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‘American Idol’: I don’t know how to love him

AlwKathy: Andrew Lloyd Webber pays a visit to the Idols this week, or rather, they pay a visit to him in Las Vegas. So this week we get songs that not only have the kids never heard but I’m guessing the majority of the audience hasn’t heard either. As I cuddled up with my Tivo to catch last night’s episode I vowed that as soon as somebody fired up “Jellicle Ball” from “Cats” I’d be done for the night. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Instead, I have a whole new respect for Sir Webber. He has an uncanny ability to pinpoint the most annoying characteristic of each Idol, sometimes rather bluntly. ALW also explains how important it is for him to have singers who believe the words they are singing. Boy, oh boy, is he in for bitter disappointment with this bunch.

But, I’m pleasantly surprised because I expected six train wrecks in a row. What I got instead were two contestants doing what they always do, two finally finding their footing and two absolute disasters.

Erin: In my past life, I’m pretty sure I was a horrible torch song singer who trampled the lives and careers of others to get to the top, because I’m paying for it in this life with one ballad-themed week after another on “American Idol.”

NOTE: It’s Passover at the Erin household, so the whole clan is in town, all of whom watch “American Idol” and all of whom are pretty funny… and loud. How loud? I’m the shy one in the family. So, I tried to give credit where credit was due. It was hard to distinguish which were my original thoughts and which were comments that were screamed at me between mouthfuls of matzah-based muffins.

This week, the kids pretend they know the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Not to say they aren’t familiar with “Phantom of the Opera” or “Cats,” but I’m sure their knowledge of “Tell Me on a Sunday” or “Aspects of Love” might be a little hazy at best. So, the real theme of this week’s “Idol” is “Superstar Phantom of Evita’s Cats.”

Kathy: Note the star power in the audience tonight: David Duchovny, Allison Janney, Joely Fisher, Ricky (I refuse to call him Rick) Schroder, a couple of women I think are Pussycat Dolls.

ReddressSyesha (TV Guide power ranking #6)
“One Rock & Roll Too Many” (“Starlight Express”)
Kathy: ALW made Syesha try the song with no animation, then again with some fun injected into it, then asked her to determine which she thought was more effective. Lo and behold, Syesha discovers her personality. Who is this bubbly girl and what has she done with the robotic Syesha? Thank you Mr. Webber. I thought she rocked this song. Is it enough for her to be the next American Idol? Not by a long shot. But it should cement her a career on Broadway. I predict a Tony win for Ms. Mercado within five years. You heard it here first, folks.
Erin: Where is BreakSk8 when you need them? I realize that I’ve mentioned this before, but how can I even think of “Starlight Express” without wondering about my boys from “America’s Best Dance Crew.” They have burned their way into my soul and I will carry a part of them wherever I go on life’s journey. Thanks, Randy!
Syesha is fine, but it’s not a stand out performance in any way. She plays it vampy with a red dress, but it’s just not working for me. For vampy to work, you gotta look like your prepared to do a little harm, like steal your best friend’s man or go on a bender in Las Vegas with a bunch of bikers. Without that possibility of deviance, it just looks like Syesha is playing dress up. Which she is.

KermitJason (TV Guide power ranking #3)
Song: “Memories” (“Cats”)
Kathy: ALW is completely flummoxed by Jason, as I have been for weeks now. Jason just really isn’t very bright. For instance, he didn’t know the songs in “Cats” were sung by, you know, feline characters. OK then. This was just the completely wrong song for him and Andrew told him so, but he forged ahead anyway. I’m falling a little in love with Andrew Lloyd Webber, I think. I’ve seen a second rate traveling production of “Cats” (longest 2½ hours of my life, by the way) and it wasn’t this bad. Hell, the understudy in the Pougkeepsie dinner theater production would have been damn sight better.
Erin: “Aeschylus did not invent the theatre to have it end up a bunch of chorus kids in cat suits prancing around wondering which of them will go to kitty-cat heaven.” — “Six Degrees of Separation”
Yep. Couldn’t agree more.
I’m sorry but Jason’s whole performance was hysterical. It was the perfect mixture of boring, whiney and wrong. Had it not been Andrew Lloyd Webber week, I would of half expected Jason to come out sitting on an oil drum singing “Rainbow Connection.”
His perf of the song was like Mother Rose pushed him out on stage before taking him to the potty. The vocals were on par with a fifth grader in a church-sponsored talent contest, while his homage to “Magnum P.I.” outfit didn’t help him much either. This was just a horrible song choice for him.

ByeBrooke (TV Guide power ranking #5)
Song: “You Must Love Me” (“Evita,” feature film version)
Kathy: ALW: “I don’t think the girl had a clue what she was singing about.” Amen. That pretty much sums up Brooke. And that would have been bad enough but then came the “Oh, sorry, can we start again?” moment and it went downhill from there. It was just painful, even for this show. Brooke dug her own grave with this performance and, I gotta say, my heart broke just a little for her.
Erin: In the video before the song, Andy breaks down the tune for Brooke, because apparently she doesn’t have HBO and wasn’t subjected to the thousands of showings of Madonna’s “Evita” most cable subscribers had to endure.
But whoa! Looks like Jason’s safe this week, because Brooke really, really messed up. She does the “Idol” equivalent of a faceplant. After an initial bad start, “Idol’s” answer to Carly Simon had to take another shot at the song. But even with the redo, it was just not a great performance. Paula advises Brooke to ad lib next time she forgets the words. “Yes, that’s great advice,” said my sis. “It’s not like middle America knows Andrew Lloyd Webber songs anyway. Feel free to make it your own.”

David A. (TV Guide power ranking #2)
Song: “Think of Me” (“Phantom of the Opera”)
Kathy: The genius that is Andrew Lloyd Webber essentially says to David A. what I and anyone who doesn’t subscribe to Tiger Beat have been thinking for weeks. “Open your bloody eyes when you sing!” And I feel like kissing Mr. Webber for dispensing that advice. That’s exactly what I’ve been yelling at my television every Tuesday night. Just ask my cat. Anyway, while he ain’t no Sarah Brightman, David does what he does and sings a passable version of yet another bland ballad and he’ll easily move on to the next round. And I continue to be bored.
Erin: I would have loved to have seen him sing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” complete with sweeping arm movements and the white suit just to see the confusion on the faces of the David Archuletta Contingency.
So, he sings a “Phantom” ballad while playing “change the pronoun” to make the song fit his Stanley Manly ways. (If he wants to play that game, I’ll go along.) The camera pans to Andy, who looks like he’s sorry he’s ever crossed the Pond.
Anyway, David is safe for another week and will continue turning girls into woman with the power of his voice… and nothing more.

CarlyCarly (TV Guide power ranking #4)
Song: “Jesus Christ Superstar” (duh)
Kathy: ALW dings Carly for song choice and once again zeroes in on a contestant’s obvious faults. Can he just show up every week? Perhaps he could replace Paula on the judges’ panel? Would he like to be a guest recapper here on Season Pass? Anway, once Carly sorts out the song choice and dons a cute dress with sleeves, she delivers her first credible performance of the entire season. Way to save yourself Carly. You owe the prolific Brit a big debt of gratitude.
Erin: Thank you, Andy. You rule. You talked Carly out of performing another dreary ballad for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and for that a grateful nation thanks you. This is a great performance for a few reasons:
1. The outfit is superb
2. Singing about the big JC will score you points in middle America, even if they can’t get the reference.
3. It rescues certain recappers from ballad hell.
And what made Carly really cute was the shirt she held up: “Simon Loves Me (This Week).” It was much better than her original t-shirt, which said “Ask Me About Our Special on Face Tattoos.”

David C. (TV Guide power ranking #1)
“Music of the Night” (“Phantom of the Opera”)
Kathy: Is it just me or does David close the show a lot? Ryan and the producers deftly avoid the David Cook controversy of the week: His CD that was available for download on Amazon and then swiftly pulled by 19 Entertainment and Fox. So, good then, the two viewers who don’t have access to the Internet won’t be affected by that at all.
ALW tells David to let go a little and it’s great advice. Dave half listens and delivers a solid performance that will neither win nor lose him any votes. Looks like smooth sailing for Mr. Cook all the way to the finale. Perhaps he’ll master the new hairstyle by then.
Erin: As Dave takes the stage, I wonder which rock band recently released of a cover of a Webber showtune? Did Chris Cornell sing a slowed down rocker version of “Magical Mr. Mistoffelees” of late? Or maybe Incubus did a sped-up version of “A Lotta Locomotion.”
Surprisingly, David keeps to the original, albeit the Gerard Butler version, sans the painted abs and feathered helmet. It was actually pretty damn sultry. In his pre-perf chat with Andy, the music man explains that this is the sexiest song he’s ever written, and I have to admit, David does it justice. My crush is growing. As my cousin Maya pointed out, “Even Paula likes his ‘beautiful instrument.’” ‘Nuff said.

Erin: David C., Carly
Kathy: Syesha, Carly

Erin: Brooke, Jason
Kathy: Duh. Brooke, Jason

— Kathy Lyford and Erin Maxwell

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