As you’ll know if you read my week 9 post here, I have been on holiday for the last 2 weeks, so I have been catching up on the last 2 weeks’ shows.
Last night, I watched last Saturday’s live show (17th May), and I’ll watch the results show tonight so that I am up-to-date before tomorrow’s semi-final…
As the weeks go on, something slightly strange is happening – I’m getting less and less convinced in the girls’ ability to play the role. In the previous 2 series, I had made up my mind long before this stage, where this time around, I’m still not quite sure who I want to win. If you want to know what I’m thinking, read on for my full reaction:
Just 5 contenders remaining in this week’s quarter-final, so they were forced to sing almost complete sings, rather than just the usual 2-min cut-down versions. Slightly strangely, it appeared that the girls themselves chose their songs for this week – what a shame that they still didn’t all pick songs from shows…
- Jodie: I thought Jodie did a pretty good job this week, although it was by no means her best. Frankly, the choice of song wasn’t great as it was a little bit too repetitive for me. It was pretty tough vocally, and pushed her to the top of her voice where she wasn’t as comfortable as she has been in previous weeks. Despite that, her vocal quality is still huge, and she is a hugely watchable performer. In terms of movement, I thought she was fine, and as ALW himself acknowledged, it does not matter for this show as Nancy is not a dancing role (if that’s the case, why did he insist on making the point?!). I am also perplexed by the conversation about whether Jodie is a ‘traditional’ Nancy – the judges, and ALW in particular, seem obsessed about the idea of re-inventing the role, just as they have done in previous series. And judging by the last 2 winners, it’s all talk – no-one in their right mind could seriously argue that Connie Fisher or Lee Mead redefined the role. I think Frankly, I think it’s a very unsubtle way of trying to influence the audience to vote for Jessie or Samantha, and I worry that it’s influenced by the criticism that the show received at the start of the series (e.g. Kevin Spacey). If a genuinely unknown, untrained talent wins the role, ALW can say that someone has been discovered. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I think Jodie is fantastic, and I will be gutted if she’s not in the final 3.
- Rachel: ‘I will always love you’ was a very, very brave song choice from Rachel given how exposed it is vocally at the start of the song. I thought it was an exceptional vocal performance, and don’t beleive she got anywhere near the level of praise that it deserved. None of the other girls could have got close to matching that vocal quality (it’s laughable to even think of Niamh trying to get near it), and in musical theatre, that matters. If Zoe Tyler, or another singing teacher, was on the panel, we might get to hear that, but as it is, we heard Denise say that Rachel ‘alienates’ women and needs to open up more. I can partly see what she’s saying, but again, I think it’s an over-reaction based on the fact that she’s a professional. As per my comments above Jodie, it looks like ALW is trying to influence the audience away from Rachel because of the fact that she is professional. His view that she would be a ‘safe pair of hands’ isn’t exactly something that inspires people to choose her to play the part. Despite that, I still think Rachel is great. I have supported her from the start (despite a brief dalliance with Sarah Lark before her departure!), and would still be angry not to see her in the final.
- Samantha: Sam seems to have become ALW’s favourite for the show, and I have to say, I don’t quite agree with. It is indisputable that she has come on a long way throughout this competition. She is definitely a telented performer, and it doesn’t hurt that she is very attractive (which the judges, particularly Barry, seem to have noticed). Unfortunately, I think her performance was poor this week (despite the judges not agreeing with me). For only the 2nd time in the competition, Sam sang something from musical theatre, and as last time (when she had to sing ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story, I didn’t think she could handle it. The song itself was from Wicked, and was originally performed by the exceptional Idina Menzel, one of my very favourite actresses, who makes it sound easy. Unsurprisingly, Samantha couldn’t match that, and her tuning was pretty dodgy in places. Clearly there was some excellent moments too, and she has a very powerful voice, but I can’t overlook the places that made me cringe. None of the judges noticed it, but I know I’m not the only person to have seen it. Despite the fact that this wasn’t her best week, she still definitely deserves to be back next week.
- Jessie: After a poor performance last week by her high standards, Jessie did manage to recover some ground. Despite being a serious contender at the start of the series, I’m no longer sure that she’s ready to play the role. She has immense talent, and I can definitely see her being a real star, but I worry that this role would be too much for at the moment – if her acting is as unsure as it looks to be given the challenges we have seen in previous weeks, she could get ripped apart by the critics (remember, there’s a lot of acting in the role of Nancy – it’s not just singing). Whether or not that ends up being the case, I’d like to see Jessie in the competition until at least the semi-final, and perhaps even the final. Her vocal was much better this week, but it wasn’t a totally inspiring performance.
- Niamh: If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I have wanted Niamh to leave the show for a number of weeks – I am increasingly confident that I am going to get my wish now. After another distinctly average performance, the judges seem to have realised that she’s just not ready. Even ALW, who has been a massive fan, has started remining the voters that she is too fragile, and that it could ruin her voice by exposing her to the West End too early. Personally, I think he’s right about that, but I also don’t think her voice is strong enough. This week, Niamh was trying to show a more maternal side, but she didn’t succeed. The judges keep coming back to her fragility, but I don’t see that as the main problem – despite looking so young, she could probably get away with it if she was a better actress. I just don’t think she is a good actor when singing. She might be fine when acting in scenes, but I find her performances dull when she’s singing. Having been saved twice by ALW, I think her luck is likely to be out this time around. She’s had a very good run, and it looks like she has found a mentor in ALW!
I would rank the remaining 5 girls in the following order – let’s hope I’m right!
1. Rachel – the most consistent performer; great actress; would do a great job on the West End
2. Jodie – I’d pay to watch her in the West End, whether it’s as Nancy or in another show. Brilliant voice
3. Jessie – I still have serious reservations about Jessie’s acting, but her voice and raw talent gets her to the final for me
4. Samantha - some flashes of brilliance in recent weeks, but not quite there vocally on the tougher numbers. Will make it, but just not in this role.
5. Niamh - nowhere near ready for the West End stage – let down by her voice