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.


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...


  1. I love this. Emilie comments had me laughing out loud! Just dropping a line to say this blog is just what I need after a good episode of 'The Dorothys' (I don't know if I have ever called that show its real name), and I'm mentioning it on my blog!
    Grace. (Who is up for Jenny. Only because Sheila's not actually in the running).

  2. Aw, thanks Grace! It's always nice to know people are reading and enjoying our ramblings. Hope you'll stay with us for the rest of the series! x

  3. I still call the show "The Nancys" after last year. Old habits, yadda yadda. I'm another devout reader. The Didi Benami comment made me spit out my coffee! I'm up for Danielle, though I wish she'd *pop* a little more. Worried people won't vote for her because she's too shy and serious-seeming. Keep up the hilarious work!