I’m sure that most of you will have heard of the passing this week of Minnie Driver’s great aunt, Betty, fondly remembered for her days in the West End, the small and big screen, and for her fictitious hot pot at The Rovers Return. Betty Turpin was just 91.
As life expectancy extends further in these isles it is interesting to note who amongst Betty’s peers are still hanging on in there, still entertaining us after years and decades of service. The roll call is impressive. Here’s a few octogenarians. Max Bygraves. Jimmy Young. Wedgie Benn, named after his pottery collection, not his underwear. Whicker. Siegfried Farnon. Renee Sherburn. Geoffrey Palmer, a bloodhound with two legs. Doddy. Honor Blackman. One of the Ronnies. Two of the Attenboroughs. Stuart Hall. Terrific value he is. So too Nicholas Parsons at 88. In our house we just call him Nic, like we do Cage.
Oh, yeah, and don’t forget Madge. That’d be Her Madge.
And that leaves our host, at it for seventy years, knighted last week by Mike Tindall’s gran, a tribute a long time coming. That must have been a day, Sir Bruce on the 11th tee at Wentworth and his mobile goes off. It’s his wife, a former Miss World – our Bruce always had a penchant for the finer of the curvy bunch – saying that he’s been invited to The Palace. He refused; he supports United.
Sir Bruce has always been there since I was a lad, and much before. It was the Generation Game where we met first, him and Anthea, another wife, Saturday night’s of family fun, frivolity and friskiness, all done in the nicest way, with that long lost commodity, taste. We were blessed that he wasn’t given the chance to sing though, his voice hasn’t always been the crown in his jewels, but for timing, delivery and performance there has been no one to match him. The younger generation won’t have the same bank of warmth as mine, their lives replete as a result.
Show 4 was about Broadway not Hollywood as I originally grasped, an easy mistake to make, they could have just said The West End, and that meant songs from The Musicals, routines with stories, actors having the chance to shine again and the audience were treated to seven different dances, all the razzle and the dazzle you could imagine, and as ever, a great array of abilities and application. The good were very good, the bad very bad.
When someone is famous by default rather than by talent it tests the tolerance of mere mortals. When she then starts adding an overactive mouth to the fray all the temptation is there to throw an empty bottle of Chardonnay in her direction. It is only at the last moment that you then realise that the cost of a new TV really wouldn’t be worth it.
I refer to our Lawrie’s long lost sister Nancy attempting one of the four Tangos on offer, a routine shorn of content but awash with comedy in a serious routine not one procured from Vauderville. Her partner, Anthony Smith of Bristol, hams it up when he has cracks to cover, that’d be on the dance floor rather than elsewhere, but there is only so much that a posh frock and comedy can hide. ‘Like a plodding mule through mud,’ said one juddge, softening at last. ‘20 hours of training to do that,’ commented Lulu, mine not theirs. The Italians stuck together as one panellist marked her a high six, 20 in total, the lowest and worst of the night. Slithering into the last two, she survived much to the chagrin of her partner. Maybe next week her shoulders will know what her hips are doing? And vice versa?
The other Tangos, scored 30, 30 and 36, Holly, Robbie and Jason, keeping the bar high, a bar raised by the high marking of the judggies. Throw in a nine; the public will believe it. And luv it. Even if maybe it should have been an 8 or a 7. Not that I’m saying that the producers have upped the ante. Much.
Holly and R-Tem, him still an i-tem with last year’s winner, were full on, dancing to ‘They Had It Coming’ from Chicago, a song with violence aplenty in the lyrics. In her sheer clothing she exuded performance and showed a great top line, her concentration only slightly diminished by another wardrobe malfunction, three in as many shows.
It seems too that the audience had been primed to pump up the show. There were many standing ovations (the world record in the West End is 89 for one show) and Roberta Savage benefitted again. He was a little high, up, not as a kite, his knees not bent in stalk mode, the transitions were as questionable as his blue contact lenses, but you can’t not like him, his attitude and his development thus far.
There was a time, 1992, when Jason Donovan got into trouble by suing a magazine, The Face, that questioned his sexuality – (he won) – so it is ironic that in his pink shirt and with feathers to match there were times when his Tango was camper than a gay pride march. There were also times when he dominated the dance, a few pigeon toes escaping the nest. But this fella will dance this routine again in the final in December and get four tens instead of four nines. He is blessed to have such a talented partner. She likewise. Now we can see her real class too.
I read at the weekend that Audley Harrison has challenged David Haye, ex world champ boxer and promoter, to a dance off, an option far safer for Audley than the last box off the two had together. After 20, 23 and 24 points Audley is moving in the right direction but I would withhold the challenge for a while if I were him. His Quick Step, dominated by albatross wings pretending to be his arms, had plenty of fun and he’s willing to give it a crack, but the timing was out and for a big bloke he’s not as light on his feet as he could be or needs to be. Height and size are not an issue really; it is a question of technique and application.
Lionel Blair turned up at Tony Blair’s rehearsal last week to help the mimic become Rory Bremner, top hat, tails, cane and all, and it must have worked, Rory’s score one shy of four eights, the Ballroom becoming the comfort zone for the talented Scot. We had scatter chassées and some Charleston but the ‘quick step’ in Quick Step could easily have been changed to the ‘gentle step’, speed hidden, the routine unchallenging and not sold as much as the score would suggest.
What also wasn’t sold was Lulu’s Rumba, the best Rumba of the night by far. Sadly, there was just the one to pick from.
Another with shoulders not knowing what her hips were doing, I feel a club beginning to form, Brendan hid the Rumba totally, focussing on a drag, a one-legged pivot, some Paso Doble, but no Rumba steps. The transitions from one thing to another creaked, maybe her heels were too high too, and then came an illegal lift, misplaced by the professional male, his explanation a pathetic defence. Three judggies didn’t penalise her 26. One did. Good on you Cobber.
Pasha Kovalev has turned up in this country fresh from his stint at Butlin’s in Vladivostok. He brought his red coat with him just to show us and he and Chelsee produced a 30 point Cha, a New York basic being the only new move to the show. I’m sure the tempo is supposed to be 2, 3, 4 and 1, 2, 3, Cha, Cha, Cha. One day we may see it in this show.
Chelsee, for her part, is still wobbly, her core questionable, another club to form, that of the rag doll. In spite of this she was off like a Taz again, on legs of jella, dancing properla, getting the parta started. The song ‘Begging’, Franki Valli, was terrific and only spoilt by another knee slide. The next perpetrator will be shot, I’m told. Hoapfulla.
Two points adrift was Russell, Flav danced too, he in a white suit with a yellow bow tie, looking like a shorter version of Terry Scott. This was a Fox Trot, and one with style, more content than the combined efforts of four shows, and one that contained unbridled joy, a joy infectious, hilarious but brilliant, happy and gay, terrific fun to watch, a bit like John Sergeant but with class. For sure it was a little lumpy but he led with pride no one more grateful for the chance to share time with Flav. Boys . . . and girls, please form a queue.
There were two Jives in this week’s show, apparently.
With her partner wearing a young Homer Simpson hair-piece, Anita, 27 points, looking like she could do with a good feed, did a skit from Hairspray, ‘Motion in the Ocean’ I think it’s called, and again she performed, slightly off pace at times, her character hiding her feet and application. She sold it but it was all loose, foot loose, and soon she will be found wanting if she’s not careful.
So too whoever choreographed Harry’s routine to Grease Lightning, from, er, Grease. He danced without a shirt but with a jacket, a better look had his partner dressed so, he chucked in some flicks, of his feet and his hair, two knee slides, and the routine was fabulous, compelling and an advert for his talent, 33 breaking new ground for this finalist, for sure he will be.
But it wasn’t a Jive and I thought that was supposed to be the point?
The Viennese Waltz completed the compilation, two varying attempts, one that wowed in an understated fashion and one that was okay, cleverly choreographed from one view point, but not enough to keep the performer on the show any longer.
James Jordan was smart in his approach and that wasn’t just the lilac outfit, Alex Jones looking more edible than a Quality Street. Firstly, they actually danced the routine in the West End during the week, great experience for her, and secondly he made it easy, graceful, elegant and believable. It wasn’t daring or that testing but it was beautiful to watch, sincere, captivating. Let’s see what she’s like when the Latin dances are re-introduced. 32 for this, 22 for her opening Cha two weeks prior.
And that just leaves Mr Dan Lobb.
On some occasions the pros do well to make their partners look good but I’m not sure Katya got this right. The story was twee, the acting from Crossroads and Dan is another man with enormous hands that again found the body of his partner, looking for ‘Someone To Love’, according to the song. But she concentrated on natural turns only including four reverse turns all night and it just wasn’t enough. Where was the content? It was good to focus on the easy steps but not good to exclude half of the dance.
I know he gets up early to do his telly show and you never know how much training the celebs do but if he’s had the requisite 20 hours he should be capable of doing reverse turns down a supermarket aisle. There are only three real steps in this dance, not much to learn.
He wasn’t showcased enough and you suspect that there was more in the Lobb shed than we were exposed to. It’s a shame, you don’t get fluid without practice or the chance to do it. 24 points wasn’t the worst of the night. Dan certainly wasn’t the worst of the crop. But his dance shoes are now in the bin and he has been Lobbed off.
Always thought that a great name for a tennis player. Lobb. I once went to a tennis player’s funeral. Lovely service.
At school my music teacher was called Don Tune.
There was an English teacher too. He was called Shakespeare.
October 21st 2011