So I actually got caught by a reality show. They’re doing a series called Any Dream Will Do over here. It’s presided over by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and its purpose is to cast a leading man for Joseph & the Technicolor Dreamcoat on the West End. (Last year they did “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” and cast Maria for The Sound of Music. Apparently it’s doing very well.) I caught the first episode because it was on after Doctor Who, and while I haven’t seen an episode of Who since, I’ve been watching ADWD pretty faithfully. (A couple weeks ago I was online and said I had to go watch the second half of my reality show, and
The only thing that I can think is that it’s the musical theatre aspect that appeals to me. I’ve never seen a snatch of any other sort of reality show that made me want to watch even five minutes, much less make an effort to tune in weekly. I mean, I heard or read or saw Jon Bon Jovi was going to be on American Idol, and thought that’d be neat to watch, but I couldn’t actually be arsed to find out/remember when AI was shown over here, so apparently my Jovi Fu is not that strong. But I *know* about musical theatre, and watching this extended audition process is really interesting to me.
So the format of the show is all the boys sing, the audience calls in to vote on their favorites, the least two favorites each week have to do a sing-off, and ALW can save one of the two to go on to the next week. The boy who is voted off then sings a final farewell (in this case, “Close Every Door” from Joseph) and goes home. There’s a panel of judges, the only one I know anything at all about being John Barrowman, AKA Captain Jack from Doctor Who/Torchwood. The others are Denise, a West End leading lady, Bill, a West End producer who is genial and kind and supportive, like everyone’s favorite uncle, and Zoe, another actress and a vocal coach. They render opinions (not, generally, cruelly) which the audience then periodically completely ignores. I gather this is generally how these things go. :)
First week there were a dozen boys, where “boy” means “male person ranging from age 17 to 35”. Ted and I watched this together, and they were generally sort of…okay. Then this skinny kid came on and was announced as singing “Walking in Memphis” and we both went oh *god* no and hid behind pillows and waited for the horror.
And the skinny kid (Chris) *belted* out the song, had enormous charisma and stage presence, worked the audience, hit nary a flat note, and was all around fantastic. I think that was pretty much the moment they had me from. He and maybe four or five others seemed like they had potential as leading men and the rest pretty much seemed like dross.
I then missed a week, or possibly two weeks. By the time I came back, Chris had been voted into the least favorite and saved by Andrew, who was in a towering rage over Chris being rated so poorly. It was the first time in doing Maria or Joseph that he thought the viewing audience had really, really screwed up and didn’t know what they were dealing with. Unfortunately, the whole thing rattled Chris’s cage very very badly, and he never recovered. He got voted off a couple weeks later, and I can’t say it was wrong to do so. I was disappointed, but OTOH, he’s only 17 or 18: he’s got plenty of time to develop his nerve and get onto the West End, and I think he probably will.
One of the boys (men) was a 35 year old vocal coach who certainly had the voice, but man. Now, I like me some arrogance, but for arrogance to be charming, it’s got to come along with a certain self-deprecating humor. This guy, Seamus, had the one but not the other. He didn’t come across as at *all* likeable, which I can’t help thinking was at least part of why he hadn’t made it before now. He was completely shocked to get voted into the least popular two somewhere around the fourth week, and even more shocked to leave. He voiced the words “conspiracy theory”, and while most reviewers said he was joking, the ones who said “half-joking” were closer to the mark. He also, when he did the final song, changed the words. Rather than sing “For I have been promised a land of my own,” he sang, “a show of my own,” and I have to think that that sort of bullshit is exactly why he hasn’t made it. He in no way earned my sympathy and crap like that makes for active antagonism against him. Professionalism, anyone?
That said, at least a couple of the kids who made the cut above him are not as good as he is, or as Chris was. There are two blond boys, Craig and Lewis, who I thought should be booted from the start. Last week ALW saved Lewis over a young man named Daniel, who’s been working on West End for a while. Now, I don’t think Daniel would’ve made it, mostly because he’s a theatre performer, not a TV performer: he plays to the cheap seats, and on TV that looks pretty corny. Still, he’s a much stronger performer than Lewis, and I was fairly astonished that ALW chose Lewis over him. Apparently ALW felt that there was a spark somewhere in there that if they could bring it out, would make Lewis into a fantastic Joseph, and that Daniel was too bland (which is true. Daniel’s good, and plays to the cheap seats, but he doesn’t strike me as a leading man). At least two of the panelists (John and Denise) rather violently disagreed with ALW, which has to be pretty spirit-crushing for Lewis. OTOH, they thought he’d done well last night, or at least were being nice to him. ALW, however, didn’t see the spark he was hoping for, and neither did I. But he wasn’t in the sing-off, so he wasn’t at risk for being sent home yesterday.
The other blond boy, Craig, was hugely championed by Bill the producer, and last night when he was sent home Bill looked just utterly destroyed. The panelists in general, who work with them every week, have been taking it very hard the last couple weeks as people have been sent home. I, however, was not bothered at all, because I thought he should’ve been gone weeks ago.
So now they’re down to four. Lewis the blond boy; Keith, who I called Emo-Boy until he gave a performance that blew everybody else out of the water and thus earned a name; Lee, who is a professional and who’s understudied for Raoul in Phantom; and Ben, who is pop-star cute and can hold a stage like nobody’s business. Out of those four, I’d pretty cheerfully fly over to London to see the latter 3 perform.
I no longer remember if Keith was one of the ones I’d have chosen as a finalist in the early stages. He had a lovely voice, but he looked like a little boy (he’s 19), moved awkwardly on stage, and didn’t enunciate well. John Barrowman got ahold of him, taught him to enunciate, and three or four weeks ago he gave a performance that utterly blew everyone else out of the water. It was an absolute crap week for everybody (Zoe described Lee’s performance as “a bit rubbish”, and that pretty much summed up everybody) except Keith, who sang “Love Is All Around Us” and just…*boggle* He was perfect. And he literally hasn’t missed a note since. They gave him a grown-up song (“Always On My Mind”) to do the next week to see if he could act the 35 or whatever years of age Joseph is at the end of the musical, and he brought Denise to tears with his rendition of it. He damned near made *me* cry. It was phenomenal. He’s improved by leaps and bounds and it’s really cool to see. I think his greatest weakness is that he *is* 19 and is still shaped like a boy rather than a man. Generally that’s not a problem because costuming can fix it, but there’s a scene in the show where Joseph is in nothing but a loincloth, and I don’t know if that’s the adult Joseph or the young Joseph. If it’s young, no problem; if it’s adult, that might be Keith’s fatal weakness.
Ben, OTOH, is a bit younger (18) but broader in the shoulder, so physically he’s got a little more going for him. However, his voice isn’t quite as good. He goes sharp and flat sometimes, though mostly only when songs require something out of his usual natural range, which apparently nothing in Joseph is. He, too, has improved hugely over the course of the show. He’s also very, *very* cute, with enormous charisma and stage presence. I have no idea if he’s dead set on a musical theatre career, but if not, he could very probably have an extremely successful pop career ahead of him. He’s one of the two who, when the boys were brought to the Les Miserables stage and made to do “Do You Hear The People Sing” while climbing the barricade, was actually able to sing it instead of just gasping and wheezing for air. The cast from Les Mis who hung out to watch said it was too bad Ben hadn’t gone first, so he could show the other boys how it was done. (The other one who did well in that was Craig.) So he’s got some of the physical stamina necessary, as well, which is good.
The shoe-in, however, is Lee, who has only had one bad performance and who, at age 25, has a bunch of professional work under his belt. He’s got a fantastic voice, he’s cute, he can act, he’s charming, he can clearly hold a stage and a show, and he was, last night, chosen by vocalist Josh Groban (of whom I’d never heard) to do a duet of one of “You Raise Me Up”, one of Groban’s hits, which will of course make him that much more popular with the voting audience. (The duet was fanfuckingtastic. It’s a love song, and they actually performed it /as/ a love song, beautifully, and I was very impressed and the other boys were very, *very* jealous.) I would go see Lee in Joseph, and if I were ALW, I would probably be hoping very hard that Lee won the competition. He’s the safe bet: you would have a good solid show with him.
But. But. But. Lee, to me, is not the exciting choice. He’s too professional. He’s *obviously* going to become a leading man and have a pro stage career. I would *love* to see Keith or Ben get the role, and see how they changed in the rehearsal process (8 or 12 weeks: the show opens this fall) and see these kids actually make their break on the West End. Not that any of them wouldn’t be worth seeing (I’m assuming Lewis is not going to make it through the semi-finals, because he’s just not that good), but it’d be really exciting to see one of the younger kids get the part. That, to me, would be more than good TV or good theatre: it’s a good *story*. So I can’t wait to see what happens. I’m really enjoying this. :)
And not that this has anything to do with this post at all, but Ted took this really great picture of me over our anniversary weekend: