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I’d Do Anything For You (4) – Oh God I’m taking it seriously!

I'm gonna make you a star!

I'm gonna make you a star!

I’d Do Anything For You – (4)

The law of diminishing returns is now setting in with IDAFY. As each of the 5 girls left performed their 8th (of 12) competition songs, excluding sing-off’s and songs from Oliver itself, it became clear this week that the format of the show needs tweaking to achieve the best balance between weekly entertainment and the overall tension and interest generated by the competitive, public audition element.

There are 4 main elements we want make up our minds up about: voice, acting, movement including choreography, and I guess the indefinable ‘star’ quality.

We pretty much had a measure of the quality and distinctiveness of each girl’s voice after about 6 solo songs plus the group performances. Even with bad song selection which seems to have weakened both the impact of the show and the singers in the last 3 weeks or so, we pretty much know the last five can hit the notes with accuracy and power. They can all sell a song, in their distinctively individual way. Repeating the same process further just muddles everyone and ends up with panel and ALW criticism of a performance for lacking qualities the song didn’t permit the singer to display. So: Niamh gets a gentle love song and she lacks edge or strength; Jody get’s a schlocky Cruise-Ship ballad and lacks theatricality; Jessie get a classic standard where she doesn’t have to move or grimace and she’s the best the Good lord has ever seen and then gets a pop freak-out so alien to her natural personality that she looks about as comfortable as a Nun cast as a stripper; Rachel produces a knowingly professional but ‘masked-eyed’ performance each week in any genre; and Samantha from the Isle of Sam sings everything with the same unrelenting vivacity as the unremitting cheerfulness of a Blue Peter presenter turning a cotton reel into a model giraffe.

Our only chance to see ‘acting’ ability is again song choice limited. A block of granite or even Jean-Claude Van Damme could put some acting style into Send In The Clowns whereas some of the crazy frog ring-tone songs these game girls have jiggled through have had about as much resonance Eric Morecombe’s concert piano-playing. In the little midweek exercises they give the girls it is pretty clear that Jessie has the same problem acting as singing – “who do you want me to be?” Jodie looks like a real world-champ contender in a fight scene that makes us fear for Bill Sykes rather than her Nancy; Rachel excels but does not excite; Sam is physically explosive in what looks like a dorm pillow fight; and Niamh loses the plot but ad libs engagingly and with imagination. They’ve all got work to do.

Movement is the toughie. The delightful and perceptive DVO solved for me on Saturday the Jessie mystery that has been buggin’ me for weeks: with laser accuracy, desirable Den pointed out that Jessie is a tomboy in a dress whose body says sex and movements say netball. ‘Unfeminine’ DD said with pitiless accuracy. The normally unfailingly gentlemanly lord let off one of his cruel firecrackers under Jolly Jodie likening her stage movement to Meatloaf; which is a bit like telling Darcey Bussell on the Vicar of Dibley dancing with Dawn French that you couldn’t tell them apart. Rachel’s knowingness grates in her movements – as if she is looking in a mirror and likes what she sees. Sam’s as ever a sweet sexy song-socker, whatever the song; and Niamh is the only one really at home and comfortable standing still, but on the move definitely needs Ginger Rodgers not Tina Turner.

How do you define ‘star’ quality? Presence, personality, style, gravitas: all of these and then some. I used to film Gang Shows and the best definition for me is that with about 100 young people on stage, the camera almost ‘searches’ out certain faces, captures and returns to a special ‘kinetic’ quality some people have. It recalls what people have said of ‘stars’, in a roomful of people – he/she’s the only one you see. When Brando, Depp, Dean, Hepburn (either one), Johansson et al are on screen you cannot see anyone else. If IDAFY was casting the film of Oliver – there would be no competition – if Niamh’s eyes didn’t get you her physical ‘stillness’ would.

For me it would be better to start with 16 and lose two Nancy’s a week in the first 5 weeks. Then from that 6, 1 a week to week 9; with the final in week 10. From week 6 – 8 each should do a song and an actual acting scene from a musical. In the last 2 weeks the last 4 should do a song of their choice then a scene and a song from Oliver with the Olivers. In the final the last 2 should do the same two scenes and songs from Oliver and one scene and song of their choice from another musical.

You might say I’m taking it too seriously and putting the balance too much away from entertainment to the serious audition process. But for me the most improved performers on the show have been the Panel. Denise Van Outen has emerged as a perceptive, consummate professional with a superb eye for the essential; John Barrowman having learned that repeating the same thing makes it one third as effective not 3 times and again knows his stuff; and Barry has thankfully become more Humphries than Humbert to offer good, if sometimes pretty sexist or fattist advice. And Lord Rubber despite his occasional ‘own-back’ cruel barbs for a lifetime of being called ugly, knows his popular theatre stuff.

As reality TV shows go, this one has grown into one of the best and has acquired a growing assurance that lets us see inside the world of entertainment and performance our culture is so taken with, in a way that is fun, entertaining, and which after the 1st couple of weeks of tits and tarts production ethos has made us all love the vicarious feeling of being impresarios. The phenomenal cross-gender, age-neutral affection generated for Lee Mead demonstrates the fact that the general public loves this role. They love feeling on the inside of show business and showing the Lord Rubber’s and Cameron Macaroon’s that they know a thing or two about who and what they want to see when as they board the charabancs for the big night out in the West End. And why not? As the song has it – “Life’s too long to worry and too short to cry” so let’s have some fun – on TV or stage.

And yes I am still in mourning the loss of Niamh – the only really interesting casting left. (It’s OK Julie – I’m still here). Rachel will get it – but she won’t make you cry.

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