My comments on last night’s Over the Rainbow performance episode:
First up was Stephanie. And she had a tremendous performance, akin to her “Hello, Buenos Aries” performance but even better. She did “Cabaret”, and really stepped up to the plate, putting in a well-acted and performed performance. The key here is that she lost her “little girl” type of style, that shyness that the judges talked about, and did something that was completely unlike her, and did it well. While this wasn’t as deep an acting performance as some other songs would have been, it stood out for being in a style that you didn’t normally see from her, which was well-done.
Next up was Colleen, who did “Somewhere”. And her acting problems hit again, where she simply couldn’t convey the emotion that would draw you into the narrative of the song and make it seem like you were watching a story as opposed to just listening to someone song. She’s an excellent singer and has a great voice, and can do performances well, but she hasn’t proven that she can act yet, and every time she tries she seems to stumble on it. I think that instead of musical theatre I’d like to see her do something more like Charlottle Church did; start by singing where her performance skills and elegance can carry the day and then maybe move on from there to other things. If she put out a CD of various classical and folk songs, I’d almost certainly buy it, which I can’t say is the case for all the other Dorothys.
Next came AJ, doing “All that Jazz”. She’s also a strong performer. She’s really just fun to watch and she slips facial expressions and little moves in to highlight it. I could watch her for hours, honestly. And yet … the performance left me a little cold, a bit “Meh”. Technically, her performance was at least as strong as Stephanie’s, and yet I liked Stephanie’s a lot better. I think it’s because Stephanie gave us something new for her, while for AJ it was just that same old bold and brassy performance that she always does. And it wasn’t that strong an acting piece either, leaving doubts that she can act given what I thought was a weak and at times inappropriate — for the song — performance last week. Which is where I think the judges’ comments about her being too — forceful, shall we say? — come into play. She tends to go for dramatic gestures, both vocally and in her mannerisms, and while sometimes that’s really good there are times when you need to be subtle, and just do the small things. I’m not sure she can just do that, and that’s what you need to keep me interested when I’m not there to watch you perform, but am instead there to watch a story that you’re supposed to be taking me through.
Finally, we had Danielle, doing “I Dreamed a Dream”. And in terms of her performance … she nailed it, as usual. It was the best acting performance I’ve seen from her and from any of the Dorothys. Her voice and mannerisms all worked together to produce the actual feeling and draw me into the moment, feeling that I was part of the narrative and the story and getting a view into the personal life of this woman who had all of her hopes and dreams dashed. Even the little sprint away, and then stop and return added to it, even though it’s a pretty standard move in theatre and acting … but it’s important to do those little standard things. They’re classics for a reason.
So, my ranking of the performances, based only on my own personal views:
My prediction for the bottom two remains Colleen and Stephanie. And if Colleen ends up in the bottom two, she will not be in the final three, so then my final three prediction is Danielle, Stephanie and AJ.
A few final notes on this performance:
1) While I think Danielle is the best actress who has put in the best acting performances, one thing that became clear last night is that she’s the least physically attractive of the final four. She’s pretty enough and easy enough to look at, but she doesn’t have Colleen’s ethereal and elegant looks (that she made the most of last night, leaving me thinking “Wow”) or AJ’s effervescent and sensual looks (again, that were prominently on display last night) or Stephanie’s cuteness that she can parlay into a more attractive look when she needs it. But musical theatre is not about your looks, at least not completely. Danielle seems to me to be the best not because she’s the best looking — because she isn’t — but because she carries the narrative with her. All you need is to be attractive enough that people can watch you, and then the rest is in how you act … which is something that, I think, Hollywood and television has lost somewhere along the way.
2) There’s a difference between being a good musical performer and being a good musical actor, although they are related. Colleen and AJ are great performers and I could watch them perform for hours, but I’m leery about them as actresses. On the other hand, Danielle isn’t as strong a pure performer as they are but is a far better actress. Musical theatre is primarily about acting, not performance, which is again why I put Danielle on top as the best so far. Now, this is not to say that they are unrelated. If you are acting, being a strong performer is very good because it makes it easier to get people to watch you, and so makes it easiser for you to draw them into your narrative with your acting. And if you’re performing, being able to act is very good because it can make your performance more interesting by changing things up a bit and giving a different flow or emotion. But if you are not a strong performer, then you won’t be great at doing things that are just performance (like concerts), and if you are not a strong actor you won’t be great at doing musical theatre, which focuses on acting. AJ is an excellent performer, able to bring a concert act to life. Colleen’s voice and presence also make her an excellent performer. Danielle, on the other hand, is an excellent actress. Stephanie, it seems to me, is still finding her niche. But this is why they can all have good performances and yet not quite fit what you’d be looking for in the star of a major musical theatre production.