42 years ago Donny Osmond had his first of three number one hits in the UK, ‘Puppy Love’, a cover of a song written by Paul Anka in 1960. He followed that as a solo artist with ‘The Twelfth of Never’ and ‘Young Love’ and then ‘Love Me for a Reason’ with his brothers in 1974. Since then Donny has maintained a high celebrity profile, a song here, a tour there, a bankruptcy, another song, another album. His iconic status has far outlived his zenith though gladly the fella can still pop a tune, just as he did singing ‘Moon River’ on the results show on Sunday.
Donny won the American version of Strictly back in 2009 and as a result he was invited to be the first guest juddge since Darcey herself, and Jennifer Grey in 2011. But as we all know, winning Strictly doesn’t automatically mean that you know anything about Latin and Ballroom dancing . . .
Now 56, from the state of Utah, a practising Mormon (he should get good at it one day), married at the age of 20, he has never drank alcohol on purpose in his life. He did get drunk once when his drink was spiked but he is, for all that, tea total. So, as the middle of the famous five for one night only, one wonders how you can explain his exuberance, enthusiasm and outlandish scoring on Saturday night?
The theme for the evening was The Movies and accordingly we were promised a Blockbuster of a show; other DVD shops may still be available if you can find one. What we got was more pointing, popcorn down the cleavage, men in tight trousers, too tight, Superman, a bloke dressed as a crab, a number of ‘What on Earth Was That?’ moments and the King of the Swingers, something that, when the Jungle Book was released, had a totally different connation than it does today. The show is in danger of becoming a pastiche.
Alison and Ali Ash opened the evening, a Jive to Footloose, Alison looking like a giant strawberry Mivvie. Of course this was funn and there was the ubiquitous big mama body roll; she never fails to entertain but the Jive calls for sharpness, energy and bounce, not just a repetition of her Cha and ridiculous Fox Trot. 28 points from 50, 7 from Donny High, and a big smile will bring her back for weeks to come. Be nice to see something different though.
Steve and Ola were awarded the Jungle Book and King Louis’s and Loius Prima’s expertise in the song ‘I Wan’na be Like You’, the second jungle theme for Steve. Next week he will be dancing to the soundtrack from Daktari. Mistakenly dressed in leopard print – Steve is an expert on jaguars! – he started this classical Quick Step swinging in on a rope, sorry vine, and doing chimp noises and arms. The dance was just begging for a top hat and tails.
The theme aside this was a great effort from Steve; it was clear that he had enjoyed the week and the dance, and also clear that he was fortunate not to have to pay Ola’s normal private lesson rates of £300 for forty-five minutes. (Her calendar is £17.50, best wait till February to buy it.) Steve showed nifty feet, jumping jacks as sharp as tacks and an uncommon poise, 34 points lifting him clear from the stragglers.
It may be harsh to use such a word on week three but facts are facts and some celebs are not destined to stay on the show that long. Enter Jenny along with Mick’s lad, Tristan, who exited the show with a grace and class that she never exhibited when the music started. She was game and would have loved longer to pursue her art but there is a time when enough is enough.
Jenny amassed 23 points (from five judggies) for her Fox Trot to ‘Mama Mia’ from the film of the same title, something that I confess never to have seen. So too a Fox Trot like this; a grapevine, underarms turns, sexy hands on body, dancing solo, all bizarre. I know there’s singing in the film because Jenny sang along. And there must be a rowing boat because somehow there was one of those on the dance floor. And a watering can. And it must be set in a land where you can buy oozo. My guess, Clacton.
Surprise visitors to the dance off were Simon and Kristina who danced a Rumba to the theme to Top Gun, ‘Take My Breath Away’. It was Simon’s turn to be banjaxed by the producers this week; they asked him to wear a posh white T, a flying jacket and sandy pants, the latter three sizes too small. No wonder he didn’t perform that much, must have been hard to move let alone dance. He looked a right prize.
Kristina, on the other hand, wore a gold outfit and one of my work shirts to dance in, another auditioning for a different industry. Not sure how Simon stopped himself from a sexual lunge especially when Kristina introduced the drag, an annual event. The distraction cost him focus. You could hear him thinking, ‘I can’t, not on the telly, not in front of nine million people.’ Must have taken a gigantic effort of willpower. He was accused of presenting not participating. Now you can understand why. 30 points and no charge of sexual harassment is a pretty good result.
Judy Murray is a gentle and vulnerable lady under that tough exterior, lacking in belief, the dance a zone of total discomfort, so it was good to see her glam up and to see a male dancer properly dressed, hat, bow tie, cane, the works. One in all in, I say. The Quick Step that followed was Judy’s best result, the film Funny Girl, the track ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’. The routine contained basic steps, congratulations to Antony Smith of Bristol, lots of basics, even a Fish Tail weaving its way into the mix, and it made better watching in spite of her mistakes and an illegal lift. The crowd cheered but then again, they used to cheer at the Coliseum. This 23 was a better 23 than Jenny’s should such a comparison be allowed.
A point less, the overmark of the night was Tim and Natalie’s Charleston to ‘Money Money’ from Cabaret. Nat was dressed in black like a flapper, wig to suit and boy, did she look different. Totally. Yet still hot as burning embers. Tim though disappointed in every department, the fun missing from the fundamental, the acting not even slapstick. It was like a bad wedding dance, one that you’d turn away from given the chance. It is a shame that the highlight was that move where you put your hands on your knees and swap them to the other knee, back and forward. Very difficult.
So. It was billed as a Rumba and Caroline did a fine job with her steps, her balance in one legged turns perfect, her leg lines stunning, her delivery en pointe. But the music ‘Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ from Armageddon wasn’t a Rumba, there wasn’t the connection of a Rumba, and 42 points reflected individual performances rather than those of team Flack, Caroline sporting the same style of dress three weeks on the trot, a gold and silver lampshade.
Pasta had his chest out, no shirt, and his little paunch, and he wore a white suit with a Yankee flag on it. Eh? Mentally he looked like he was three quarters there but his mind must have been focusing on when he could watch re-runs of Countdown or catch up on his maths homework. The guy didn’t get the girl this time and that is wrong.
Two ‘What On Earth’ moments followed, Scotty dressed as a crab or lobster, and Frankie getting the first ten of the series.
The song was ‘Under the Sea’ from The Little Mermaid and the dance was the Samba. Or rather it wasn’t. It was Charleston, it was running, it was walking, it was farce, it was panto, even down to his red outfit and made-up face. Could have been a clown at Billy Smart’s circus.
Why the theme? Why not just dance a Samba? Who knows? The audience loved it though, they roared with approval showing that they were higher on acid than the crab. Donny High gave it a seven (from 25) destroying any credibility any other seven had. Was this really better than Steve’s QS?
Frankie and Kevin from Grimsby danced a Paso to ‘America’ from West Side Story and scored 45, the best of the night including a ten from you know who, the Valium obviously wearing off. It was weird. The dance not Donny. KFG’s look didn’t help. The same tight pants as Simon, Kevin’s red, another of my work shirts, this one with short sleeves, and a tie. Frankie wore a beautiful pink number, sleeves to her fingers.
Then Leonard Bernstein’s gutsy, pacey music stole the air, and we were off like the starting grid at Le Mans, an appel here, a frock lift there, all very cape-like. The speed was frantic and Frankie matched KFG’s moves but it didn’t look nor feel like a Paso, and as well as Frankie did another connection was missing, just. Susannah Reid can sleep peacefully. I did look hard for a bull to kill, the scenery of Pamplona and the smell of beef. I searched in vain for the matador. Perhaps it’s all changed in Spain now?
The star of last week, Jake, was back for a respectable 40 for a disrespectful Waltz to ‘Godfather Waltz’, no idea which movie that is from. The mood was black, almost as if Jake was back at Albert Square, the sullen, menacing waltzer, formally dressed, Janette in a silky, slinky, black and gold dress that looked like an extended nightie.
Whilst the mood dominated the dance didn’t, the content questionable. There were four photos poses, two rondés, a hunched circular turn, wooden pivots, underarm turns and a Salsa comb, the latter no place in a Waltz. The set up made you feel for the Argentine Tango.
It was during the juddgies’ feedback that we had another ‘What On Earth?’ moment, Lord Len launching an attack at the Antipodes calling Craig a silly something using a mid-tariff expletive because he, Craig, said that he liked the Waltz without sway and swing, two qualities sacrosanct to the dance. Bruno gasped, Darcey was shocked, Donny silenced for once. Our hostesses papered over it but tensions were riding high as Lord Len continued the verbal assault. Had this been ITV we would have gone to a commercial break.
Still nudging towards the top with 43 points is Pixie asked to Quick Step to ‘Be Our Guest’ from Beauty and the Beast. Dressed in the blue and white of an Austrian maid Italia Conti served its purpose again, her routine full of extra-curricular steps the rest of the cast would never have thought of, the double pirouette to the right the star. Her poise and confidence in a tricky routine, full of content, will guide her to Christmas.
Trent, her beau, not beast, has some questions to answer. Not his yellow suit, with matching hair and teeth. Nor his Man City shirt or golf shoes. But his use of Salsa arms, a kick over his head by Pixie, and a throw away floor cleaning exercise to finish. When watching the QS all you have to ask is, ‘would Antony Smith of Bristol have done that?’ There is the benchmark.
I am told that Thom was supposed to be mimicking Gene Kelly in the film On the Town, performing a Charleston to ‘New York New York’. Okay, he wore a sailor’s outfit, white suit and bell hop hat, blue trim, Iveta in contrasting red. That is where the comparison ends. Instead picture Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail. Sorry to spoil the illusion.
One of the things that can happen to macho men when they dance is that they become camp. I have seen it the world over; men fight to dance like men. Thom hit both spots as he attacked an unchallenging routine. He will wince or remain grounded watching the video. That said, as soon as anyone is lifted in this show the crowd go hysterical, even for a baby lift. Barmy. Donny High went middling with a seven from 38. The better scores will come when Thom relaxes more and when Iveta uses his athleticism to the full.
A pair to go, come on, stay with me.
Two points higher was Sunetra, Lord Len’s nine, sealing a proper dance, an American Smooth to ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ from Swing Time, a Fred Astaire movie.
Brendan, ever so quiet since he got married and since the departure of his pal James, wore a proper suit and a white bow tie, always a good sign. Sunetra looked ready for Downton Abbey in a full length cerise number, the hem flourishing with each turn and lift, of which there were many. The nerves disappeared as Sunetra settled into the routine and what you can easily call her dance. The timing flowed, her partner attentive, the balance sweet, elegance and style aplenty. There were no fads, no props, no pratting, just dancing and it was a blessing.
Unlike the finale which frankly, had someone not made up, you would have said could not be made up. It was staggering.
Mark was given the Paso and you thought at last that the matador had arrived. But then the theme to Superman sounded and Hottie was falling from a building. Mark, in glasses and mac, took to the phone box and re-emerged in all blue, the tight pants back, both ends, no blood passing his ankles, a red superman cape, obviously, and a red M on a yellow badge on his chest. At this moment we all shook our heads in total incredulity. We weren’t wondering whether he would save her.
The dance content that followed was okay, knee walks, a jump, change of place, the ubiquitous floor mop move parading Hottie’s beautiful multi-coloured skirt. But the shaping lacked, so too the authenticity, both as the slayer of bulls and the super-powered super-hero. How can you take anyone over the age of ten seriously who uses the word ‘sick’ to mean good? There would be no need to search for kryptonite to disable Mark, just offer him a Stella.
At the finale, Hottie saved, Mark took to the skies as if he was at Cape Canaveral, the smoke nearly choking him. Whilst entertaining, in an Anne Widdicombe sort of way, this really did Mark a disservice. He can dance, why not give him a chance?
He scored 35 points, Donny High whacking out a nine, the IVF drip back to normal. Next week let’s pray for more proper than panto.
I suppose there is a silver lining for Mark. At least he’ll get work every Christmas.
October 17th 2014