their solo numbers, but the group number is still a big deal. Jenny frets about the complicated routine. Steph says that she's had dance training and she's struggling, so she's worried for everyone who isn't trained. Dani flirts with her Boy Dancer, and Stephanie hopes to show the judges what she can do. Lauren says it's a very competitive routine, where they're all fighting to get to the front, and Emilie promises to steal the whole number.

Back in the studio, Andrew says that these performances show us the all-round qualities of the girls, and that 'America' is one of his favourite songs: he wouldn't have dared to do this in any of the shows they've done previously because they didn't have an appropriate standard of contestant, so the fact that they're doing it at all is a small miracle. I hate it when programmes attempt to convince me that the standard of talent has increased massively despite little evidence to support that: I didn't believe it during Strictly Come Dancing 6 and I'm kind of raising an eyebrow now. John says that it's a huge choreographic challenge, and thanks Kevan for his hard work with the girls.

And so: 'America'. Complete with cringeworthy "Puerto Rican" accents. There's lots of sassing, although the girls don't enunciate their lyrics terribly clearly, perhaps because they're so preoccupied with their accents. Steph and - I can't quite believe I'm saying this - Jessica are the standouts for actually managing to interact convincingly with the others and make themselves heard properly.

Once that's all over, we get a sneak peak of this week's mission, where John teaches them how to wear heels, which will be coming up tomorrow. The lines are opened, and then we get a quick recap of the voting numbers and the performances. And that's it! Carrie will be here soon to reveal which Dorothy will be getting a house dropped on her...

Monday, 12 April 2010

Out on the wily, windy moors...

Top 10 results show: Tx Sunday 11th April

Graham welcomes us to the results show, and then without further ado we are into the opening number where the girls swish their skirts and gurn and introduce themselves to us while singing 'Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead'. They scurry off stage and then Graham introduces "straight-talking" (read: AWESOME) Sheila, John, Charlotte and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Oh dear, here we go. VT from the crazy Toto auditions with mad people and their dogs. Oh, it's not going to be yet. First we must have a recap of last night. Which I am not going to recap in any kind of detail - Steve told you perfectly beautifully what happened - but there is additional backstage horror. Sophie cried after her comments; Jessica pretended to be humble; Bronte hopes she will be here next week (fate well and truly tempted - oops, spoilers); Dani is happy that Charlotte ate her words; Steph feels awesome (fnar); Jenny was happy that Lloyd Webber thought she was pitch-perfect; Danielle is a bit tearful about all the nice comments; Lauren couldn't decide what accent she wanted to sing in, but reassures us that she's not arrogant; Emilie was FUCK AWFUL but got good comments from John so was over the moon; and Stephanie says she worked hard and it paid off. Then they sang You Can't Stop The Beat from Hairspray (WHICH IS DEAD) and everyone clapped.

Andrew says that the standard is incredibly high, and reminds us that everything is live: the singing, the music, everything. EVERYTHING EXCEPT THIS SHOW, LLOYD WEBBER. He has no clue who's going to win. I should hope not. Everyone laughs at Charlotte dressed as Dorothy many years ago, and she is sad that she could not audition. Graham tells her to sneak in during the semi-finals and not to waste her time with these early rounds. Ouch.

Graham lies that the girls are now going to sing a "mash-up", which yet again turns out to be one song, and then another one - in this case The Money Song from Cabaret, and Madonna's Material Girl. I was in the kitchen listening to this, and strangely I could always tell when Emilie was singing because she is the one who is never ever ever in tune. [Well, if nothing else, at least she's consistent. - Steve]

Oh no no no. Here is the search for Toto, complete with excruciating dog-related puns. People who call themselves "Mummy" and "Daddy" with reference to their pets need to be slapped. As do people who think their pets have star quality. Freakazoids. Also needing to be slapped? Little children who clearly want to be on stage themselves. [You're going to have very sore hands by the time we've found our Toto. - Steve] And also people who are "stage and screen dog trainers" like that is a real job. Jodie turns up and makes jokes at bald men. There are some very cute dogs there, to be fair. Jodie cries at some, for some reason. Maybe she misses her dogs. I miss mine. [Me too. Although mine IS DEAD, and has been for many years. - Steve]

Graham talks to Steph, who says it was horrible being in the bottom two (o rly?) and hopes she did enough this week. Stephanie says she is over the moon but hopes she is not sitting on it later. Heh. Sophie hopes she can turn John around (fnar!).

Ooh, Mission Time. Sheila gives the girls 48 hours to learn a scene from The Wizard Of Oz, the one where the scarecrow starts to talk. She wants to see fear and compassion among other emotions. The girls say various things. I increasingly like Steph; Jessica is punchable; some of the girls have very odd ideas as to what an American accent might sound like. Sheila admires Lauren but fears too much gloss. Bronte does a cute thing where she wipes her hand on her skirt before shaking hands with the scarecrow. [I really liked that! Not that it's going to matter in about ten minutes, oops spoilers. - Steve] Sophie and Dani forget their lines and look horrified with themselves, and Sheila reiterates as if she needed to that learning lines is Very Important. Then she says that some of the girls are doing what is expected and if she was directing it she would BURN them. She liked Danielle, Emilie, Bronte and Jenny but in different ways (Bronte has funny little legs, apparently; Danielle has solemnity and grace).

Now another musical number - Judy Garland's Get Happy, complete with cane-based dance routine. The same statement as before re who is in tune and is not remains the case. Lloyd Webber doesn't want to single anyone out, so he doesn't. The Dorothys have no such reservations, and happily play Steve's patented game of Who Is The Bitch That You Hate? [Yay! - Steve] Except most of them opt for Steph on the basis that she was bottom two last week. You DULLARDS. [Boo! - Steve] The panel won't pull their punches - Sheila says Sophie is not Dorothy; John says Jessica; Charlotte says Emilie.

Time for the results. Through to next week are - Stephanie; Jessica; Jenny; but NOT Bronte, who is in the bottom two (and as I watch these girls fall apart on national television I am reminded just how young most of them are); Dani; Sophie; Steph. Danielle, Emilie and Lauren all step forward - two of them are safe, one is in the sing-off - and as they take their places in the line, Lauren shoves Danielle along out of her space. Oh, Lauren. And given your editing yesterday and your misjudged comments, that is why it is you who is singing off tonight. If it were down to viewer votes, Bronte would be out of the competition.

Andrew Lloyd Webber says these two girls were in his top five, so it comes down to how they interpret the song, What I Did For Love from A Chorus Line, which he informs us is about love and love for the theatre. They sing; Lloyd Webber cogitates. He is gutted, and tells them they are fantastically talented girls who will go a long, long way. He claims that this is the first time he has not known what to decide, but opts for experience and saves Lauren. Bronte looks like her puppy has been shot. Lloyd Webber says many nice things and tells her to keep in touch with him and the panel. Bronte, to her immense credit, is holding it together pretty well despite being obviously upset.

Time for that sadistic farewell number as the girls weep their way over the stage and Bronte gives Lauren her shoes. I do love the way Steph looks delighted in a childish way when the crescent moon begins to rise, like she's really excited that her friend is flying. Bronte struggles on the high notes thanks to tears, but she has been a credit to herself. Well done her.

Join us next week for more teenage girls' dreams being crushed, and crazy people with their dogs!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Quirking it out

Top 10: 10th April 2010

So we join the Doctor and Amy in outer space as they discover that Britain in the future lives on the back of a starwhale and Sophie Okonedo is the Queen and...oh, hang on. This is just the BBC One schedule overrunning a tad. Bear with me.

*fast-forwards*

Last week, Amy was exiled for daring to wear make-up and have marvellous breasts, just as we all knew she would be, and everyone else was shaken up by the first proper elimination. "That was even worse than I expected," says Emilie, presumably not referring to her own performance, although you could be forgiven for thinking that. Tonight, the remaining ten fight once more for the right to be a leading lady. The VT includes snippets of variously dynamic soundbites about how they all plan to bring it AND THEN SOME, but I won't bother to recap that because it'll be repeated in the show proper, right?

Titles! Andrew Lloyd Webber's giant tongue threatens to escape his mouth once again. Scary.

The girls are perched on the Stairs of Doom clapping in rhythm (well, nine of them are clapping in rhythm, who knows what Emilie might be doing?) as Graham enters to the instrumental of 'We're Off To See The Wizard'. He's wearing another waistcoat that looks like it was white before he stopped to perform open-heart surgery on the way to the studio. Or possibly someone performed open-heart surgery on him without removing the waistcoat. Either way, I'm sure open-heart surgery has to have been involved somewhere. Some random pyrotechnics go off at the front of the stage. Graham feigns shock. More pyrotechnics go off behind the panel. Sheila feigns shock considerably more credibly. Pyrotechnics go off next to Andrew. Andrew does a Frank Spencer face. Obviously Michael Crawford taught him a few tricks during rehearsals for The Phantom of the Opera. I'll bet they had loads of fun together.

Our opening number is part of 'Munchkin Land', which teaches us that Dani is not one of the world's most natural dancers. The girls parade around while Graham announces their names, and Emilie appears to have developed this "suck it bitches, I'm going nowhere" demeanour, which would bother me less if I didn't suspect her to be entirely right. Then there follows some supreme hoofing as they sing 'Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead', which Bronte and Jenny probably do the best job of selling. More pyrotechnics, and then we're done. [Interested to note during this that pretty much all the girls were switching to their head voices relatively low down the scale. That might not be interesting to everyone, mind, but I was fascinated at the avoidance of belt - Carrie]

Graham gives latecomers a chance to catch-up by reminding us that Amy is no longer with us, at which point we cut to her sequinned slippers hanging from a chandelier. How marvellously macabre. There really is an admirable thread of sadism running through this series so far; I approve wholeheartedly. Two more Dorothys will face the sing-off tomorrow, but of course, they'll have to sing for us first. Graham introduces the panel: Sheila is wearing hot pink and has very big hair, John is wearing a light-blue shirt and looks far too normal for his surroundings, and Charlotte apparently ran out of time while getting ready and only blow-dried down as far as the tops of her ears, leaving her a frankly mad poofy set of curls from there downwards. Andrew is introduced with his familiar chords, and he accuses Graham of being "a bad witch" tonight with all these pyrotechnics. Graham thinks it's marvellous, and explains that this week Sheila will be giving the girls an acting masterclass. Please let Barbara Windsor be involved somehow. Andrew explains that they are acting for television tonight, but they will be acting for the theatre in The Wizard Of Oz, and these are two different disciplines. If someone could tell Barrowman that, it really would make Torchwood a lot easier to sit through. He talks about how Sheila is in Sister Act at the moment (except she's not, obviously, because she's here, and her understudy is on instead) and has done lots of television, so is in an excellent position to school these bitches. [Why do you keep calling them all bitches? So mean. - Carrie]

First up tonight are Sophie Evans and Jessica Robinson. Ooh, surnames! Sophie says that her heart was pounding last week and she didn't expect to be as nervous as she was. She was the last person to be declared safe last week, which was terrifying, so she's going to have to toughen up, she thinks. Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing' plays and immediately after the opening lyric runs "just a smalltown girl", Sophie informs us that she's "kind of a smalltown girl". It would be so awesome if they compiled the entirety of these VTs out of song lyrics. Jessica's could involve 'Money's Too Tight To Mention', and judging by her VT later in tonight's episode, Lauren's could just be Meredith Brooks' 'Bitch'. Anyway, Sophie goes to meet Sheila, and overacts horribly while rehearsing 'That Don't Impress Me Much', though Sheila seems to approve, so maybe you had to be there. Jessica, meanwhile, enthuses about how much she enjoyed performing last week, and proceeds to tell us all how she is DIFFERENT and QUIRKY, the latter in particular being one of those words you should never use to describe yourself. Jessica goes in to see Sheila, and Sheila cements her place in my heart by basically telling Jessica to stop with the manic faces and really focus on actual emotions. God, where was Sheila during I'd Do Anything? If she'd come in at week two and told Jessie to stop touching her hair and scrunching up her face, I think we'd have all been a lot happier. Jessica says she can imagine herself in the part, and performs 'The Voice Within' for Sheila, which seems to go well. She reminds us that she is QUIRKY, and also versatile.

The first two take to the stage, and Sophie struggles a little bit with 'That Don't Impress Me Much', which may be many things, but a vocal showcase it is not. However, she does deliver a fairly pleasing amount of sass to her two male backing dancers. She's a little stiff in her movement, though, and seems a little unsure what to do with your arms. As soon as Jessica begins singing 'The Voice Within', it becomes very clear that she might be better off sticking to quirky, because the girl can't really sing, and when she's not distracting you from that fact with her giant crazy face, it's pretty hard to miss. She also does my least favourite performance tic of people who are trying to seem earnest: she keeps nodding during any line she considers profound. Not the best way to get the show started really, these two performances.

Graham reminds Sophie that John said she wasn't Dorothy last week, and she says that it knocked her confidence, but she can't let it affect her performance. Jessica says that she wasn't terrified to work with Acting Legend Sheila Hancock because she saw it as a valuable opportunity, and has taken on board everything that Sheila taught her. It's true, there was a significant reduction in crazyface this week, and I think the entire nation owes her a debt of gratitude for that. Graham asks Sheila if she saw those improvements, and Sheila says that she was disappointed. "We only had quarter of an hour each, and it was the beginning of the week, and a lot has happened since then." I love that Sheila Hancock cares not for the artifice of reality television and is quite happy to puncture the image of lengthy masterclasses the show has been implying. She doesn't think either of them picked up on what they told her their songs were about. Sheila says that she could tell from Sophie's preparation that she wasn't going to get it right, and she was having fun in the clip, and she should be having fun in her performance, mocking these "silly, conceited boys" and she didn't get that. Equally for Jessica, she didn't follow through on the plan to sing it as though to a friend who's in tears. Sheila Moment Of Awesomeness #4: "Don't get carried away by the crowd, every time you sing loudly they applaud." HA! She thought Jessica clawed it back towards the end, but it was too big and demonstrative. [Can we just have Sheila as the judge of Everything, please? Not just this, but The X Factor as well. And perhaps in the supreme court. - Carrie]

John says that he's frustrated by Sophie because when he looks at her he sees Dorothy, but when she performs, she doesn't own it. He found himself looking at her boy dancers rather than her, something that the studio audience finds deeply mirthful. Oh, those gays and their one-track minds! He does make the valid point, however, that if she can't keep his attention with two backing dancers, how's she going to do it with a company of 30? He also felt that Jessica's performance lacked truth and honesty, and tells her that she's not standing properly either. Heh. Charlotte disagrees: she thinks they've both been better, but she enjoyed both performances. Andrew didn't like either of the song choices, and particularly not Sophie's; however, he thinks there's lots of scope for them to develop as the series continues.

Bronte and Dani are on next. Bronte says that she was very nervous before she performed last week, but she's determined to be Dorothy and won't let this opportunity pass her by. Since "personality" is the word of the week, Bronte also leaps onto the "I'M QUIRKY!" bandwagon (at least until Jessica throws her off into the path of oncoming traffic) and is very happy with her song for this week ('Suddenly I See'), because she thinks it will show that she is QUIRKY. Dani was devastated last week when Charlotte said she wasn't Dorothy, but is determined to prove herself. She's singing 'Home', which is about wanting to go home, and Sheila asks her to think about homesickness, so Dani goes to stare at her family pictures. She thinks she can connect with these week's song, and Sheila tells her that being an actor is all about using your own experience. [Except when you're a teenager competing to be Dorothy and you HAVE no experience. - Carrie]

Good God, Bronte's outfit for this week is terrible. It's a cream-coloured bodice with pink trimming and a sort of V-neck holding it up, and at first I thought maybe it was a dress and that it wouldn't be so bad, but then I got a full-length view and it's actually just a top, paired with some high-waisted beige trousers. It's a hideous, hideous ensemble that wouldn't look good on anyone. Her biggest problem with this song is that clearly someone has told her to enunciate every syllable, which is probably good standard training for anyone wanting to work in musical theatre, but because the verses of this song flow so quickly, she just keeps tripping over her own tongue. She's got a nice tone, though, and if we were casting a Sharpay for High School Musical, she'd have my vote every week, because I think she'd play that role brilliantly. She does her best with the song, but unfortunately it's one of those songs that doesn't lend itself that brilliantly to jazzhandification.

Dani's song, on the other hand, works a lot better in this setting, and there's something about her performance style this week that reminds me of Jodie Prenger - that sort of quiet, solid determination that a lot of her performances had. She overacts the last third of the song a bit too much, but it's a better vocal performance that she gave last week by quite some way, and just as Sheila predicted, the audience go nuts every time she sings anything loudly. Heh.

Both girls scamper over to join Graham, who quizzes Bronte about the fact that she apparently sings hello to herself every day. Bronte tries to explain that it all began because she had a sort throat and wanted to see if her voice was still there, but now it's started raging out of control and the girls are starting to think she's a bit weird. Sorry, Bronte, but I'm with the girls on this one. Dani tells Graham that she really believes she can play the part of Dorothy, and she's tried to take on board the panel's criticism. John tells Bronte that he kind of saw what she was getting at, but his problem was that she had the revelation of the song right at the beginning, which left her nowhere to go. At which point Charlotte interrupts despite the fact that her mic is down, saying that she totally disagrees. John goodnaturedly does a Cowardly Lion impression ("put 'em up!") and allows her to put her point across: Charlotte thinks she saw that side of the performance all the way through. John clarifies that he too saw it all the way through, but that was precisely his problem: it was the same at the beginning, the middle, and the end, without an arc. He thought Dani started weakly, but later gained confidence, which may or may not have been related to the fact that halfway through the song she was no longer required to walk down the Stairs Of Doom. He advises her to keep pushing.

Charlotte then continues that she liked Bronte, but she thinks she could've rocked out more. She thought Dani was brilliant and that she portrayed all the emotions at just the right level, and she won't be naming her to go home this week. Sheila agrees that she was delighted with Dani, and she thought that Dani used her own experience to get the anguish required for the song. Turning to Bronte, Sheila says that she "nearly" cracked it, and was similarly sandbagged by the Stairs Of Doom, and she thinks that she got the contrast between the verse and the chorus well, but like John said, it could've been more defined.

Andrew then patronises Dani hideously about how AWFUL it must have been for her last week to get those comments despite being SIXTEEN, and he thinks she doesn't look like a girl who shops in TopShop, she looks like a girl who could be a Dorothy. If that particular assessment made any sense to you, please, please, do enlighten me because I got nothin'. He then turns to Bronte, but calls her "Barbie", and Graham quickly has to correct him. Bronte, the poor mite, pinches her forehead briefly in a manner that suggests this is not the first time she's had this particular case of mistaken identity, but manages to smile through it all the same. She looks kind of mortified, though. He tells her that she really delivered the message of the song, and she "half-cracked" the performance, but he thinks she's got the acting performance within her, and he hopes she sticks around.

Dorothys five and six have "already experienced the highs and lows of the competition": Jenny and Steph. Steph thought she did her best last week, but was crushed last week when Andrew basically ruled her out of the competition. She didn't want to be the first to leave, but did her best to enjoy her sing-out. She was gutted to see Amy go, but relieved that it meant she got to stay. Now she wants to raise her game and show Andrew that she can be Dorothy. Jenny, on the other hand, loved the first show and got great feedback from the panel, which has increased her confidence for this week. VT Steph considers Jenny to be the "dark horse" of the competition, as does Jessica, and Jenny thinks a few of the girls underestimated her before last week. However, she's aware that the element of surprise only works for a limited time, and hopefully they'll quickly wake up and realise that she's good. Hee.

Steph looks lovely this evening: she's got a shiny gold dress on and her hair's neatly flipped over one shoulder. She's singing 'It's Oh So Quiet' and fills it with a sense of exuberance even before the big band breaks in. I think she does a great job here: this is a hard song to pull off in this sort of environment because so much of the original is speaking and shouting rather than singing, but she manages to balance an element of faithfulness to that with actually singing her way through it. I'm not going to say there aren't a few iffy notes, but the general standard of the performance is high enough for me to forgive them. Then Jenny takes on 'Songbird', which was the song that gave Siobhan her first real "moment" in How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, so she's got her work cut out to make an impact with it here. The good news is that she pulls it off: it's quite a tricky song to sing, and she sounds great throughout, and the acting is reasonably understated, which works well.

Steph tells Graham that she had fun working on this week's number and just hopes everyone else enjoyed it too, while Jenny says that everyone's feeling more competitive now that the reality of eliminations has set in, but she too is trying to have fun every Saturday in case it's her last chance. Charlotte hopes neither of them are in danger of the sing-off this week: she thought Steph was fearless in her performance, and while she was worried about Jenny because 'Songbird' has a lot of long notes that test breath control, she did brilliantly. Sheila agrees that they're two very brave girls, who've had bad weeks: obviously Steph's confidence was shaken by being in the sing-off last week, while Jenny has a private association with this song that makes it hard for her to sing. For the love of Didi Benami, please, NOBODY ASK HER FOR MORE DETAILS. Sheila would've liked more calm and more wallop from Steph, but she thought they were both terrific. John disagrees: he thinks the others should take notes from Steph on how to front a number, because she was the star and put her backing dancers in their place. Sheila's all indignant at this, because he's basically saying what she said, but John reminds her that she said it could have been "braver", while he thought it was plenty brave enough. Sheila falls silent, but is almost certainly thinking how long to imprison him for when she is elected Queen of the Universe any day now. John enjoyed seeing a softer side to Jenny, but thought she could've injected the song with a bit more passion. Andrew promises not to call Steph "Fearon" (hee), and makes it clear to everyone at home that the song was not a Björk original but was in fact first recorded by Betty Hutton in 1948 - and Betty Hutton was the takeover for Judy Garland in the movie of Annie Get Your Gun, which Andrew admits is a "useless piece of trivia". Oh, bollocks. After I went to all that trouble transcribing it, as well. I've half a mind to set a test at the end of the recap now. He's very pleased he saved Steph because he saw a different side to her this week. While 'Songbird' has been done a lot on reality TV, he thought Jenny sang it wonderfully with immaculate pitch. Indeed, I would say these were easily the two standout performances of the night.

Time for a brief teaser of the dogs auditioning for that pointless one-off performance as Toto, which we will apparently be treated to in greater depth tomorrow. Yippee. Oh God, all of the people who've brought their dogs along seem to be mental. I mean, I suppose they'd have to be, but Christ on a bike. I think I'll let Carrie handle this in full detail. It's only fair. [BITCH. - Carrie]

Danielle and Lauren are next to perform. Danielle, like pretty much everyone else, was nervous as hell on the first live show, but got some constructive advice from Sheila. In her brief masterclass, Sheila plays the role of Danielle's mum and promptly ignores Danielle as she sings. Hee. Danielle thinks that by giving her something to react to, Sheila helped to bring out her stage presence. She considers herself to be a wallflower, but doesn't want to be judged for being quiet. Lauren got great feedback for last week, but promptly ruins things for herself by reminding us all that Charlotte Church was in awe of her voice last week and doing a little mock-bow. Word of advice from someone who's watched a lot of reality TV, Lauren: only boys are allowed to behave like that. [To be fair, if a boy had recorded this VT with the same intonations and expressions, he'd not get a popular reaction either. - Carrie] Lauren says she's a perfectionist, so she would've liked it to go 10% better. She says that she's never been in a competition before, and she's never won anything either, so this is going to be the first. Oh, Lauren. Seriously: humility. Learn it, and quickly, or you'll be gone by week five. I'm telling you this for your own good. She wants everyone else to view her as their toughest competition.

I spend the first verse of Danielle's song trying to figure out what the hell it is, though I know it sounds familiar: it turns out to be Amy Studt's 'Just A Little Girl', and Danielle does a pretty good job of acting the frustrated teenager side of the song, but her tuning is a bit iffy this week. I do approve of the fact that she's performing it all around a park bench, though, and there's a very stroppy teenager shrugging of the shoulders at the end, so bonus points for that. Lauren sings a rather strident version of 'I'll Never Fall In Love Again', complete with bizarre and inexplicable clipped Estuary accent in some places [AND A SIDEGOB - Carrie]. The acting of the song is rather all over the place, with each line apparently being attributed its own emotion, rather than there being an overarching mood to the whole thing. Her vocal's fine, but the acting choices are just weird.

Danielle explains that she's quite a bubbly person at home, but she's retreated into her shell a bit here, though she tried to let it all out with that song. Lauren tells an anecdote that her mum has a recurring nightmare about having to take her place in the sing-off, which she hopes doesn't happen. Sheila liked both performances - she doesn't care if Danielle gets the part of Dorothy or not, because she's a great actress with a big career ahead of her. She thought both performances were witty and nuanced, even though Lauren has form for being a bit of a "basher". John thinks Danielle gave her best performance of the date, which was committed and intelligent. He's getting bored of hearing himself say how fabulous Lauren is (["So don't say it, then." - The Entire Viewing Audience], but she was great again, witty and conversational. Charlotte loves Danielle's dynamism and the fact that she's not afraid to sing quietly, while Lauren needs to be a bit careful about her confidence coming across as arrogance like it did in her VT (and with Charlotte fertilising the seeds that had already been planted in the audience's minds, expect her to be punished for such hubris any day now), but her performance was great, so maybe it was okay to be cocky after all. Andrew drops in some more trivia that Lauren's song comes from a musical called Promises Promises (and wonders what would've happened if the lyricist had needed to find a rhyme for "jaundice" rather than "pneumonia", heh) - he thought she sang it well, but a little bit too knowing for his liking. Danielle, on the other hand, is a very strong contender, and he wants to see more from both of them.

Time for our final two Dorothys: Emilie and Stephanie. We're reminded of Emilie's awful performance from last week, while Emilie admits there's a lot of pressure in being the wildcard because you're the public's Chosen One. She thinks the pressure got to her last week, and that she lost herself a bit. She wants to show the public that she's got what it takes, and Sheila wants her to let rip. Hee hee hee, "let rip". Stephanie loved every minute of last week's show, and is loving living away from home for the first time. She's never used a washing machine before, and Bronte giggles that Stephanie is very funny to live with. Until she gives you all food poisoning, of course. Sheila loves that Stephanie is so full-on, but now she wants to see her be simple and truthful.

Oh God: Emilie is singing 'The Boy Does Nothing' which is again not the best of vocal showcases. Not that Emilie apparently has much to showcase, because she honks and hoots her way through it rather painfully. As much as I love Alesha Dixon, I'm aware she's not the most amazing vocalist in the world, but Emilie's attempt at this song gave me new appreciation for Alesha's singing. The performance itself isn't much better, because she's as wooden as hell interacting with her backing dancers, and she appears to have inherited Jessica's share of overacted hammy faces. I know I'm harsh on Emilie at the best of times, but even by her standards this was shockingly poor. Luckily, it's over eventually and Stephanie sings 'Smile' - sadly not the Lily Allen number I was hoping for, but rather the classic Charlie Chaplin one. There's a touch of mania in her face, but by and large she's reined things in nicely for this performance, and her vocals are sweet too.

Emilie tells Graham that she has so much more to give and wants to show her gutsy side, while Stephanie says that she's loved singing this song and hopefully having a chance to display her versatility. John thinks Emilie is "back in the competition" and compliments her legs. He would've liked her to connect the choreography to the words a bit more, but overall he thought it was a good performance. Are they pumping some sort of intoxicating gas into the studio? He thinks Stephanie could've had better breath control, but her performance was still great. Charlotte enjoyed Emilie's whole performance, but she needs to control her voice, because she was "pitchy" in places. AAAARGH! Must that non-word infect this show too? She wants to hear Emilie sing a simple ballad next week. God help us all. Charlotte loved Stephanie's performance, and thought her tone of voice was perfect and that it was the performance of the night. Sheila thought they both did well, but not as well as she hoped. She thought Stephanie was going to be disastrous when she started because she was all breathy, but she developed as the song went on and was more believable in conveying that she was actually talking to someone. She thinks Emilie could've had more fun with that song, because she didn't relate to the boys or build the number. John disagrees; he thought she did connect with the boys. Andrew tells Stephanie a pointless story about a time he met a music publisher, and says that she gave a great performance that turned him around on her. He thought Emilie still needs to get her voice under control, but reassures her that "13-year-olds like my daughter love you" - though "they can be fickle at that age". You're telling me. [He also says that she had a hard job with having to dance and sing at the same time. Right, because you never have to dance and sing at the same time on the West End stage. - Carrie]

Andrew gives his final thoughts, and says that some of the girls are losing their innocence, particularly in the way their hair has been done: "we're casting Dorothy, we're not casting Girls Aloud". Well, that was helpful. [Seriously. If that's what you think, and I'd be inclined to agree, don't give them Girls Aloud songs to sing! - Carrie]

Trailer for tomorrow night's acting mission, as the girls act their way through Dorothy's meeting with the scarecrow. Bronte has to be directed to the correct exit by Sheila, and this is soundtracked by 'If I Only Had A Brain'. Snerk.

Graham declares the lines open, and we get a recap of tonight's performances: Sophie not impressing us much, Jessica nodding "earnestly" and filling me with rage in the process, Bronte in the world's least flattering outfit, Dani struggling with the Stairs Of Doom, Steph blowing a fuse WOOOOW BAM!, Jenny delivering a very pleasant and understated take on 'Songbird', Danielle turning the teenage strop into an art form, Lauren turning in an performance entirely at odds with the song she was given, Emilie continuing to be awful, and Stephanie trying her hand at being low-key.

Time for a group number, which will be 'You Can't Stop The Beat' from Hairspray this week. In rehearsals, they're all struggling with it, though they'd be hard pressed to turn in a worse performance than the actual West End cast did on last year's Strictly. While they're all exhausted, they seem to be making some progress towards the end. Hurrah, and all that. They turn in a pretty good performance on the show itself: Sophie in particular does a better job with this than she did with her solo number. There's a moment where they all charge down the Stairs Of Doom, and I rather cruelly hope for the girl at the back to trip and fall down the stairs taking everyone else out as she does, but sadly this does not happen. Jessica has brought the crazyface back out again, lamentably, and even Emilie manages to deliver her line without going too out of tune. Maybe there's hope! In terms of who has the best grasp of the choreography, I'd say it's between Stephanie and Danielle, but no one really embarrasses themselves.

The credits roll, and that's it. In the results show, two Dorothys will face the sing-off, and Carrie will bring you all the campy details...