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I’d Do Anything For You – Semi final: public vs Lord Rubber

the gang of five

the gang of five

I’d Do Anything For You – Semi Final

For the second time in this series Lord Rubber’s own programme format kicked him where it hurts. In delicious time-honoured fashion, the perversity of the British public screwed-up his plans. No hissy fit this time but it was pretty clear that he had not expected and did not want, to have to choose between Samantha and Rachel. Within the bounds of propriety he and the panel had done all they could to signal Rachel as a finalist – first the critical song choice – the sexy show-stopper Cabaret; then a standing ovation from the entire panel and the Good lord at the end. Short of winking at the camera wearing a ‘vote Rachel’ T-shirt they could not have sent a stronger signal to the viewing voters. I’m not saying this reaction was phoney but it did seem to me to over-rate the quality of the performance.

The public also had it in for Sir Macaroon: having clearly indicated that Jodie was too “matronly” for him – which is code for plump of course – the possessors of the bums that will fill the seats that will fill Mac’s capacious pockets with loot, put Jodie through. Flip-flop Humphy who can reverse his decision within the space of a single sentence managed one of his “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” specials with the previously OTT Jodie for him this time too restrained. Despite the instinctive feeling that ‘Jodie’ and ‘restrained’ in the same sentence is a definition of an oxymoron, it is certainly true that the tirelessly irrepressible, ebullient Jodie has got better and better at singing and playing ‘in character’ as the weeks have gone by. The other reason for the public’s support for her I suspect is that she fits exactly what the popular image of Nancy is. If the Macaroon and the Good lord actually wanted to re-define the role nearer to Dickens’ conception, they needed to give the public a stronger steer.

Sam gave one of her best performances in terms of emotional shades of feeling, but you still get the feeling that she’s only got two controls ‘fast’ or ‘slow’: there is none of the modulation or cadence that some of the others sometimes manage. Jessie’s pretty much conflating IDAFY and the Maria’s in the first of the format: each week we are confronted with “what do we do with a problem called Jessie.” Stunningly beautiful, yet oddly unsexy; she looks like a goddess but moves like a Finnish javelin-thrower; superb voice on the right song; but with an accent so thick you wouldn’t want to have to ask her to give you directions in her native Ireland if you wanted to arrive. Jessie is so desperate to be what the panel want her to be that she isn’t consistently any one person in particular they’d pick. But she’s through and good luck to her. But I bet Batman Andrew and Macaroon Robin are shaking in their shoes at actually having to get Jessie to act the bits of the role that have no notes.

One of the precious parts of IDAFY each week for we cognoscenti, is the surreal moment: this week Jodie and Samantha perfectly illustrated the tonal weirdness of some of Wobbly Webber’s musical conceptions when they did a great bump and grind version of the Rubber/Rice kitsch classic – Jesus Christ – Superstar. The first time I ever heard this anthemic contradiction between form and content I felt a bit like the audience watching Max Bialistock’s Springtime for Hitler in Mel Brooks’ sublime The Producers. I’m not religious but even ‘Jesus Christ’ – ‘Superstar’ gives counterpoint a bad name. “Who are you what have you sacrificed?” carries on the systematic battle between raunchy rock and spiritual semantics in this weirdly appealing song and show. This tonal anarchy runs through both JC-SS and Joseph, especially in the latter’s present kitsch re-incarnation in the West End.

So two sexy, in very different ways, young women in virginal but sparkly white, hip-swung their way through the lyrical solecisms of the Jesus showstopper, to give us a high-kitsch moment to cherish. The other two fought the good fight to inject some animation, some feeling, something approaching a bloody tune, into one the Good lord’s many immediately forgettable songs, something about Brazil. They failed.

So on to the final. With all due respect to Portsmouth and Cardiff this year’s unlikely FA Cup finalists, IDAFY has gone the same way, with some, if not most of the best players knocked out in the earlier rounds. As the fiery, defiant farewell performance by Rachel demonstrated, paradoxically the first time I really thought she was absolutely the right one to win, next week risks being an anti-climax. If, in their infinite wisdom but collective madness, the British public pick Jodie, I confidently expect Sir Macaroon to hang himself with Lord Rubber probably holding the rope. It would be a sublime public retribution on the dynamic duo to find they had to launch a West End musical with a Nancy they didn’t secretly want.

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