Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dancing with the Stars Week 5...

I suppose I should start by shouting a MEA CULPA to the heavens for getting behind on these recaps. The truth is I’ve been a little down in the dumps for the past couple of weeks; not for any specific reason, just my usual ups and downs. Sometimes I think I might be a teensy bit bi-polar.

What’s that?

Excuse me: the voices in my head are teasing me about my use of the word ‘teensy’. The point is, my petite depressions are not conducive to good blog posts. So by not writing anything, I was actually doing the blogosphere a favor. So really, you guys should be thanking me.

Where was I? Ah, yes… Dancing with the Stars. Last time we talked, Holly Madison and Steve Wozniak had just been booted. Nobody gave a crap about Holly, but some people were sad to see Steve go. I, meanwhile, was completely over him the second he stopped caring about dancing well, which I think was around Week 2. He’s a nice guy, but it was definitely his time to go.

This week, the remaining couples will learn either the Viennese Waltz or the Paso Doble. A Paso Doble week without our dear Maxsim is absolutely TRAGIC and maybe even a little pointless, but we will press on, for we must.

Jump on it...
Up first are Chuck and Julianne with the Viennese Waltz. The stress of all of this seems to be getting to Julianne. Not only can she not put her make-up on properly (don’t forget the neck, darling)…

But she can’t decide how to treat her boyfriend slash dance pupil during rehearsals. Should she treat him like any other student (whips, chains, abusive language intended to degrade and humiliate), or like her boyfriend (whips, chains, abusive language intended to degrade and humiliate… and whipped cream)? The show is desperate to convince us that Chuck is improving from week-to-week, but really, I think the dances are just getting easier. The routine is very nice – you know I enjoy Julianne’s choreography most of the time – but Chuck is his usual lop-sided, awkward self out there. The boy just can’t do graceful, and since he’s still concerned about looking effeminate, I doubt very much that he’ll ever apologize for his lack of finesse. Until he learns to let all that go, he’ll always look like an inebriated duck while he dances, unless it’s a Latin dance, in which case he’ll look like un pato boraccho. The dance ends with Chuck on bended knee, Julianne looking coy and surprised, and me vomiting all over my new rug. The judges are more or less pleased with this performance, claiming that Chuck finally performed, as opposed to simply going through the motions. If he continues to gain confidence, the footwork and finesse should follow. Chuck is so pleased by the comments, he decides to ride the pony…

Backstage, Samantha can’t resist teasing about the bended knee moment, and asks the couple if it was supposed to tell us something. Thankfully, Chuck answers with a flat and too-quick NO, which probably hurt Julianne’s feelings but saved me from having to re-shampoo the carpet. They score a 23.

The first Paso of the night belongs to Lawrence Taylor and Edyta. Like last week, Lawrence continues to struggle with musicality and character, which unfortunately cannot be taught, especially in the limited time-span of one week. Also difficult: capes. I love this Dancing with the Stars tradition. Paso Doble week equals lots of mishaps with capes. It never gets old.

Edyta really looks like she needs a drink. Me too, and make it a double. Sadly, no amount of hard liquor can make this dance good. The music is awful (whoever is playing the synth-strings should be shot), the choreography is dull and pedestrian, and Lawrence looks like he would rather be at his own funeral. It’s ten times worse than last week’s Tango, and for all the same reasons. These Latin dances are supposed to be passionate and fiery. Lawrence just looks angry. And bored. He’s bored angry! Even though we’re five weeks in, he is still as self-conscious and internalized as he was in week one. At some point… you just have to let all that junk go and just DANCE (it’ll be ok, da da an do do)! His movements are lazy and sluggish, like he’s underwater, and since we know he’s a terrific athlete, we can only assume that this lethargy comes from fear. Bruno, who likes to confuse angry and bored with strength and power, thinks Lawrence captured the mood of the dance quite well, Carrie Ann blames the music, and Len thinks it was his best dance so far (which is just sad). Backstage, Samantha asks Lawrence how he managed to channel all of that anger boredom aggression, and he tells this awkward story about how his friends told him that if he loses he will have to give them all lap-dances. I think we’ve just identified where his fear comes from. His Passive-aggressive Paso scores a 20.

Shawn Johnson is still smarting from the judges’ less-than-favorable reception of her floor-exercise inspired Lindy Hop, so this week she and Mark are going to stick to the strict definition of the Viennese Waltz. In the rehearsal package, it seems like Shawn is finally showing some signs of frustration. She’s been breezing through for the most part, so I’m glad to see Mark challenging her a little. They make a good-looking pair – she’s in a flowy white gown and he’s in gray – and the dance is simple, elegant, and romantic. It’s two minutes of pretty, which no one can complain about. At the end, Mark spins her into a lift culminating with Shawn cradled in his arms as they walk off stage. Of course, while everyone else is thinking how cute that was, Carrie Ann has just written the word LIFT in her notebook (in her own blood) and shaved five points from their score. Or has she?? Carrie Ann commends the simplicity of the dance and adds that she didn’t mind the lift because it was at the end and fit in with the rest of the dance. See that? Rules don’t matter if you’re cute like Shawn Johnson. Len loved it except for the shoddy footwork and Bruno threw up about fifteen adjectives that could also describe a baby bunny, a flower, or a tasty dessert. They score a 26.

Like Lawrence, Melissa Rycroft’s challenge this week is getting into the character of the Paso, which is hard because Tony Dovalani is such a goofball. You know, if we could veer off the main road onto Tangential Trail (I love the view!), I think I’ve finally figured out why Tony bothers me so much. You see… all of this: the show, the dancing, the competition, the judges’ comments, the glory and the shame… it’s all about him. He has this way of getting on my screen and taking over, like his partner isn’t even there, scrabbling for the screen time she came on the this show to get in the first place. Whether he’s making incredulous faces at the judges during their negative comments, or having an emotional breakdown whenever he gets saved, he just can’t seem to remember that it isn’t really his life were interested in. I can appreciate his investment, truly, but he needs to step back and remember that he is the sideshow to Melissa’s main event. This is Dancing with the Stars, not Dancing with TONY DOVALANI IN BRIGHT LIGHTS AND MAYBE SOME CONFETTI AND NOISEMAKERS!! Ok, I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Frankly, I don’t remember much about this dance because I was too disturbed by the music. Remember how I referenced a Lady Gaga song earlier in this post? I’m about to do it again, but this time it’s relevant. Their Paso is set to a ballroom interpretation of Poker Face. I am aghast and dismayed and horrified, and yet… strangely fascinated. I mean, one couldn’t have predicted it. The costumes are as Spanish as they could possibly be… red and black and very toreador-esque… and yet the song is an extended metaphor about gambling with not-so-subtle overtones regarding the mysterious nature of feminine bisexuality. It kind of makes me cock my head like a confused cocker spaniel. Perplexing is what it is. So… the dance itself is pretty amazing actually. Tony has really stepped up his game with the choreography (I think he really took Carrie Ann’s criticism that Melissa needs to challenge herself to heart). This dance is waaay hard, and unfortunately, nothing looks effortless, and Melissa is wearing her fear on her face and it sadly does not match those bizarre dots on her forehead (what the hell is that all about?) or the mood of the dance. Now, I didn’t catch it when it happened, but there was apparently a major incident involving the heel of her shoe and her dress (which I’m sure will show up in dramatic slow motion tomorrow night), so this routine was not executed perfectly. The judges comment on the degree of difficulty and the stumbles, both things that ultimately prevented her from getting into the true character of the dance, and end up scoring her a 25. Backstage, Tony compliments Melissa’s tenacity in the face of all the screw-ups, and he does so while standing in front of her and forbidding her to speak. See what I mean?

David and Kym are next with their Viennese Waltz and David is STILL trying to figure out ways to climb out of the middle of the pack. Seriously, the judges just do not like him, and it has become painfully obvious to me that their disdain for him isn’t just about his dancing. David isn’t performing any better or any worse than half of the people out there, so I’m at a loss to explain why he is consistently scored so low and why the judges are so much more brutal in their critiques. The girls in the typing pool and I have a theory that he is an epic asshole during the week – like some sort of nightmare to work with or something – so the show has decided to put him in his place. The song is I Put a Spell on You, which doesn’t scream waltz to me, but then again we’ve already suffered through a Poker Face Paso, so what do I know? Kym begins the dance by waving some giant blood-red fans about like a recently slaughtered swan, and David looks like he’s about to start a rumble. Seriously… why does he always look so mad?

I will say that this is the strangest Viennese Waltz I’ve ever seen on this show. The mood and the story being told don’t seem to fit the standard, but having said that, I thought it was well choreographed and well danced. The judges are all over the place with this one. Bruno admonishes them for the tricky choreography which he finds unnecessary in a waltz; Carrie Ann didn’t see any kind of connection between David and Kym; Len thought it was great. All of that translates into a score of 22.

Last week, Gilles and Cheryl scored the first perfect 30 of the season with their Tango. That dance is bound to go down as one of my favorite dances of the entire series. This week, they have the Paso, which I’m thinking should be a cake-walk because the mood is so similar. Rather than waste time discussing their pointless rehearsal package, let’s go straight to the goods…

That’s right. Tonight, Gilles opened his dance completely shirtless. There’s something to be said for knowing your audience. APPROVED! Anyway, after some provocative posing, Cheryl hands him a jacket so the dance can actually begin. And it is AWESOME. It’s fast and fiery with lots of aggressive hip thrusts and flamenco steps. I suppose it helps that the music is from Carmen (ok – pause – what the hell, show? You give Melissa a damn Lady Gaga song and hand Gilles a piece of music from an opera about Spanish harlots and toreadors? How is that fair?). Whereas the previous two Pasos haven’t quite captured the feel of a true Paso, Gilles nails it completely. Cheryl’s routine is superb, right down to the finer details, and Gilles is 100% in character. I loved it. Also loving it: Bruno and Carrie Ann, who carry on just as much as the audience. Carrie Ann loved how they brought the essence of the dance to life; Bruno thought it was more than a dance, but an epic battle for sexual supremacy (uh… ok); Len thought it was a little frantic. Never before has Len been booed with such venom and malice. He should probably be escorted to his car once the show wraps. Sure enough, Len ruins it for everyone by scoring the routine at a 9, thus preventing Gilles from grabbing his second (and very much deserved) perfect score. Gilles’s Pectoral Paso must settle for a 29.

Steve-O is still harping about how last week’s scores didn’t improve despite the fact that he made it through his entire routine without royally screwing up. I guess the idea that subjective scoring almost always reflects the context of the rest of the competition is waaay over his head. Good judges (in all arenas) try to give scores in such a way that there is a nice bell-shaped curve at the end. Yes, he improved, but others improved even more, and still others actually took a small dive, so he was right where he was supposed to be at the end of last week. And really… who cares? The bottom is the bottom. All that the rehearsal package illuminates for us is that Johnny Knoxville is a good friend, but not quite a good enough friend to leave Steve-O alone for five minutes so he can LEARN HIS DANCE ALREADY! For their waltz, Steve-O is dressed like a mime (oh dear) and Lacey is literally dolled up. The music is one of my favorite Rufus Wainwright songs EVER, Complainte de la Butte. Sadly, even that can’t save this dance for me. I can still see his back pain in his posture, he’s as stiff as a board, and he has no idea how to show the dance in his face. I haven’t seen eyes that dead since the last episode of America’s Next Top Model. Where is Tyra when you need her? Most egregious, though, is the fact that the dance is really quite boring. Nothing special about it at all, really. The judges are nice about it, because why bother telling the truth at this point, and send him off with an 18, which is his highest score ever.

Ty and Chelsie have drawn the last Paso of the evening, and how appropriate for him because he’s a bullrider. Get it? He rides bulls for a living so this dance should be right up his alley. Yeah, I didn’t think it made sense either. Before I tackle the dancing, I need to mention how hot he looks in the toreador outfit. Why is he all-of-a-sudden attractive to me? I mean, he isn’t an unattractive guy by any means, but why now? Why this dance? Did he do something different with his hair? I don’t have to sort this out right now, I suppose. Anyway, the music is Barracuda, which is the best song ever written about anything, but that doesn’t mean it works for the Paso, and to prove my point, Ty is going to stomp around the floor like he can’t hear the music at all. This dance just did not work for him. Having watched it a few times now, I believe that he heard the words aggressive and masculine and angry, and in an attempt to express these words, his body decided to move like he was forcing his way through concrete. Carrie Ann thinks he just over-thought everything, but I think he just needs more time in front of the mirror. So his Petrified Paso scores a veeeery generous 21.

Bonus cape shenanigans from Senor Ty:

Last and certainly shortest, Lil Kim and Derek have a waltz for us. She is still riding high from last week’s amazing Tango (me too), so it will be a nice change of pace to perform a sweet, romantic dance to show off her range. I have to say I muted this because I couldn’t abide the warbling of whoever was trying to sing I’ll Be, but it looked beautiful. I particularly love how Lil Kim is able to perform these slower dances without looking like she’s in a coma. Her face is alive with emotion (perhaps not always the right emotion, but still…) and it really helps the audience connect to the content of the dance. The judges gush just as they should, and hand over a 26. Just one question before we move on… what the hell is a Buddha Board?

Here’s how things shaped up:

Gilles – 29
Shawn – 26
Lil Kim – 26
Melissa – 25
Chuck – 23
David – 22
Ty – 21
Lawrence – 20
Steve-O – 18


Oh, yay – Kim scored the encore. That’s great, I think… but I’m not sure I get it. She didn’t have the highest score of the night. WHAT DOES IT MEAN!!?

I think I’m going to do a big post dedicated to all the Macy’s Stars of Dance performances because I’ve liked all of them so far, and tonight… MEN IN DRESSES.

I have no idea what the point is, but it’s certainly neat to watch. So what, exactly, is this Vegas show (I believe they called it La Reve) about? There’s MEN IN DRESSES, of course, but also ballroom dancers and circus performers doing stunts. And I think Samantha said there was also water involved. I can’t wrap my head around it.

After the whittling, the bottom two ends up being David Alan Grier and Lawrence Taylor. That’s right… someone out there saved Steve-O. I bet it was his Group… they have special powers, you know. God, I can’t tell you how over these dance-offs I am. It’s times like these I really wish I had a Tivo. I would bleep-bloop the hell out of this and be a much more pleasant, contented person.

David manages to bring his score up by two points while Lawrence merely repeats last night’s score. And what do you know? David gets the boot, ending what has turned out to be the most bizarre tenure on this show by a celebrity since… well, he might take the cake. He seemed so pissed off most of the time, and the judges treated him like the red-headed stepchild. It was getting uncomfortable to watch, and for that reason, I’m glad to see him go.

Week 6 coming soon.

Monday, April 06, 2009

… reacts to American Idol Top 9

One of my bestest friends in the whole wide world, Vivian “Shiver Me Timbers” Dubois, informed me this weekend that my greatest failure in life, besides being single and broke and kind of a boring person in general, is that I’m soooo slow with the turnaround on my American Idol recaps. Well, at least that is something I can fix.

But not this week.

As you can see… this post is going up on the vigil of the next episode of American Idol, about four days after anybody cared. My goal for next week is to have a recap up, oh, I don’t know… by the weekend? Don’t hold your breath.

If you will recall (who can possibly, though, because it was, like, two weeks ago), Michael Sarver was cut loose from the competition after a lackluster performance during Motown week. It was totally his time, because while we may have loved his rough neck, we did not enjoy his rough performance. *crickets*

I must be tired.

This week features songs plucked from the iTunes Top 100, which should mean that our Idols will be singing current hits. NOT SO, as the episode revealed…

First to perform is Anoop. He’s chosen Caught Up by Usher, which was a hit five years ago. I suppose five-year-old hits are “current” in the American Idol universe. All it does for me is make me feel old. I think I still have Old Navy polo shirts from when this was a hit and that’s… kind of embarrassing, actually. Anyway, it’s not great. He’s pitchy throughout, the dancing is unconvincing, and every time he goes up high in his range he makes the stink face.

I think he thinks that face is sexy. It’s not. I can appreciate what Anoop is trying to do here, which is recapture the snarl and attitude of My Prerogative, but there was something appealing about the irony of that song-choice, whereas this performance seems desperate. Randy actually cut close to the issue with Anoop (I know, shock) when he commented on the dubious direction Anoop is headed with his song choices. Word, Randy. The other judges say a bunch of other stuff (Kara had a great soundbyte about how it seemed like Anoop was dared to sing that song by a bunch of blitzed-out frat boys), but the real discussion focuses on who Anoop wants to be as a performer. He says that he chose Usher because he wants to be an R&B artist. That’s admirable, I suppose, but he has to consider the possibility that he doesn’t quite fit the image of an R&B star. I’m not saying it could never happen for him, but seriously… he ain’t Usher and never will be. (P.S. What was up with those chains around the shoulders of his blazer? I mean… that doesn’t even make sense. If you want to wear an epaulet, be my guest, but please… go all the way.)

As Megan Joy takes the stage, I must again reflect on how I feel about her. I still like her. I still celebrate her for the potential of her style and voice. And yet, she continues to deliver disappointing performances. They haven’t been terrible, as the judges would like us to think, but they have failed to meet my expectations. Tonight, she has chosen to sing Turn Your Lights Down Low, which is a song I haven’t heard, because when it was covered by Lauryn Hill in 1999, I was submerged in Freshman Music Theory. I don’t even remember seeing daylight back then, much less hearing obscure covers of Bob Marley songs on the radio. Now FOR ME, there were some nice moments in this performance… I’m still very much invested in the unique vocal style she has, but I have to agree with the judges when they say the song choice didn’t do her any favors. Randy nails it again (he’s on fire tonight) when he says that just because one loves a song, doesn’t mean one should perform it. Someone give Randy a cookie. Simon, meanwhile, is just mean – to the tune of “boring, monotonous, and indulgent.” In Simon’s world, indulgence is the greatest sin, because it’s a complete disregard for the audience. I don’t know if I would have gone that far, but he got the boring and monotonous parts right.

I’m afraid that the nation has abandoned me, you guys. Everywhere I turn, people are starting to warm up to Danny Gokey. Even the ones who were firmly on my side while he pimped his dead wife have become sucked into his gross, youth-pastory ickiness. RESIST, people… RESIST! Tonight, my inner torment takes the shape of Gokey singing What Hurts the Most, by Rascal Flatts. Apparently, Gokey is under the impression that everyone likes Rascal Flatts. I debunk that idea with my very existence. So the song is certainly right up Gokey’s alley, what with the spewing of uncontainable emotion and the figurative vomiting of his heart… and I almost buy it. But he screams the entire song. I’m sorry, he does. There is even spit. He is so aggressive with his emotions – it’s like he will beat me to a pulp with his voice until I FEEL. Is he so insincere that the only way to convey raw emotion is to SCREAM AT ME!? Clearly, Danny Gokey can do nothing right for me, which is how it’s probably going to stay unless he is actually able to come to my house and scream a song into my ear, forcing me into the same brainwashed state as the rest of America. The judges, on the other hand, are infatuated. It’s fine, I get it, I get it… but seriously, Simon, how was that performance NOT indulgent?

What’s Allison been up to, besides rolling around in a pool of pink glitter and fug? She’s been re-inventing No Doubt’s greatest single, Don’t Speak (and if you’re keeping track, that song came out in 1996). To start, it’s just Allison and her guitar, strumming the opening strains of the first verse. There are moments when she rushes the beat and loses all sense of rhythm, but thankfully, the band joins in before it gets too out of hand. This was not a great performance, which is really sad because I think I like what she tried to do. It was all a great idea that got lost in sloppy execution. The judges don’t get around to saying any of that because they’re all distracted by the hideous outfit. It is certainly hideous, like MOST hideous, but I feel like I have to agree with Kara in her controversial interview (the one that pissed Simon and Paula off) when she said that the other judges like to critique the clothes, while she likes to critique the performances. In this case, and I think Kara tried to say this, the “rock” image Allison was going for with the clothes actually took away from the “rock” performance she could have had. The ROCK is in you, Allison. Be the ROCK.

When Ryan Seacrest calls Scott MacIntyre the Piano Man before his performance, I got myself all jazzed up to hear one of my all time favorite songs EVER, but… turns out he’s singing Just the Way You Are. It’s not Piano Man, but it will do in a pinch. Scott’s performance is behind the piano (I think he’s settled on staying there for good, no matter what Paula thinks), and while I continue to be impressed by his playing, he just gets boringer and boringer every week. We’re talking tedious. Having said that, I thought his vocal improved from last week. The hair, however, got worse. How do we keep going backwards with the hair? Since he can’t see it, there has to be someone in his circle (a family member, a well-wisher, a pet) with seriously flawed style.

Matt Giraud, a recent member of the Bottom 3 Brigade, is set to stage a comeback with tonight’s performance. He expects to do so with a song by The Fray, the world’s best-at-boring band. I’m not sure why he is so eager to revisit the piano rock genre (remember Vida La Vida and how that turned out?), but at least his song choice, You Found Me, is actually current. It’s a first for the night. He’s humping a keyboard down in the moshpit, which is totally cool, but all that energy around him seems to throw him off. I can hear his nerves, especially in his vibrato – it’s shaky just like it was in the Coldplay song. However, I appreciate the growl in his voice at certain parts and his falsetto near the end is on point as usual. After the song, the judges get to play their favorite game: how do we solve a problem like Matt Giraud. Usually, I find these pin the genre on the contestant discussions to be rather insulting, but I think with Matt Giraud it’s warranted, because seriously… who IS he? Is he a pop singer? Is he an R&B singer? Is he the next Chris Martin or the next Justin Timberlake? I think he could be either, but he needs to pick and SOON because he has weaknesses in both styles and continuing this never-ending search for his identity will only get him more and more lost. It’s like, stop and ask for directions before you hit the point of no return. Some good news: I thought Matt looked very cute tonight. I don't know what he did differently, but it's working.

Speaking of problems: Lil Rounds. The problem is I can’t remember her. When the girls in the typing pool and I meet around the water cooler every Wednesday morning, the one contestant we always forget to discuss is Lil Rounds. That’s a shame! I don’t think she’s boring, really, but she isn’t doing anything to stand out. She needs an Idol moment and STAT. Tonight, she’s going to attempt I Surrender by Celine Dion, and I’m excited because I think this song could be her best shot at an Idol Moment since she invoked The Blige back in Week 1. And darn it if it isn’t kind of blah… again. I don’t get it. I’m hoping the judges can help shed some light on all of this but they get distracted by Lil’s gorgeous little girls (well played, Lil… well played). Meanwhile, I’m distracted by the back of Lil’s dress. I don’t want to be mean, but girlfriend, where are your Spanx? They smooth and shape.

The wild applause that greets Adam Lambert’s pre-package is stunned into silence with the announcement that he will be singing Play That Funky Music, White Boy. I’m confused, too. He has decided to stick with last week’s hair, which I like because it means we can see both sides of his face, but he’s dressed like the lost member of the Osmonds, you know, the one who we never see because he’s a homo? What I like about Adam is he can convey energy without launching himself around the stage like he’s just been tazzed (*cough* Gokey). What I don’t like about Adam is his strange need to overuse his banshee scream. I know he has it and I’m happy to hear it when it’s appropriate, but it can get a little… predictable. What I LOVE about Adam is his graciousness – he used his time on stage to thank the band! Such class, such grace… Danny Gokey would never do that. Oh, and Kara? Studio Fifty-what?

Who called Vanessa Williams? We just saved the best for last! Kris Allen is last to take the stage with his re-imagining of Ain’t No Sunshine. I’m not familiar with this song (I know… it’s a travesty) so I’m not really sure how much he changed things around. All I know is: I loved every frikkin’ minute. This guy is so incredibly talented. He sings, he plays the guitar, he has keyboard chops (he’s HAWT!)… is there anything he can’t do? And the arrangement was absolutely inspired – it had good dynamics, it built well into the climax, and the staging with the strings was a brilliant touch. Loved it loved it loved it. Yes Kara… That. Is. Artistry.


Before the results show I prayed.

“Dear God – make Megan Joy a bird, so she can fly far; far, far away from here.”

Ask and receive, my friends. After last night’s egg-bath from the judges and that strange feeling she just didn’t care anymore, the voters sent Megan Joy back to the cornfields to caw to her heart’s content. I thought Simon was unnecessarily brutal, but I’m starting to think the “judges save” exists exactly for that reason – it gives Simon even more time to be a douche. As brutal as he was, I can’t say Megan handled herself with much poise either, but maybe it IS better to just say the hell with it and act like a jackass. It’s probably much more fun.

Speaking of jackass… Lady Gaga. I love that bitch, but that performance of hers was just… it was… I don’t… ??

P.S. Getting kicked off American Idol can’t be all that bad if it includes a bear hug from you-know-who!


Mmmm... sexy face...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Dancing with the Stars Top 11...

So last week we suffered the untimely dismissal of our dear Maxsim. I wore black for three days. The more important thing about last week’s elimination between Holly Madison and Denise Richards wasn’t so much that they ended up in the bottom two, but that they somehow ended up there instead of Steve Wozniak, who seems to have hacked into the voting system. Seriously, that’s the only way it makes sense that he managed to escape the bottom two, because after all, he scored a 10. A TEN!! That’s like… not even a real score. The only other time a score that low was handed out was when Master P refused to wear the proper shoes. It says a lot about Steve’s dancing that he managed that type of score based solely on his abilities. It also says he has lots of friends and supporters, which I think is commendable, if only it didn’t mean I had to watch him dance again.

But… them’s the breaks. Tonight features two new dances: the Lindy Hop and the Argentine Tango (which is neither argentine, nor a tango… discuss). Tomorrow, we’ll witness the first ever mid-season double elimination, which is apparently very scary for all the competitors, but to me it means one less recap to write, so… cheers.

On to the show!

The girls in the typing pool and I have reached an agreement: David Alan Grier is getting seriously submarined by the judges. It’s true that he isn’t one of the best dancers on the show, but his scores have been suspiciously low for the past few weeks, and we’re all wondering what the judges are smoking. They can’t still be smarting about his comments regarding Bruno’s accent, can they? That was sooo two weeks ago. Anyway, DAG is first tonight with the first Lindy Hop in DWTS history. He struggles with the lifts during rehearsals, so Kym takes him to an actual Lindy Hop club to see the dance in its natural habitat, which looks like all kinds of fun, but also very dangerous. When they hit the floor, David brings the right amounts of energy and charisma, although I will admit that the lifts did look kind of rough. Kym can’t be that all that heavy, but judging by the look on David’s face during each lift, she must weigh a ton. The judges compliment the energy and spirit of the routine, but pick on David’s sense of timing and rhythm. Carrie Ann, however, thought it was an exciting routine, especially when he kicked up the energy with the music. He scores a 22, which, based on the dances to follow, seems on the low side.

Next up is Lil Kim with her Argentine Tango. During rehearsals, Derek and Kim have to work hard to keep their faces straight, and I am again perplexed but charmed by the chemistry these two kids have together. I still think they’re a bizarre pair, but they’re making it work. Derek confesses several times that he doesn’t know much about this dance, so the choreography comes together quite organically; I’m very curious to see what he comes up with. All of Derek’s anxiety must have paid off because this dance is fantastic. First, Lil Kim looks amazing! I don’t know why that surprises me, because Lil Kim is a beautiful woman. I think it must be the fact that so often the wardrobe department dresses people up to look like a diseased birds – when they actually work it out, it’s kind of shocking. Back to the dance: Lil Kim’s lines are exquisite… she really understands her body. She obviously knows exactly where to place her legs and arms to create the perfect picture. I mean, just look at this…

Perfect angles, perfect extension, etc. It goes without saying that she nailed the character of the dance. Bruno and Carrie Ann have nothing but praise, but Len thought it lacked sensuality, which is just preposterous. He at least has the decency to compliment Derek on his choreography, and I say here, here! I was touched by Lil Kim’s show of emotion after the dance; maybe she recognized this dance as her break-through. I, for one, hope this is the first of many fantastic performances from her. The scores are mixed: Carrie Ann gives a 9, Len gives an 8 (BOO!!) and Bruno gives a 10 – the first 10 of the season, and well deserved.

The next Lindy Hop comes from Chuck and Julianne. The only exciting thing to come out of their rehearsal segment is the following revelation: Chuck Wicks is afraid to fall on his head. Well, aren’t we all? This is going to be a mighty boring routine if he’s afraid to do any tricks. After what can only be hours of complaining, however, Julianne takes pity on her sweet baboo and cuts all the scary tricks and replaces them with less risky maneuvers. They take the floor dressed in cute, little 50’s diner uniforms and perform a competent, if not sort of dull, Lindy Hop. The judges immediately pounce on what the rehearsal footage implied, which was that the dance was a tad too safe. It’s hard to argue with that because Julianne was the only one flying out there. Bruno uses a very long-winded and confusing pizza metaphor to say that Chuck’s dance needs to be sharper and rhythmic (with a crispier crust, if you will). He ends up with a 22, which ties him with David (see what I mean now?)

Edyta is finally starting to show signs of frustration with Lawrence. She probably thought she had this season in the bag when she landed the token professional football player. Turns out: no such luck. In rehearsals, Lawrence has trouble finding the character of the Tango, so Edyta invites her hubby, Alec Mazo, to show Lawrence how it’s done. After what we can only assume is some improvement, Edyta and Lawrence take the floor to perform their Tango. The high points are the incredible lifts, which take advantage of Lawrence’s obvious upper-body strength – he lifts Edyta’s entire body up over his head at one point. But the choreography is not as strong as Derek’s and Lawrence doesn’t seem into it at all. In fact, he kind of just stands there while Edyta does all the work. Len goes as far as to say that Lawrence looked uncomfortable out there, which I agree with. Bruno and Carrie Ann, however, interpreted his stony presence as menacing and powerful, but even they sensed a lack of chemistry between the two dancers. He scores a 19, including a brutal 5 (bitch-slap) from Len. That’s gotta hurt.

After last week’s ‘eventful’ routine, Ty and Chelsie are up with another Lindy Hop. I’m thinking this will be a good dance for Ty because it’s kind of all out, no real character, and very athletic. Sure enough, Ty delivers with a terrific routine. His kicks look good, his attitude fits the dance, and he makes the lifts look effortless (it helps that Chelsie is half his size). I did notice a couple of moments when his timing fell apart, but they were few and far between. The judges basically hit on everything I just said about the timing and the musicality, but they are still very much impressed by how much he improves from week to week. He receives a 25, which includes his first 9 (from Carrie Ann).

Now, this is what I’m talking about, you guys. I like Steve Wozniak just as much as the next person, but what is about to happen on my television screen is exactly why he should have been voted out Week 1. He just. Can’t. Do. It. His pre-package is less about learning the Tango and more about how he’s all about working the system. Hey, Steve! Why not practice instead of riding around on your Segway, which is just a bike for lazy people, campaigning for votes?? It’s almost like he doesn’t care that he’s bad. Maybe I respect that a little, but I would much rather he just dance better. Anyway, he and Karina do their thing and… it’s bad, of course. I will say that it looks like Karina is trying to choreograph an interesting routine, but he just sucks so bad! The judges are completely over it and score him straight 4’s.

Melissa and Tony are the first of last week’s top three couples to perform and they’ve got the Lindy Hop. The pre-package allows us to sneak a peek at their terrific working chemistry – these two really seem to enjoy each other. It’s nice to see Tony having fun for a change, isn’t it? My favorite moment of the entire episode occurs when Melissa flips over Tony’s head and face-plants directly into his crotch. That’s classic right there. It’s an excellent routine: tight choreography and spectacular lifts. It’s so good, in fact, that I’m willing to forgive the fact that her outfit makes her look like a sluttier version of Minnie Mouse. Len tells her that she has to potential to go all the way (which everyone knew three weeks ago, so thanks a lot, Len), Bruno loved it, and Carrie Ann must have really loved it because she compliments Tony’s choreography. That’s a big deal! If you’ve followed the show, you probably know that Tony and Carrie Ann have sparred over his choreography on several occasions, so her comments tonight are the reality tv show equivalent to make-up sex.

After being saved last week, Holly is feeling enormous pressure to deliver with her Argentine Tango. If only her body would cooperate. Apparently, a move in last week’s dance tweaked the muscles around her ribcage, and it’s been bothering her ever since. At the hospital she gets a doctor’s approval to continue, but not without losing precious rehearsal time. She starts the routine on a stool and immediately falls right off, and the dance goes downhill from there. It’s sad too, because it looked like an amazing routine. I particularly liked the pretzel lift towards the end – at least she managed not to screw that up. As the judges give it to her straight (Bruno thought Dmitry did all the work, Carrie Ann thinks she needs to lift weights or something to build her strength, and Len gave a shout out to the amazing choreography that we probably didn’t get to see), she keeps ripping out her trademark rapid-fire giggle that makes me want to stuff my ears with alcohol-soaked towels and set them on fire. I understand that the laugh is probably a defense mechanism more than anything, but seriously… there’s a time and place to giggle about how much you suck. Backstage and before the scores, Holly climbs back into my good graces by apologizing to us for crapping all over Dmitry’s fantastic routine. It was the right thing to do and I’m glad she did it. She scores a 16.

Lacey and Edyta should probably get together for cocktails because Lacey’s patience with Steve-O is also showing signs of deterioration. The truth is Steve-O is really lucky to be around still, and it is only thanks to the charitable nature of the voting public that he has made it this far. I’m right there with the voting public – I want to see Steve-O succeed, not just because he’s a recovering addict but because he has shown remarkable potential. When I first heard he was going to be on the show, I was not excited. I guess I thought he wouldn’t take it seriously. Thankfully, he has, and more than I expected, so I really would love to see him do well. In a weird twist, though, the Lindy Hop has him completely stumped. The steps overwhelm him to the point of exhaustion and Lacey seems equally stumped as to how to teach him without frustrating him. The trick, apparently, is to make him dress up in his clown costume. Well… whatever works, I guess. Their routine is hard to watch, really. The potential is still there, but he dances like he isn’t sure of the steps, which I guess he might not be. He is literally one step behind Lacey at all times… in a very obvious way. However, he dances in character and most of the steps are there, even if they aren’t hitting at the right times. The judges are almost sad to critique it because it’s so clear that Steve-O is doing his best. I liked Bruno’s advice about listening more closely to the music - it may help Steve-O connect all of the elements of the dance in his head. And all of them mention that he improved just by getting all the way through the dance. The scores are kind of questionable. With a 15, he got the same score as last week, which doesn’t fit because last week he didn’t even know the steps. I’m not saying he deserved higher or anything, but it is kind of odd…

Cheryl Burke continues her reign of terror in the rehearsal studio. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her push a contestant so hard. And it’s Gilles for god’s sake – he’s an incredible dancer, so I don’t see why she’s being so nasty to him. Well, whatever the reason, it’s totally working. Gilles’s Tango is the best performance of the night. I really don’t have much to say about it: it was sultry, passionate, and brilliantly executed. Even Tom says it was “fierce.” The audience gives them the longest standing ovation of the night and the judges are literally foaming at the mouth to praise it. Carrie Ann is beside herself, fanning herself and blushing and pointing jealously at Gilles’s wife.

"God, it's HOT up in here!"

"I can't feel my FACE!"

Indeed, it was the perfect mix of drama, dynamics, and choreography. I smell a perfect score coming… And I’m right! Perfect 10’s across the board and the first 30 of the season. Gilles makes a point to thank Cheryl for figuratively beating the performance out of him. Methinks she’s got the man whipped, don’t you?

Finally, it’s time for Shawn and Mark, or Shark as they have become known to the fans. They’ve been sporting matching black track suits since the beginning of the show, so it’s not a surprise when they strip them off to reveal two of the tackiest costumes I’ve ever seen on this show. Shawn looks cute in her light blue trunks and tank, but Mark looks like an absolute fool in his fire-engine red ensemble, complete with nerd glasses and head-band. Will my eyes ever stop rolling? Anyway, their pre-package takes place in the gym where Shawn is going to show Mark how she rolls on the balance beam and floor mat. It’s pretty pointless as far as rehearsal footage goes, but at least it gives us this…

The point of all of this seems to be that Team Shark is going to use Shawn’s tumbling skillz to add pizzazz to their Lindy Hop routine, which is a little bit obvious, don’t you think? Sure enough, the routine starts with a tumbling pass courtesy of Shawn Johnson, which we all saw coming. Unfortunately, they seem to have over-compensated with the gymnastics, because the routine never really gels. It’s a lot of awesome tricks, to be sure, but there’s very little actual dancing. I’ll give credit to them for performing a difficult set of flips and tosses, but it would have been nice to see them attempt actual choreography. It’s kind of surprising too because Shawn has already proven she’s up to the task of dancing just about anything… I’m at a loss as to why Mark would trade dancing for gimmicks. Only bad dancers have to go that route. The judges agree with me: the tricks were great, but the dancing, what little there was, was heavy and plodding. They score a 25, which is a significant step down for Team Shark. My advice: lose the theatrics and just dance.


Here’s how the scores fell at the end of the night:

Gilles – 30
Melissa – 29
Lil Kim – 27
Shawn – 25
Ty – 25
David – 22
Chuck – 22
Lawrence – 19
Holly – 16
Steve-O – 15
Steve – 12

I know Gilles was incredible, but I think my favorite routine of the night goes to Lil Kim. I just can’t get over how awesome she was.


Let’s not dilly-dally. The bottom three are Steve-O, Holly, and Steve. Many thanks, America. I’m glad we’re all on the same page.

The two couples leaving us tonight are: Holly and Dmitry and… Steve and Karina. YES!! I’ll miss Dmitry and his hot ass, but it was definitely Holly’s time. She just couldn’t keep up with the rest of the competition. And I will certainly not miss Steve. He’s great and all, but if I had to hear him say, “the geeks shall inherit the Earth,” one more time… I might have stopped watching.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Oh, so… Legally Blonde: The Musical...

Last Tuesday (not this past one but the one before – so much for timeliness), Li’l Sis and I made the short commute over to Greenville, SC to catch opening night of Legally Blonde: The Musical.

It was a great show; the crowd was lively and young, the production was stellar, and the performances were top-notch. All of this was incredibly good news, because I had spent the entire day at work preparing to be disappointed, as I always turn out to be at these things.

Let me tell you a story.

Since I don’t live in New York, I’m not in the loop when it comes to the current musicals. I usually show up (late) to the party after the musical has been turned into a movie or won a Tony or something. The truth is there are so, so many musicals coming and going in New York, it’s probably impossible for even the most diehard musical fan living in New York to keep up. But because I am the way I am *ahem*, I do manage to find out about some of them, especially the ones that are critically acclaimed and/or awesome. And so it goes, I find out about an awesome new musical and run to the nearest store and buy the soundtrack of the original cast. I listen to it until I have the whole thing memorized and the voices of the original cast are firmly embedded into my ears and heart. That’s how it happened with Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera.

I remember very clearly attending performances of these two musicals on Broadway when I traveled to New York back in high school. I was so excited to see them in person – it felt like a consummation actually… and long overdue. Of course, I knew that the original cast would not be in the house on these particular nights, and I was prepared to hear different singers and different interpretations. But, unfortunately, the music and voices I had grown to love over countless hours with my headphones were so deeply recorded in my psyche that I had a hard time accepting these new… sounds. Ok honestly, I hated them. I’d go as far as to say that all of my pre-listening totally ruined the experience of seeing these plays live. And I hate that because they were brilliant performances – it wasn’t like I was seeing these musicals at the Backwater Community Dinner Theatre and Glee Club – this was frikkin’ Broadway. And yet, there I was… disappointed and feeling like a jackass for it. ‘Twas a sad day for Reeva Dubois.

After that, I promised myself I would NEVER get so involved with a soundtrack recording without having seen the play on stage first. Of course, I broke that promise to myself very soon after, thanks to Rent (and Chicago, and Dreamgirls, and Hairspray). In a way, I double broke my promise because not only did I cheat on the stage production, but I cheated on it with a MOVIE recording, which seems much, much worse.

The point of that story was to point out to you, if you hadn’t already picked up on it, that I am a fickle, judgmental, overly-critical little bitch, who only likes things one way – and that ONE way is usually the way it was the first time, which means anything anyone does afterwards is crap and there’s nothing they can do about it.

So keep all of that in mind as I proceed.

I usually scoff at the idea of popular movies adapted for the Broadway stage. I mean, it just seems so ludicrous, doesn’t it? Shows how much I know… most of the musicals based on movie scripts wind up doing quite well. Hello, The Lion King! But for every one that does well, there’s another that totally bombs (I’m thinking of The Lord of the Rings – wonder why that didn’t work?). And then there are productions like The Color Purple, which was a book, then a movie, then a musical (I’m sure the ballet is coming soon)*. So when I heard that Legally Blonde was headed to Broadway, I was dubious. First of all, I wasn’t sure a live stage musical could capture the effervescence of Reese Witherspoon, the subtle social commentary, or the sublime ridiculousness captured in the motion picture. Sure, musicals are often over-the-top, but the movie was over-the-top to begin with, so the musical would have to go over-the-top and back around to the bottom again. I just didn’t see it.

The show premiered in New York in the spring of 2007 and… it was pretty good. Good enough, in fact, to get a MTV reality show dedicated to recasting the role of Elle Woods, and a special presentation of the entire show starring the original cast. By chance, I happened to be home and in front of the TV when MTV aired it, and I was instantly smitten.

The musical is not a complete departure from the movie, but the ways in which it does deviate are all definite improvements. The biggest difference, I believe, is the treatment of Emmett. In the movie, Emmett, played by Luke/Owen (I really can’t tell the difference, I promise I’ll work on that) Wilson, is a charming law school TA that falls for Elle the second he sees her. In the course of the movie, he’s the only one that recognizes Elle’s potential, which she appreciates, obviously, and by the end of the film, they’re in love and it’s happy ever after and junk. That’s cute and all, but basically Emmett is a pointless and innocuous plot point rather than a flushed out romance. In the musical version, however, Emmett is a three-dimensional character – we even get a backstory. The musical’s Emmett is a kind-of-geeky-but-totally-dreamy TA who grew up rough and poor, so he’s busting his ass to make it through law school in order to turn his destiny around. It’s this chip on his shoulder that helps him relate to Elle. She has stuff to prove, to herself and everyone else, which is something they have in common. By the end of the musical, it’s not only believable that Elle and Emmett would end up together… it feels inevitable.

In the same way that the musical improves the Emmett character, so it improves most of the others, especially Paulette, Professor Callahan, Vivian, Enid, and Elle’s sorority sisters. Maybe it’s the very idea of a musical that helps flush out these characters and give them their moments in the spotlight that makes it all seem to work better than the movie – but I can’t help but think that the musical solves every problem the movie had, even the ones we didn’t know were there.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the movie. It’s a personal fave. Like I said before, Reese is absolutely perfect in the role of Elle, and who can’t appreciate Jennifer Coolidge (Paulette)? She’s a genius, truly. But the musical trumps the movie in pure story-telling, heart, and laugh-out-loud comedy.

Anyway – to bring it back to the beginning – I was nervous to see this show live, since I’d become so familiar with the original cast, and not just the music but the also the book. I think I’ve seen the MTV show a hundred times, and I know I’ve listened to the soundtrack at least twice as much. Would I wind up completely and miserably disappointed AGAIN?

Thankfully, no. And thank god. The traveling production was amazing. The singing was maybe even better than the original cast (and that almost never happens). Some of the jokes fell flat, but that might have been because it was opening night in a new city – who knows how they changed things for the new venue? It was so much fun watching Li’l Sis watch a show I’d grown to love, especially when she laughed hysterically at the parts that got me the first time I saw it.

I’m sorry that I don’t know any of their names, but this traveling cast is seriously talented. Paulette is always a crowd favorite, but the woman playing her on our night almost stole the entire show right out from under Elle’s pink petticoats. And I would put our Emmett next to the original one, and that’s saying a lot. I was only slightly disappointed in our Warner and our Sorority Girls – the singing was fabulous but they lacked a little in the comedic timing department (they missed a lot of the great one-liners). I’m sure they’ll improve with practice, although… haven’t they been on the road for months by now?

Strangely enough, I was sitting next to a young lady who I overheard telling her friends that she had seen the play in New York right before Laura Bell Bundy left the role of Elle. During intermission, I asked her how this cast was holding up to the original, and she was very enthusiastic. Gushing, in fact. Her reaction says a lot about this traveling cast, but it also says a lot about this musical: the great ones are great no matter who is on stage.

I hope Legally Blonde: The Musical continues to tour for years so as many people as possible get to see it. It’s become a personal fave, and I didn’t see that coming at all. SNAPS!

*Ed. Note – turns out Legally Blonde was a book before it was a movie before it was musical too.

Shhhh… there’s a special treat for you behind the cut…

Part 1
Part 2