Strictly 2020 – Musicals Week, Main Show: Coal-powered Gusset

I will pay a double license fee if I get content like this more often.

We’ve done it. We’ve reached Musicals Week – Caroline Quentin is at home seething that she didn’t get to do a routine to Last Midnight from Into The Woods but the show must go on! And after years of begging, pleading and writing many threatening letters we FINALLY get our Waitress routine!

I will not be discussing Andrew Lloyd-Webber with his net worth of £820 million opining the sorry state of affairs that is the theatre industry being left to crumble before our very eyes. So onwards.

All aboard the annual Johannes Can Be As Gay as He Wants For One Episode Only Express

Only drag queens would make as a poor a decision as allowing Katya to drive their tour bus. I wouldn’t trust Katya to so much as pour my tea.

This is of course the Priscilla number that they have been bigging up all series and everyone has been looking forward to because we, as the shows says, “Get to see some of our male pros as we have never seen them before” the male pros turn out to be Johannes, Gorka and Giovanni. Need I remind you that over the last 2 years we have seen Giovanni in various states of drag:

And of course who could forget Johannes stomping the red carpet in his heels and a fan

And somehow the campy fun of last year’s insane red carpet fashion bonanza felt draggier and gayer than this Priscilla number. And they even had Oti wafting around in the remnants of Judge Rinder’s terrifying paso doble butterfly outfit

I know there are limitations on what could be achieved given the budget, the likelihood of a deluge of gammon-faced complaints (although they’re all currently distracted by The Vicar of Dibley being not racist) and the *gestures at 2020 in general* but it felt like it all needed to be bigger, by which I mean Gorka’s heels should have been bigger:

Honey, that is a sensible office heel. I have seen grandmothers at weddings teetering across a dancefloor while 3 gins deep in a heel both higher and thinner than that. A chunky Cuban heel IN A DRAG NUMBER? It’s quite the scandal.
I think it’s fairly apparent that Gorka was maybe the wrong choice to drag up, and quite why they went with him when Neil would do anything for screen time at this point – remember his Nell de Juanse character? BECAUSE I BLOODY WELL DO WHENEVER I CLOSE MY EYES AT NIGHT

and to overlook Aljaz who is over there going HAM on the routine

WE WERE ROBBED. Although I do appreciate the metallic houndstooth trousers.
Also, God bless Gorka and his very masculine face in full baby drag looking like one of the weaker makeovers on Drag Race

I’m enjoying Gorka a lot more this series – he’s being much more playful and engaging – I like it. And it’s nice to see guys like him and Giovanni engaging with a spectacularly queer musical in a way that wasn’t a joke.
I’m very happy that we were spared the horrors of seeing Anton in full drag, instead he is once again relegated to gently mincing at the back of the stage while looking a bit like the box of decorations you wish you have packed away better at the end of last Christmas

As a slow working towards eventually having a drag queen compete on the show – this was a fine little baby step. I just hope by the time we do inevitably have Baga Chipz on the dancefloor that wardrobe will have learnt how to fit a dress to a drag queen because these little sequin numbers, were doing nothing for anyone

Not even Johannes who could have a seriously snatched drag silhouette. But I imagine Gorka and Giovanni drew the line at cinching.

So with everyone else dragged up and glamorous, how are our hosts and judges doing?

That’s a pretty fab white suit and Tess, that’s a lovely…. half finished men’s work shirt?
Shirley meanwhile understood it was Musicals Week and met somewhere in the middle of Frozen: ON ICE! and the blue dress that was the best part of the short-lived Anastasia musical

Motsi is wearing what I can only describe as an elaborate puppet of The Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland on her boobs

And Craig,

Well, he’ll show you to your seats now.

JJ and Amy
Charleston / Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

This is what? The third or fourth Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Charleston? I’m just glad that the BBC is getting their money’s worth out of that Chitty prop they bought 5 years ago.
JJ’s dances so far have required a very reserved amount of acting (bar his paso which for some reason he performed as a hungry cat) so with a Charleston this week he has to really learn to over exaggerate his facial expressions and embody a louder character. Normally this would be done with an acting coach but because JJ used all his videocall privileges on calling Prince Harry they had to find an alternative way. Apparently the only alternative way was to get JJ to drive around a model of Chitty in the rain soaked Elstree Studio car park

It doesn’t exactly capture the joy of the musical does it?

It’s nice to see JJ at least attempt a faster tempo but it becomes glaringly obvious that this just wasn’t his dance because it takes 16 seconds from the start of his routine for him to do a step that isn’t just walking and bending his knees – the record of Longest Time Taken To Actually Start Dancing is still firmly held by Jacqui Smith for her Foxtrot which took TWENTY SIX SECONDS for her to simply stand up from behind a desk so compared to that JJ was basically running an Olympic sprint.

JJ’s basic steps are very good and he and Amy are bang on the beat – although it was kind of rude to use the car backfiring sound effect whenever Amy did a kick like she had a coal-powered gusset that was backfiring

What I think Amy as a pro does particularly well is adapt herself to her partner – she clearly slowed down and took it easy to accommodate for JJ instead of expecting him to come up to her level – sure it makes for a bit of a boring and uninspired routine but it at least means they were perfectly in sync the entire time – which is more than can be said for HRVY and Janette in their routine. And while the slightly more complex steps lacked a bit of commitment and gumption from JJ, Craig did at at least notice that he was very good at jumping

That’s such a wonderfully condescending compliment. Only a bit more so than the only thing Motsi complimenting him on being “You have such a beautiful smile!” (Is he beautiful? Is he perfect? Is he Linda Evangelista? Could he wear a diaper and they’d eat him up ever single time?)

JUDGES’ SCORES:
Craig: 6
Shirley: 7
Motsi: 7
TOTAL: 20

I did HUGELY enjoy the collective Twitter facepalm when Claudia said that the voting terms and conditions were going to be read out by Anne Hathaway (and William Shakespeare) because we all thought Hollywood’s Favourite Theatre Kid, THE Anne Hathaway, had somehow been roped into all this. Nope, instead it was Cassidy Janson and Oliver Tompsett from “& Juliet”:

Ranvir and Giovanni VERY INNOCENTLY BAKING PIES
Viennese Waltz / Waitress

The pacing of this series has been utterly bonkers – I cannot believe we reached the Quarterfinals before they introduced us to Ranvir’s family and truly entered her into Baby Wars. Also, I just want to take the time to acknowledge and appreciate her niece’s wall art because it’s pretty cool:

It certainly beats “Live. Laugh. Love.” decals.

On to the much anticipated Waitress routine, can you believe we have waited this long for this? And of course we start with a rendezvous in the most romantic of places, amongst the cooling pies

One of my favourite parts of the show is the self-branding – all the prop newspapers are called The Strictly Times, the cafe in Clara’s samba was called Clara’s Cafe so it made sense that that Ranvir and Giovanni would dance at the SCD PIE DINER:

That’s the Sudden Cardiac Death by Pastry Ingestion and Enjoyment Diner – the pies are so good you’ll die happy!
It’s a perfectly lovely routine – I love a good Viennese Waltz and I think they nailed this, the mood was right, the spins were so well controlled – once again my only nitpick is that when Ranvir has to change hold or position she just stops dancing and it’s a momentary awkward pause that just kind of kills the flow of the dance a little. But I’m willing to forgive most things just for how well her costume works in motion – Vicky Gill NAILED this one:

I just wish she had worked harder on Giovanni who looks like the guy in Tesco who you think *might* work there but aren’t confident enough to ask him if he knows where the glacé cherries are

It has all the emotion you could ask for from a dance to ____ and she gets a very emotional standing ovation from Motsi, not emotional enough to give it a 10 but there were tears

Craig meanwhile is firmly on his butt:

Apparently he just wasn’t convinced by her pretend pastry rolling at the beginning. Alright, calm down Paul Hollywood.

JUDGES’ SCORES:
Craig: 9
Shirley: 9
Motsi: 9
TOTAL: 27

Motsi bawling her eyes out and then giving it a 9 is an iconic emotional u-turn.

Audrey and Some Bad Clothes
Jive / Little Shop of Horrors

I love that we’ve reached the quarter finals and the show has only just decided to give Maisie her Totally Relatable and Adorkable Teen Montage

Blink twice if this is a hostage situation Maisie.
I did appreciate them showing just how much work Maisie puts in and that while yes she is absolutely a RINGAH RINGAH, CHICKEN DINNER she is still putting in a lot of hard work to pull of these routines. I would be very interested in knowing the training hours everyone has been putting in but they seemed to have stopped doing that – I’m sure someone complained that they were being shamed for their lack of hours but I cannot remember who.

While the editing team might be Maisie’s new best friend, she must have severely pissed off the hair and make-up department this week because they have saddled her with the worst cases of a Cranial Lhasa Apso I’ve ever seen

That wig is a hate crime and combined with an outfit that only reminds me of Kennedy Davenport’s Resurrected Kentucky Fried Ghost Hooker outfit

It’s a rather jarring visual and not aided by Gorka being dressed up as both Bert and Ernie

I don’t really think of garish primary colours when I think of Little Shop of Horrors? But of all the jives we’ve seen this year I think I enjoyed this one the most – mostly because I wasn’t in constant fear that Maisie was about to collapse into a sobbing heap in the middle of the dancefloor. Although you did spend the whole routine wondering when the gummy CGI Audrey II was going to appear and oh boy did she burst through the wall like the unwelcome Kool Aid Man

JUDGES’ SCORES:
Craig: 9
Shirley: 10
Motsi: 9
TOTAL: 28

I do have to laugh at Shirley doing a massive 180 on Maisie and suddenly being her biggest fan – I guess sometimes 1000 snake emojis on your Instagram posts does work.

Fun Fair Facepaint and Oti Mabuse
Argentina Tango / Phantom of the Opera

Besides the lack of an audience I think the thing that most gives away that this series is taking place during Covid Times is how often the editors are using the split screen dual-role gag in the VTs and this week Bill and has to get an peptalk from his Phantom-sona and it just looks like a take on the Evil Kermit Meme

I have a theory that nobody actually likes The Phantom of the Opera and that everyone is just so glamoured by the spectacle and impressiveness of the swinging chandelier at the beginning of the show and the one scene with all the candelabras that they don’t really even remembers the content of the musical, and I think this routine, stripped bare of the Phantom staging (thank God they didn’t attempt a CGI lake of candelabras) just didn’t work and seemed dated beyond belief.

The first, and MAJOR, problem of this routine is that the Argentine Tango is a sexy dance and I don’t know about you but the moment that terrifying organ music kicks up, my first thoughts aren’t “Ravage me!” so much as they are “OH GOD! I’M ABOUT TO BE KILLED!” and I just don’t think it was ever going to be possible to choreograph a good Argentine Tango to this mawkish 80s power ballad of a theme tune.
The second problem is the mask – how are you going to do a Phantom routine and not have the mask reveal!? I was so hoping for the moment Oti rips off Bill’s mask and rudely just reveals that it’s Bill Bailey’s normal face under there BUT NO, they went with facepaint, imaginably because the prop mask made Bill look more like Emperor Palpatine than it did The Phantom

It all comes together as an overwhelmingly clumsy routine – even Oti dressed as elaborately folded toilet paper didn’t seem to capture the mood or tone and it takes a considerable amount of work to make Oti look inelegant and while Bill was mostly responsible for it the tissue-tits did not help the situation at all

I think we just have to accept that if you want to do a Phantom themed routine you have to go full wacky-schmacky Joel Schumacher with it, gender-bend it – make Oti the phantom and Bill the creepy Opera House owner I DON’T KNOW, just do something new with it because I think The Phantom of the Opera is a well that has run so dry that it is impossible to make anything based on it that doesn’t feel dated by at least 40 years.

The judges of course go full IT’S NOT EASY FOR THE MEN with it, and yes that’s a very valid point but this was still a bad dance and didn’t deserve 8s across the board.

JUDGES’ SCORES:
Craig: 8
Shirley: 8
Motsi: 8
TOTAL: 24

Bill’s Special Celebrity Endorsements continue apace, this time he gets a video message from the original Phantom – Michael Crawford who standing in front of a particularly horrifying image

Lets hope it’s not prophetic.

A Pair of Gameshow Hosts from the 1980s
American Smooth / Chorus Line

HRVY is dancing the American Smooth to One from the musical A Chorus Line except everyone keeps calling it “One Singular Sensation” and it drove my little pedantic brain nuts. HRVY of course hasn’t ever seen Chorus Line (I half expected Anton to burst through the door and beat him to death with a bedazzled cane while wearing a top hat). No, he was much to busy watching Shrek 2 – the elite musical. Sadly they didn’t show HRVY the best part of the Chorus Line movie – the bit where one of the dancers falls over.

Taking a leaf out of Karen and Jamie’s book Hrvy and Janette are twinning this week in a rather eye searing display of gold sequins:

Normally this would be pretty fabulous but the sequins are so violently flashing and flickering gold and that combined with the all gold stage design just turns everything into a sort of golden melange

Which makes it very hard to actually process the dance. I think that the outfits would have been greatly helped had they been made using a gold glitter fabric rather than a pailletted sequin – it just would have been less visually boggling when they stand together and morph into some sort of dazzling sea creature

And the less we talk about the army of Antons behind them the better

Janette being Janette throws everything into this routine – she is going to get to that final even if she has to drag HRVY’s strangled corpse there herself – Genuinely slightly shocked that Janette didn’t garrotte him with her bedazzled coattails during those final lifts.
I think it may have been a case of… gilding he lily in terms of the choreography because HRVY just seemed slightly sloppy – he slipped on nearly all of his spins, he was seconds behind Janette in the final part of the routine and once again just blatantly counting out the steps for the entire routine AND NOBODY IS MENTIONING IT – I haven’t seen anyone doing it this obviously since you could hear Nancy dell-Olio audibly counting out her rumba.

The judges are gaga for it, I feel like everyone involved with dance and theatre is kind of obligated to stan A Chorus Line so of course this was going to go down like sweet tea with the judges and Craig even says he’s going to start calling himself CRH – which begs the question: Does Craig think H.R.V.Y. are HRVY’s initials? Is he Henry Rudolphus Venicombe-Yaxley?
And while we’re here, God bless Shirley expunging Jake Woods from the records and claiming Janette has never made the quarter finals before. I hope he threw a glass at the TV. While gurning insanely.

JUDGES’ SCORES:
Craig: 9
Shirley: 10
Motsi: 10
TOTAL: 29

Firmly in the belief this didn’t deserve more than Ranvir’s Viennese Waltz or Maisie’s Jive. I would accept two 8s and a 9.

Two Teens Having Hell of a Sugar High in Maths Class
Jive / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

What a spectacular failure to grasp and embody even the most basic vibe and ethos of the musical you are meant to be showcasing – not that I’m surprised after they managed to talk about Everybody’s Talking Jamie on It Takes Two without once mentioning either a gay teenager or drag queens – it’s quite the achievement really.

They’re much more open about it tonight and they get a lovely little chat with Jamie Campbell who the whole musical is based on

I very much enjoyed Jamie McBiscuits signing off the videocall by calling Jamie Campbell “Gaymie” which was either a delightful slip of tongue or a joke that came up during the videocall but got edited out – either way I thought it was funny.

For the dance they’re literally just cribbing the routine from the actual west-end show and adding some superficial jive content to it and at first it’s going well – I think we’ve observed a few times that Jamie goes all out for the first 20 seconds and then needs a respite in the middle so we get this weird break halfway through where Karen just stands in front of Jamie and shields him from our view:

And then the last half of the routine is just a little slow and clumsy – this is going to sound very silly but I think what would have helped this routine immeasurably would have been if Jamie had worn white socks because his shoes, socks and trousers all being black just made it look clompier and stiffer than it actually was

But my biggest gripe is that beyond the song they used, this could have been a dance from any week. Put him in a pair of little red heels (they can be Cuban heels if necessary), Hell Jamie seems down to clown, put him in a dress! Give him the ridiculous eyelashes just something to connect the visuals to the song because it was seriously lacking and almost came across as more of a PSA about Jamie Oliver banning sugar in school as these two schoolchildren rocket around on hell of a sugar high.

JUDGES’ SCORES:
Craig: 8
Shirley: 8
Motsi: 8
TOTAL: 24

And now to our Musicals Week Leaderboard:

  1. TH PRC S RGHT
  2. Audrey II: Electric Boogaloo
  3. American Pie: The Musical
  4. The Phantom Menace
    • The Kids Are Not Alright
  5. JumpJump and Amy Dowden’s Backfiring Gusset

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