Not long left now, fellow fandango fans. With last week's Balls to the wall outcome, here we are at Quarter Finals week already. Where has the series gone? It seems like only minutes ago we were eagerly awaiting the line-up announcement. And here we are, almost at the end of our dancing journey. As if that isn't enough, it's also Musicals Week! So many to choose from - old Hollywood favourites, new sensations. Would anyone do the nudey number from Hair? Actually, Ed probably would have done. NOW are you happy he's gone?
Get your opera glasses ready (not the ones filled with Chardonnay), plump up your programme and take your front row seats for the round-up of Strictly Week Eleven - Musicals heaven!!
Since The Beeb has to fill at least an hour - and with not many dancers left - we were treated to a musical opening number by the pro-dancers and the celebrities. Well, I say treated. It was Tone Deaf Tony Beak (Anton Du Beke to Strictly regulars) murdering a song while everybody else pranced about in the background. Seriously, stick to the day job Anton - a song and dance man you ain't. This was obviously a pre-recorded section slotted in at the start - there were so many changes of set and costume. Still, you could hardly see the edit joins and it got the audience in the mood.
Then came the judges. Bruno and Craig camply capered in, Darcey did variation On a Waft #4 (seriously, mix it up a bit Darce) and Len tottered in like a grandad on Guinness. The stage was set so.........on with the show!
All the contestants got some backing dancers to bulk out the routines this week, and it was good to see how they interacted and whether they were seamlessly joined in the routines.
There was a nice little interlude where Brendan and his Technicolour Dreamcoat - complete with cuddly sheep (no digs at him being a Kiwi, I hope) brought us the Terms and Conditions. That was worth a day's licence fee on its own.
Judge Rinder was up next with a samba to Oh! What A Night from Jersey Boys. Frankie, my dears, this wasn't the best it could have been. The Judge's face got as much work out as his hips in this routine which, to be fair, were really very good. Lots of rotation and isolation - plus a bonus mini-twerk - ticked all the boxes in that department. Sadly, he was very flat-footed and looked like he's been on the Sherry, baby. This meant that he couldn't quite get the bounce action needed for a samba. There were some slips and errors and his free arm got a bit flingy, too. Still, you couldn't fault his energy, commitment and determination. There were shimmies and shakes, knee walks and he looked like he had lots of fun. It was a Valli-ant effort. Unfortunately, the panel thought he was stiff and stompy and only awarded him 31 out of 40.
Which, of course, brings me to this year's new slot. Lookee Likee Of The Weeeeeeeek!! Sitting watching the lovely Robert Rinder doing his Latin, clocking the ever-animated faces he pulls, I was suddenly struck with doppelganger delight:
I Don't Believe It! Rinder is a Ringer for Victor Meldrew!!! To the Victor, the spoils? We shall have to wait and see....
Louise Redknapp followed with a quirky quickstep to The Deadwood Stage from Calamity Jane. Kevin's no cowboy when it comes to choreography (although he looked alarmingly like Yosemite Sam in the training video). Deadwood? Dead good, more like. From the start Louise was on top form and seemed to have bags of confidence with this dance. She coped brilliantly with an extended solo slot and in sections with the backing dancers - including an amazing Leap of Faith, dropping backwards from the judges' desk into their arms. This was a high-energy, high-octane 'show' routine with loads of changes of style BUT not much in the way of traditional quickstep, well, steps. Louise was tight, together with Kevin and had great timing all the way through this dance. There was a bit of a Calamity when Len bemoaned the lack of expected quickstep content and she was awarded 37 out of 40, with Bruno scoring a generous 10. Can she stage a comeback this week? Who knows?
Claudia Fragapane was a cute little cub dancing a salsa to I Just Can't Wait To Be King from The Lion King. It did look a bit like The Beeb had saved make-up money by sending her to a kids' face-painter (let's face it, she's so tiny she could get away with it) but it was a pretty impressive costume. Claw-dia really seemed to shine in this routine and showed off her excellent core strength in some spectacularly tricky lifts, throws and moves. She had great isolation through her body and really attacked the dance with great hip rotations and languid moves. Her confidence has grown week on week and now she has no problems with character and looking down the camera, smiling and putting on a show. She had plenty of energy and attack, bags of rhythm and style and was very good both in and out of hold. I'd be lion if I said it was flawless, though. Her mane problem was AJ fluffing a few lifts including the big finale where he totally missed his grip. Claudia didn't panic and held her nerve, though. It was a jungle out there alright, but the judges restored her pride to give her 37 out of 40 - and Bruno finally giving her her first perfect 10.
Danny Mac brought things to a close with a tight tango to One Night Only from Dreamgirls. Danny showed why he is the judges' Dreamboy, as he put the show in show tune with this number. This was a very Foxxy, very fast, very tight tango with more excellent choreography from Oti. Danny had a fabulous frame from start to finish and near-perfect shaping in all of his moves. He poured energy into a number that had tricky kicks and flicks thrown into already difficult footwork. It looked to us mere mortals that he was picture-perfect, but Len and Craig spotted that he'd missed a couple of his heel leads. Still, he was sharp, focused and in charge - especially in a brilliant ensemble promenade sequence with all the backing dancers involved. Nice guy Danny made sure he thanked them at the end of the routine and in the post-dance interview (the only dancer to do so). Given his background in musical theatre (he played Boq in Wicked - not a massive role, granted), you'd forgive him if he'd have belted out And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going. And I don't think he will be. Despite panel pickiness he still scored 38 out of 40.
To bulk out the programme that bit further, the pro-dancers finished with a West Side Story flavoured number, with the boys starting off in gang style poses. The Sharks and The Jettes perhaps? Now, I don't know abooout you but I'd back Brendan in a fight over Kev and AJ any day. Apparently, he was a brickie back in t'day. Hod and shoulder above the rest, probably.
So, almost as soon as it began, our musicals night was over. That went quick. I'm still disappointed no-one did Springtime For Hitler from The Producers. THAT would have got them talking on Monday morning.
The night saw some highs and some lows - even with the calibre of dancers that are left. Danny - unsurprisingly - was top of the leaderboard with 38, but Claudia, Louise and Ore weren't that far behind. Judge Rinder was at the bottom - but even he scored over 30 this week. No mean feat.
We know the score by now. Chapter and verse, in fact (sorry, trying to shoehorn 'libretto' in somewhere is a bit too much of a challenge - not quite my aria of expertise). The audience had been sent out for chocolate & squash, shuffled and dealt back in. Tess, Claudia and the panel had had a change of wardrobe - and probably a few 'refreshments' of their own - and we all reset for Sham Sunday.
This time the pro-dancers did a Chicago number for us, dancing with chairs, eye-watering leg splits and, well, All That Jazz. A nice start to the night.
With only five couples remaining, it wasn't going to take Tess long to make the Stay or Dance-off announcements, no matter how much she tried to spin it out. I feel sorry for the contestants at this stage. It must be like being
Musical Matron Elaine Paige treated us all to
Len dragged out his big zoom for a shufty at all the action from the dances, generous to the glorious, mean to the mediocre. At least these days I can spot a fleckerl from a heel turn, though I'm still a bit shaky when he starts talking about his cou-de-pieds and his fouettes.
With judgement cast and the last strains of Elaine's refrain ringing in our ears it was the moment we'd been waiting for. The public vote had been tallied and there was no going back. Tess tried to ratchet the tension.......
Ore and Judge Rinder were in the dance off. This was actually the bottom two dancers on the leaderboard this week. No changes to the judges' reckonings for a change. To be fair, I think both dancers expected it, given the showings from the other three. No rants from me again. What is a girl supposed to do with herself when the public are in accordance?
The pair re-enacted their earlier outings. Mistakes were ironed out, tricks tightened a tad, games upped just that little bit. Judge Rinder threw everything but the kitchen sink into it. The dance judges made their usual comments and tried to look as though the decision had been difficult for them. But it wasn't really now, was it? There was only one decision they could make.
Judge Rinder was booted off the show. Sadly, this was no big surprise - even to him. The couples that are left are extraordinarily good. It could be anyone's glitterball - especially since it's all in the hands of the public. The Judge had a terrific time of it all, learned new skills, confidence and a love of dancing in these last few weeks. Long may he continue!
Don't you Judge me! Rinder's Strictly career wasn't brief by any means.
Sooo. Next week is SEMI-FINALS WEEK!! Now, as we all know, I'm no expert on the Theme Of The Week. I didn't even think they'd have any more after Blackpool. So you don't have to take my word for it when I confidently state that next week will be Crap Number Ones Week. Here's my prediction:
Ore will dance a Viennese Waltz to Joe Dolce's Shaddap You Face
Louise will dance a foxtrot to There's No-one Quite Like Grandma by The St Winifred's School Choir
Danny will dance a rumba to Rene & Renato's Save Your Love
Claudia will dance a Charleston to Tellytubbies Say Eh Oh. Probably in full Po costume. AJ will be Tinky Winky, of course.
Then they'll all dance an ensemble Macarena to finish.
And if you can't remember any of these songs then you're VERY LUCKY!!
Remember, if THAT all comes true you can say you heard it here first. It's not very likely...but, then again, Ed Balls stayed in till Week Ten. Stranger Things have happened.
The remaining dancers are so close to the glitterball they can almost taste it. Who is going to make it to the last show? Who is going to get to do a show dance? There's only one way to find out. Tune in next week for the penultimate Strictly Round up (dawwwwww, I'm going to miss you guys).
This glitterball absolutely doesn't look like Metal Mickey goes disco. No, sir.
Until next week.............KEEP DANCING!!!