Radio City Music Hall, also known as The Show Place of the Nation, stands as part of the twenty two acre site that houses the Rockefeller Centre in Midtown New York. Opened in 1932 it is famously the home of The Rockettes and also ‘America’s Got Talent’, the capacity of 6015 dubble that of The Palladium, a tad older (1910), and a smaller venue in every physical sense but in no other.
It is fair to say that Radio City is a large venue, comfortable, intimately seated, the stage afar but close, equipped to host a garrison, the orange and red curtains and décor gleaming like a ripened peach, the ceiling cavernous. A one man show would be tuff here, all the space to fill, the vacuum ready to absorb any soloist.
Move then to Elstree, a venue littered with dancers and dances just a few weeks ago. The opening salvo in Week One took an age for the Stars of the Show to be displayed like window mannequins, thirty pairs of feet caressing the stairs before the hyped up little rock step on the stage until the last dancer had reached the floor. And now look at it, the initial thought being, where is everybody? Just six cupples took to the stage for the Musicals Special, the Quarter Final. The dancers looked isolated, small, lonely, nervous, minimal.
I love Musicals, Fred and Gene, Big H, strong voices, passionate turns, tearful exposés, shows and performances that fill the heart, my top three, in reverse order being Oliver, Jersey Boys and Les Misérables. I have performed in one of these shows in public and two in private considering myself a willing horse to pardon the pantomime reference. So would the theme work? Would we get the BAFTA or just the nomination?
What happened was a mixed bag, three efforts misplaced, that didn’t work, three that did, and the exit of last week’s overall top scorer in the series, who actually finished in second place with a tally of 363, just one point behind Jay whose night it truly was. Let’s start with the big fella.
Radio 2, for all its faults – over-talking on records, DJs with egos the size of a bus – is the go to channel, big names mixing with seasoned professionals, the music eclectic, you can pick and choose to your heart’s desire. On Sundays at 7:00pm (pre-recorded, not broadcast live) you get one of musical theatre’s biggest talents, Michael Ball, famous for Mack and Mabel, Sweeney Todd and Hairspray, ‘Love Changes Everything’ and coming second in the 1992 Eurovision Song Contest. Last year I bought his new CD, on spec, a sure sign for someone else to buy me a concert ticket to see him at the ill-named Colston Hall earlier this year.
On first receipt I cringed, surely the only bloke amongst 2,000 screaming women, but I decided to embrace the evening and lo and behold it was great funn, the most funn I’d had with me clothes on for ages. He rocked, he belted, he crooned, and there, on his album and live, was a song called ‘Falling Slowly’ taken from the film and musical ‘Once’, both I’d never heard of, written and performed by Glen Hansard on his day off from Parliament, and Marketa Irglova, another duo living incognito. That said the song won an Oscar in 2008, and the musical and its soundtrack have won a plethora of other awards including Tonies and Grammies since its release in 2006. Nice to see the finger on the pulse at Travolta Towers.
The song is a plea, he or her has left, ‘we’ve still got time’, ‘baby, please come home’, a phrase too often used in the last two years. It is also a perfect Rumba that Jay and Aliona danced with emotion, grace, dignity and charm, a story of hurt beautifully told. All was well except for his clothes, jeans and a checked shirt giving him the air of what my mum would call a ‘right scruffbag’. Who knows what the producers were thinking, (a common theme of the night). Stick him in proper dance slacks and a silk shirt, Aliona in Calvin Klein and this could have scored fifty. Her outfit was more Calvin and Hobbes. As is it bagged 39, Craig still struggling to find his ten paddle; he was probably waiting for the band to kick in to ‘I’m a Lumberjack’.
This was a great week to set a marker, even though high scores never guarantee survival, nor anyone’s reputation. One day a cockerel, one day a feather duster.
I first saw Les Mis back in the nineties at The Hippodrome. Powerful, dramatic, desperate, tearful, yet a tale of hope. I never saw a Paso Doble in it. There are some fantastic songs, great classics – ‘Can You Hear the People Sing’, ‘Bring Him Home’, ‘Empty Chairs’, ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ (what else would you dream?), ‘Master of the House’ – but for some reason, probably because there isn’t another song in the West End or on Broadway that is a Paso, the producers decided to use the rousing ‘At The End of the Day’ for Helen and Ali-Ash to dance to. It turned out to be a costly mistake, Helen, in spite of scoring a healthy 34, heading for the barricade, sorry, dance offf, and an untimely exit. Rebellion over.
The routine began as Helen was rushed behind the line of defence away from the attacking army, fellow rebels flying in on ropes like a Tarzan troop. She was a mix of Boudicca and Jean d’Arc. Both of them came a cropper too . . .
By chance Ali-Ash emerged as one of the seven support artistes and he strutted, posed and shaped as Helen scowled like a demented Manx cat. She missed the timing on the first appel and at the end she wobbled, most likely hit by shrapnel from the attacking forces. The dance itself was really well dunn but it was upright and generally curveless and it looked like a group dance, not the star shining in a cast of wannabes. And who or what was the bull? It seemed that the song was so big, too big for the dance, winning the battle against the dance. Once in the dance offf Helen knew it was curtains and her body said it all: sadness, disappointment, despair.
How did she know? Because in the dance offf with her wasn’t either of the dancers with the other lowest scores of the night or the lowest aggregates in the series, Anita and Katie. No, her foe was Georgia, one of the top three, another stunned to be thrown to the lions, well, the beast at least.
Her Fox Trot to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ scored a deserved 36 in a performance of quaint splendour, Georgia dressed in a fully ruffed lemon curd frock complete with elbow length gloves, Gigi dressed like a prince in a blue tail coat. Personally plus-fours would have suited more but what do I know?
Obviously this dance came at the end of the story because there was no sign of Gigi being a beast, no hump back, no mane and whiskers, well maybe the whiskers, the prince having won the love of his captive at the castle. The prince was condemned to being a beast because of his arrogance. This still applies in today’s society. Have a look at people around you or on the telly, they are everywhere.
Accompanying the luvved up cupple were four remarkable support artistes namely Lumière, Cogsworth, Mrs Potts and Chip, all brilliantly conceived and delivered by the production team; it was difficult to take your eyes from them such was their brilliance but Georgia and Gigi raised themselves above the entourage and flowed and glided throughout their own fairy tale. The hand to hand combat section was a touch annoying but overall the charm won the day and as Lord Len said, ‘it wasn’t Grimm.’ Hang on, didn’t I use that line in Week Six?
The other three remaining ladies polarise the popularity polls and you can see why. One is stunning and there is great sympathy and affection for her partner. Another is a pro and the third has an attitude to launch a thousand dances. That said Anita nearly came a cropper as she was tucked up by the producers being asked to dance an Argentine Tango to a non-Argentine Tango song, the scene neither inviting nor complementary.
The song was ‘Cell Block Tango’ from Chicago where the main lyrics tell of the murders committed by the lady inmates, the prominent line, ‘he had it coming’, featuring too heavily. Reverse the genders. Not pretty. The routine began with Anita and two other prisoners behind bars at Horfield nick. Purely by coincidence Gleb appeared as a prison warden wearing a traditional jailer’s outfit, black pants and a see-through sleeveless vest. He even had a truncheon. (Make of that line what you will, it is panto season.)
Once the cell door was open they took to the floor for a bizarre exposé of a great art where Anita’s technical frailties were exposed, at times running, at times her core tested. There were lifts and kicks, a rondé achieved with style, a rigid somersault in hold and the two other inmates even joined them; they must have nicked the keys from Gleb’s belt. But when a male pro dives to the floor and slides on his front for a few bars, and then when he follows it with a knee slide you sense that there were issues. Scoring 31 left them at the bottom of the heap something they may not survive next week. Last week Gleb had an allergic reaction to something and it made his bottom lip puff up to the size of a giant sausage. You could easily have had an allergic reaction to this dance.
One of my good friends, Dawn Coley, said that she thought that Linda would win this year. I scratched my head. Who is Linda? Apparently that is the name of the character played by Kellie in her TV show. How good is that? That I didn’t know?
Apparently Kellie plays a landlady in Eastenders so why not give her the chance to reprise that role dancing a Viennese Waltz to ‘Oom Pah Pah’ from Oliver? Please re-read that line and see how many components don’t fit together. Landlady. VW. Oliver. You know don’t you . . . not popular at TT.
It wasn’t that the performance itself was bad, it wasn’t, they scored a worthy 36. As I say every week, Kellie is a great dancer and this ninety seconds could easily be transposed to the West End, the feel funn, the scene beautifully delivered. But a Viennese Waltz? No chance Nancy. No way Mr Percy Snodgrass (verse two).
They started with Kellie handing out the beers to the judggies at The Strictly Tavern. Once dunn she fetched more for the drunken reprobates on the lash with KFG, The Artful Dodger. Ale swashed, lascivious looks leered, the bawdy became tawdry and Kellie fitted in perfectly. She and KFG sang all the way through, irritatingly, she even danced on the table resurrected from her Harry Potter Paso a few weeks ago. As for VW, there were two sets of eight in hold, a cupple used for a Fleckerl but nothing more, a disgrace. 37 seconds to get into hold is nearly a world record. In the story of ‘Oliver’ Bill Sykes does for Nancy. How he was needed on Saturday.
So what of Katie and Antony Smith of Bristol, both surely now ready for a trip to Macy’s to pick up on the vibe and that store’s tagline ‘Believe’, into the semi-final, not on merit but on warmth and affection. They danced a Fox Trot – of course they did, dance choice not loaded at all – to ‘Maybe This Time’ from Cabaret, Katie starring as Sally Bowles, an American singer in 1930s Berlin who falls in love with a bi-sexual fella called Brian. Something you’re not telling us Antony?
She began making an entrance to the Kit-Kat Club in a slinky black number, more transparency exposing her lean body, maybe too lean, a black bowler hat hiding her cropped wig where she channelled Anita Harris. Younger readers please look her up. Another to take thirty five seconds or more to get going once in hold and actually dancing this was always going to be good, The Master ensuring a really smooth ride. For a minute they glided, flowed, hovered and pivoted to 35 points, the lyrics providing all the titillation you needed. ‘Everybody loves a winner . . . lady happy, that’s what I long to be. All the odds are in my favour . . . maybe this time . . . I’ll win.’ That said they haven’t done the Samba and the Charleston thus far so best not book the hotel for the final yet.
The beauty of live competition, be it a game show or a sports contest, is the unpredictability. We all think we know who will win. None of us does. We all know who should. But form is a fickle guide.
Dare they dream?
December 11th 2015