Do you ever check out the size of products or the packaging, scratch your head and wonder? Me too.
If you take the Wagon Wheel biscuit as an example I’m told that it hasn’t changed its size in the last forty years, merely that time has distorted perspective. When you are small everything is big. And vice versa. But the Australian version is bigger than the UK biscuit by 14mm so it might have once been the giant we thought it was.
If you look at a Mars Bar over the last thirty years, the size has dwindled from 62.5g, to 58g and now at its current fighting weight of 51g. Less chocolate, same price.
Switch the view a minute. Cadbury produce a Brunch Bar. The box is 14cm high. Open it up and the wrapper is 13cm. Okay, not too much disappointment there. Until you crack it open and you find that the actual snack is just 9cm long, 36% wasted on packaging, your expectation dimmed, disillusioned. You fancied a full size one didn’t you?
It’s all a con really.
And then take the Quarter Final, the Fabulous Five left to battle it out, their job to dance just the once, a massive ten minutes of performing, and that’s being generous, in a show sixty minutes long. The producers had a chat.
‘I know what we’ll do,’ they said, ‘make the pros do two dances, that’s seven minutes, stretch the VTS out, get the juddgies to say more, and slower, and let’s beef up the links. No one will notice.’
So with that agreed the celebs had a bit of a rest, just one dance, normally in the can at the end of day one, the rest of the week finessing. Happy days.
Happy indeed for the star of the opening pro number. No, not the dancers, nor the choreographer, brilliant job btw, but the singing star, live on a Saturday night, the one and the only Mr Antony Smith of Bristol. A chanteur! A balladeer! A vocalist with the confidence and the range to nail it. Fabulous.
To be honest, if you have seen Antony live, this wouldn’t be a surprise to you. He performs when the fridge door opens, if the light still works, and singing is in his repertoire. As too his partner, the much missed Erin Boag. This will have dunn his bid for Head Juddge no harm at all though there is talk that Gary Edwards, the Ballroomgiant sits high in the mix. Check him out, nearly as tall as me.
The opening routine was a tribute to every musical the West End has ever seen, all the juddgies featured, two as Pearly Queens, no points for guessing which, for this was Musicals Week, a chance to stretch boundaries, the tag line of the chorus being, ‘anything can happen on the Strictly stage’. And this was nearly true. Later there was more singing from the dancers as ‘Brendan and chorus’ took us through the Ts and Cs to the tune ‘Any Dream Will Do’. Suffice to say he won’t be singing live for a long time yet. Thankfully.
When Ore was younger he was asked the question, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ He didn’t respond with footballer, train driver or astronaut. He also didn’t say that he wanted to be the face of Kleenex. But wait for January.
What he did say was that he luvved the film ‘Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, that Gene Wilder was his favourite, and that he always dreamed of sleeping with three Umpa-Lumpas at the same time. Okay, I made the last bit up. But it is true. No desire to be in ‘The Magnificent Seven’, to take ‘The Guns of Navarone’, or even saving a sinking ‘Poseidon’, what an adventure that would have been, but dreams of golden tickets, rivers of chocolate, and the mesmeric film later rekindled by Johnny Depp. So when Ore was asked to Fox Trot to ‘Pure Imagination’ from ‘Charlie and . . .’ not ‘Willie and . . .’ the bubbles in his Aero simply burst with delight.
In the VT we were introduced to the RADA trained Jonathan Slinger currently playing Willie in the West End and he appeared wearing green pants, a purple dress coat, a gold waist coat and a navy top hat. It seemed odd then that when Ore appeared his outfit matched except the hat was green. Very odd.
What followed was a 36 when the Slow Fox Trot developed into a gallop once Joanne had guffed her way through a super-sized Galaxy bar, and when the giant lilies scattered around the floor had been returned to a very stroppy Manet. Oh, and once your pure imagination had pretended that the first thirty seconds were spent in hold, gliding around the floor. When, of course, you knew they weren’t. In a performance of gentleness and sway, of elegance and swing, was I the only person who wondered why his left leg was bent so much?
Of all the shows in the West End that features a Samba I’d like you to suggest one. If you tried for an hour or so you’d never come up with The Jersey Boys and the song ‘Oh! What a Night!’ Me neither. I’m not sure which hallucinogenic created that one. Maybe a small Absinthe?
Either way, this is what we got. You couldn’t really say that we were treated. The song was slow, devoid of the carnival, of Rio, the highlight being Rob slapping his front leg down like a demented remote controlled robot searching for a landmine with his foot.
Three Jersey Boys (New York not Channel Islands) stood smartly on the stage, red suits, ties pushed to a close, and then there was Rob after a few champagnes, tie thrown to the band as he began his last farewell. He decked his jacket, launched himself on to the floor and there was the beautiful Oxi in a matching frock, the ruff frilled for frills. And then Rob transmitted himself back to the Flamingo Bar and he was away, caring not for the millions of viewers, dancing for himself rather than the unfortunate Samba.
Now, I didn’t say that I didn’t like it, that it wasn’t funn, or that it wasn’t entertaining. All I’m saying is that as Sambas go I was glad when it went, so too Rob really, clearly an auditory man luvving the sound of his own voice, especially when chastising or loving. He had a go at Craig for being nice. It felt like he was peeling a scab at a family dinner and eating it. Sometimes it’s best to just be quiet. He scored 31 and the gavel rightly came down.
For regular readers you may remember that one of my greatest musical heroes is Howard Keel, star of stage and screen, a man who, though he didn’t know it, sang a duet with me about thirty years ago. The song? ‘I’ve Never Been to Me’. The venue? The Derngate, Northampton. I do believe that I was the youngest person in the audience by about forty years.
Apart from smashing it in shows like Oklahoma, Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate, Kismet and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Lord Len‘s favourite, obvs, he starred alongside Doris Day in the 1953 version of Calamity Jane, him playing Wild Bill, not Jane. There was plenty of whip-crack-away in that movie, Doris being an Indian scout looking for talent for the IPL. (Indian Premier League – cricket joke, pls move on if you must.)
Fast forward to Louise and KFG doing their version of an unlikely Quick Step to ‘The Deadwood Stage’ from Calamity Jane the Musical that had Juddge Aggie purring, that brought Major Tim Peake down to earth in a cheerful and funn way and that reduced husband Jamie to tears. Big Jessie! Sorry, that’s Toy Story . . .
They began, six of them, riding into town on the stage coach, KFG looking like he was ready for the O. K. Corral, the local betting shop, dressed in a check cowboy shirt, waist coast, neckerchief, Stetson and chaps on his legs. Louise‘s radiant brown outfit matched it. Obviously a colourless world back then.
She danced on her own whilst KFG watered the horses, her solo including some toe tapping, a jump and a slap, the appearance of a cupple of cacti and the disappearance of the stagecoach, in for a service at the Wells Fargo Garage. When they eventually teamed up the Quick Step was basic and unsophisticated, the routine dominated by the barn dance rather than the Ballroom, the mix of the genres tilting away from the brief. Louise even did a stint on the judggies’ table before she fell, planned, don’t panic, into the arms of her catchers. They scored 37, another ten from the generous Italian, another exposition of her talent edging her towards the final. She is a firm favourite. Great ability, temperament and demeanour. And genuinely nice. Not the best, but maybe the nicest?
Putting pressure on the top three, timing her run to the tape nicely, is Cloudier, awarded her first ten in a score of 37 for her dance to ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’ from The Lion King. I would say that it was Salsa. It wasn’t so I won’t.
AJ (Adebowale Jabari) took Cloudier to the ZSL (Zoological Society of London) London Zoo to see some real lions. There are some at Bristol Zoo Gardens, the place where my daughter announced that one day, when she grew up, that she wanted to be an artist, like those people who paint people’s faces at the zoo . . . but obviously the Dynamic Duo were working out of town. That said, both benefitted from the face paints and more brown outfits, Cloudier looking like a junior Bonnie Langford auditioning for Cats and her partner wearing Bugs Bunny ears that he’d got from an early Christmas cracker.
As tunes go this was as Samba as Samba comes, maybe even a Simba. The dance contained just four bars of Salsa, four, the rest a Show Dance a fortnight early, maybe getting it in just in case. There’s a line in The Lion King when Timon says, ‘what do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?’ Had they done that it might have created more of a stir rather than the cognoscenti looking in vain for Salsa steps. Cloud used all her tricks: splits, cartwheels, he great core, her gymnastic floor rolls, a handstand to his shoulder, the great neat feet she has, the courage to go where her lead takes her, the knowledge that she can do everything thrown at her from a physical perspective, even a dubble round the world that could have made a right mess of the dance floor had it been an inch lower. How sad that the dance was so fantastic but so not Salsa. Hakuna Matata.
A young Pierce Brosnan lookalike took to the stage to end the celebs evening before the pros closed the show with a West Side Story tribute routine. You know who I mean, don’t you, Danny Super Mac Pro, the man who could walk on water should he ever be given that gig.
Like a gameshow host in a super sparkly navy jacket, just picture a coconut eclair Quality Street, the one with the blue wrapper, surely the jacket of the series, Danny and two stooges approached the stage where three hotties awaited, two in Chelsea blue, the other in the Coventry City home kit, Oti at the centre, her tousled mane stolen from Hair Bear (TV cartoon, early seventies), flares on her arms to add depth and drama.
The up tempo tune of ‘One Night Only’, taken from Dreamgirls, rocked the room and so too did this Tango, super-fast, energy bars needed just for the audience. Danny knew that he was the man, the lead, and the characterisation was perfect as he took his girl to places on the dance floor never seen, very quickly, it should be said, sometimes forgetting that occasionally those pesky forward steps on the left foot should be a heel lead.
Anyhow, let’s not allow one minor hiccup to soil another terrific display from this gargantuan cupple. After a bionic lock step sequence they joined the other four dancers and formed a promenade of six marching towards the boom (camera) before retreating in unison towards the stage. Classy. A line in the song says that, ‘we only have till dawn!’ Perhaps that’s why they went at such a helter-skelter of a pace? A cynic may offer the thought that Danny doesn’t do slow. A non-cynic could reply, wait until the final, for that is surely for where he is destined.
38 points took his tally of tens to 14 so far, his last five dances, averaging 38.8.
We now wait for a full weekend, two dances per celeb, and the pain and the disappointment that comes with a Semi-Final. It is the nature of the beast, one cupple will leave. Can Louise hold her nerve? Will Cloudia apply the sporting fight we know she has? Or will it be Kleenex time? There’s no chance that Danny Mac Pro will be free for December 17th. Is there?
9th December 2016