So You Think You Can Dance: Top 16 Performance Show

I had the opportunity to attend the live taping of this episode and let me tell you it was an entirely different experience than it was to see it on TV. For one thing, the room itself is not what I expected. The first comment made by every person to walk in was: “wow, this is a lot smaller than I expected.” The show is only something like 25 rows deep with some standing room off to both sides.

Before the taping began, Cory the warm up comic came out to hype everybody up before the show. We had been sitting around for a few hours (most people arrived at around 2 pm and the show started taping live at 5 pm) so the extra jolt of energy was sorely needed. As no cameras or cell phones are allowed, Cory promised to take some “twit-pics” of the audience and put them up on Twitter (check them out here and here) if we were loud enough. not that the audience needed incentive to scream, the show was scream-worthy all on its own. We got a fun introduction to the judges before they took their seats–Lil C did a bit of a dance and Kristin Chenowith was as adorably tiny as ever.

Of the choreographers, Jean Marc Genereaux showed up a lot earlier than the others and seemed to be in the best mood. He spoke with the family members of the dancers seated around him and partook in Cory’s antics. The other choreographers showed up only a few minutes before the show started and seemed somewhat less interested. TO their credit, Napoleon and Tabitha followed along avidly at times, pointing and laughing when appropriate. Tyce and Sonya meanwhile seemed content to mostly chat amongst themselves and look mildly disinterested. In fact, they were the only people to remain seated when the room was called to its feet at the opening of the show.

And then Cat did her cold open, which can hardly be heard inside the actual theater. We mostly had to guess at what she was saying. She’s as bubbly and cheerful in person as she is on screen and she and Nigel clearly have a good rapport as he called out random comments about her sparkly shoes. She did like showing off her glitteriness.

It was a little strange to have half the dancers match while the others wore random outfits for their introductions, but that is immediately explainable by the addition of the two group numbers. Cat’s need to pause during her next monologue was due, in large part, to Cory’s request that the audience scream until Cat was forced to quiet us herself. The audience took this as a solemn call of duty.

For the judges we have Lil C, Nigel, Mary, and Kristen Chenowith who, in addition to her acting and Broadway career, is now pursuing a singing career. Lil C is also apparently rapping these days (but will anyone understand his lyrics?).

The first group routine is a Broadway routine choreographed by Tyce Diorio about how the girls are dominating the boys. Group numbers are hard to watch in person–who do you watch is only a small issues as compared to not being distracted by the random cameras running along a track on stage (which the audience was warned not to knock out of place while going wild). This is one of Tyce’s best Broadway numbers in ages. I did want to thank Ryan for finally not smiling through an entire performance (though I think her mouth is naturally upturned or at least permanently stuck that way).

One thing that was interesting to note about the show is that the applause is not really artificial. The only time they ever specifically told us to applaud was upon return from the commercial breaks. We were specifically told not to look at Cat when she spoke from somewhere within the crowd, which was a little strange, but we couldn’t hear much of what she said anyway, so it hardly mattered.

Sasha and Alexander are paired up for a Dee Casparay contemporary routine about a guy remembering his lost love. But first we hear about their first performances. Sasha was a frog and it scarred her for life. Alexander was a hysterically awkward Simba. (These tidbits we got to watch on the two large screens on either side of the stage, though we were otherwise told not to watch these screens during the show.) I preferred this routine once it moved away from the piano (anyone else notice the bad camerawork there? we caught sight of one of the other camera men on stage!). I was less thrilled with the hands coming out of the piano. Sasha in particular sold this performance.
Judges Say:
Nigel- Good start. Alexander needs to work on connecting to the audience. (The boo was from a fan named Noemi who is a bit of a scary stalker.)
Mary- I loved this love story.
Kristin- (Kristin reveals that a frog once peed on her) Sasha is amazing and makes no noise when she dances. Alexander has amazing extensions.
Lil C- The perfect representation of how melefluous the keys of the piano are (chew on that).

You may have noticed that only one half off the audience stood up at the end of the performance. Cory proceeded to make fun of the other half of the room, which encouraged them to stand at the end of the next performance. Unfortunately, they couldn’t figure out when to sit after the next performance to the point where someone finally asked when they should sit.

Mitchell and Caitlynn get a samba with Jean-Marc Genereaux. Caitlynn’s first performance had her doing a duck dance where she looked miserable for half the time and happy for the other half. Mitchell was a late bloomer dance-wise, his first performance came in Fame at age sixteen. This performance felt more awkward to me than the judges indicated with their commentary. Sometimes there seemed to be a moment’s hesitation, particularly in the opening steps.
Judges Say:
Mary- The speakers have been blown out in here. Caitlynn’s leg action was rhythmical and loose. Mitchell did not look cheesy.
Kristin- Shut the front door…backdoor, front door, garage…every door.
Lil C- y’all murdered it.
Nigel- Jean-Marc exposed Mitchell’s strengths and he brings a great energy to the show. Caitlynn articulates her body well.

Interesting note, Lil C always gave a shout out to the choreographers when critiquing. I don’t know if this is because he is a choreographer himself and is therefore sensitive to the need for credit and appreciation.

Miranda and Robert get a Broadway number predictably done by Tyce. Miranda was an opinionated kid who performed a tap dance as her first dance. Robert, not so surprisingly, has spend his life making people laugh by trying on different characters. He did a Michael Jackson routine for a talent show. Miranda is meant to be the upper class working girl who seduces groovy cat Robert. Based on the practice footage, I expected this actual routine to be much faster than it turned out to be. This routine looks better on TV than it did live. The camera angles artificially speed up the dance.
Judges Say:
Kristin- My job is to critique you, but there’s nothing to say! (Really Kristin? You can be tougher than that!) Make some of your moves sharper so they stand out more.
Lil C- Miranda, with legs like that, who needs arms? Robert has personality.
Nigel- You’re improving.
Mary- Miranda is really transforming. Robert, you’re a hip hop dancer!

Melanie and Marko pull a Nappy-Tabs hip hop routine. Melanie was Little Bo Peep her first time on stage. Marko was a bit spoiled as a child but dancing straightened him out. His first concert was an awkward jazz routine when he as 10-11. Their dance is about a guy who was left at the alter and realizes that the best friend who is comforting him is the right one for him. Marko really got the sad character. Not surprisingly, this pair is solid and effortless. (The lift also looked better on screen than it did live.) Tabatha and Napoleon looked genuinely thrilled to see their routine performed.
Judges Say:
Lil C- Most definitely buck. M&M are the equivalent of limited edition Swiss army knives.
Nigel- Brilliant concept. You are the couple to beat.
Mary- You keep knocking out a special performance. (When she starts asking about the kiss mid-routine, Nigel is inspired to kiss Mary. Whether or not this was planned on his part, Mary seemed genuinely surprised and Cat seemed genuinely grossed out.)
Kristin- You are the epitome of the kind of language that I understand. (Kristin is so moved that she leans over and kisses Lil C who tries to be funny by knocking his hat and glasses askew. Nigel comes over to join in the action. Cut to the judges where Sonya is hiding her face in her hands.)

Ashley and Chris get a Sonyah Tayeh jazz number. Ashley’s first performance was when she was three while Chris’s first time on stage was a poetry reading when he was seven. So cute! Sonya is inspired by Beatlejuice and having more than one side to a personality. Unfortunately, the pair couldn’t quite get into character. I felt like any other couple would probably have done this routine better. Ashley’s faces tended towards silly over zombie-like and intense. (What you cannot see about Sonya’s outfit is that her blue and white polka dot outfit is long and baggy but underneath, she is wearing a pair of crazy bright shoes–neon green, blue, pink, and orange–high enough that when she walked down the stairs later she needed someone to help her walk down.)
Judges Say:
Nigel- Didn’t connect to the music and wanted more character.
Ashley- Ashley is beautiful.
Kristin- I’m just amazed. i don’t connect to this type of number but I’m into it. Ashley is one of her favorites. You partner well.
Lil C- Sonya’s work always has characters for the dancers and for the moves itself. Ashley is the sleeper star.
Mary apparently has no opinion here.

Around this time Cory started giving out “bling” (light up rings). He gave the first pair to a couple nine year old girls and then started throwing them out at random. Cat wanted a ring of her own and then decided to give it to the most stylish girl in the room, only to discover that Cory has already given the girl a ring (it was the same nine year old girl he’d started with). Should you ever be in the audience, a please can go a long way in getting some bling.

Clarice and Jess had a foxtrot with Jean-Marc. Clarice (who seemed to have the most signs) first performed at two and a half. Jess looks just as smug in real life as on TV. His first performance was spent waving to his mother, which is cute. Jess’s character ends up being a Broadway-like character (nightclub singer) wooing Clarice, the beautiful woman. They do a fairly good job considering but they are not my favorite couple.
Judges Say:
Mary- Beautiful lines, you pulled it off. No other dancer could have pulled it off like Jess.
Kristin- You two together are magic.
Lil C- Jess is a sophisticated performer.
Nigel- (Has to complimented Clarice’s cool dress.) Beautiful dance. Jess is a master.

Ryan and Ricky get a Sonya Tayeh contemporary routine. Ricky forgot his choreography in his first performance. Ryan became more outgoing with dance. Sonya’s routine is about a couple whose relationship is ending. Ricky connects to the loss of his father while Ryan connects to her lack of love. This pair was lucky to draw this number because it may save them from elimination. Overall Ryan managed to wipe her usual unnecessary smile off her face (though it did slip on at times). This was one of the more emotional pieces of the night though there is apparently some back story about Sonya’s mother that we don’t get that might make it even more emotional. (Nigel mentions it in passing.) Sonya is all but crying and she and Nigel share a hug after the critiques.
Judges Say:
Kristin- (mouthing amazing over and over again) I don’t think anyone couldn’t understand that. Ricky your turn out and Ryan you’re a beautiful dancer.
Lil C- You guys are also a power couple murdering every week.
Nigel- I’m proud we kept you last week, you delivered.
Mary- It is not easy to dance with a prop like that. I loved every second.

Something else I noticed about the show is that standing ovations are meaningless unless the judges partake in them. They are very discerning, whereas the audiences gives a standing ovation for every routine It’s almost as if they can’t help but stand at the sheer energy of the room. The judges did not give anything a standing O tonight.

Our last couple of the night are Jordan and Tadd. Jordan used to growl at people and first did Spice Girls. Tadd’s first dancing involved native Filipino dancing. They draw Nappy-Tabs hip hop about a couple that has an awkward late night encounter in college. This was not my favorite routine by Napoleon and Tabatha, still fun but more fun than awesome.
Judges Say:
Lil C- Loved it, the concept and execution. Make sure to use your whole body when in a groove.
Nigel- The story overwhelmed the dance but it was great fun. You’re going nowhere.
Mary- You put the whammy on all of us.
Kristin- Shut the front door! You’re amazing.

For the final routine of the night, Dee Caspary gives us a group routine about the girls trying to poison the guys. It’s a strange and interesting routine. I’m liking these group performances, even if they don’t help me judge the contestants (it’s hard enough just figuring out who everyone is).

The dancers were carefully lined up at the end of the night and it was interesting to see who did what during this process. Melanie needed to be manually put into place. Jordan could not stop dancing and occasionally Tadd joined her. Most dancers watched their clips as they ran along the stage but Jordan was too busy free styling to bother (this actually endeared me to her more than almost anything I’ve seen of her until now). Jess meanwhile could not help but mug in front of the camera which made me want to smack him.

It was an exciting experience watching the show as it tapes, but in truth, I think I prefer watching it on TV. Who do you think should be in the bottom?

The Voice: Finale–Results

Time to learn who won it all (the coaches, if we’re being perfectly honest). Our contestants are something of an eclectic group with Vicci as the energetic munchkin, Javier as the over the top crooner, Bev as the belting rocker, and Dia as the artsy musician.

As filler, we learn that the contestants were on Jay Leno.

Vicci Martinez shares the stage with Train singer Pat Manohan for “Drops of Jupiter.” After how great her performance was with Cee Lo yesterday, this performance was a bit of a disappointment. Their voices simply did not mesh well.

Javier Colon duets with Stevie Nicks, singing “Landslide.” I’m not sure I’ve ever heard this song sung by a guy so it was a bit of a surprise. Turns out, I like how he sounds better than Nicks (though I like the Dixie Chicks version better overall). The interesting thing with Javier’s voice is that it is as suited for harmonies and background singing as it is for taking the lead in a song.

Beverly McClelan is paired up with Ryan Tedder of One Republic for a “Good Life” duet that did not work out well for either of them. it’s not that either of them sounded bad. In fact, whenever they were singing by themselves they sounded good but every time they started harmonizing it became painfully clear that their voices did not meld well. (Christina also takes a moment to thank the other coaches for being the “big brothers she never had” which might have been genuine despite giving off little indication that she felt so close to them.)

Dia Frampton is paired up with none other than Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton’s wife. Dia sounded fine for this performance but Miranda came off as the artist with the wider range. (Maybe Dia’s hair was just bugging me…)

Now it is time for results. The voting is so close that our top two, whoever they may be, are separated by only 2%. Those two artists with the most votes are: Dia Frampton and Javier Colon. Javier and Dia were both in the Top downloads list on iTunes.

And with no further adieu, the winner is…Javier Colon.

What do you think? Did you want Javier to win? The show has been renewed for a second season with all of the judges returning. Are you things you hope they will change for season two?

The Voice: Final Performance–Top Four

The last performance show of the evening kicks off with our coaches performing a group number. During this, we learn that Christina can in fact hold back long enough for the other judges to be heard and that her hair is longer and more ridiculous than I realized it was. The performance was a little quieter than I would have liked but Adam finally had a chance to legitimately show off his voice. Also, Cee Lo seems to have missed out on some Incredibles wisdom: No Capes!

And now back to our regularly scheduled contestants. Our finalists have been dolled up/pimped out in black and white—and Dia in red, maybe she missed a memo too. But to kill some time—this is a two hour show after all—we have some questions for the contestants (in which they talk about how they are all friends) and coaches (who say their artists are all true artists, inspirational, etc) and some wasted time with Alison Haislip as she talks about twitter and something about 3D pictures. And by the way, our top eight are touring.

First up for our four finalists is Javier Colon of Team Adam, singing an original song, “Stitch by Stitch,” intended to be his first final (post show). He works with Rodney Jerkins who suggests keeping it simple to show off his voice. Adam warns him not to go too big too early. The song is quite simple, but that doesn’t take away from how good he sounds. Plus, I imagine if he were touring this song for real he would pull a Christina and do run after run so it is nice to hear this clean version.

  • Blake- I’m always in aw, but I want to say something different. He is a good dude.
  • Christina- That song suits you. (She seems sort of bored and indifferent.)
  • Cee Lo- You embodied the song.
  • Adam- You are such an amazing guy. (He actually tears up and needs to regroup.)

 

Dia Frampton is up second but not for her original song. First we will be hearing her perform “Stand My Ground” with her coach Blake. What I like about this duet is that he doesn’t try to overwhelm her. This isn’t the Blake Shelton show and he knows it. It is this quality that makes him such a solid coach.

From Team Cee Lo comes Vicci Martinez, performing her original song, which she is quite pleased with for its epicness. I love Vicci but this wasn’t her best performance. It’s sort of the song that would be fourth on an album rather than the first single out. I kept waiting for it to build as promised but though she was bouncing around, the song itself was a little sleepy. She’s got such a great range and energy, why didn’t they write for that? I think her onstage bounciness also didn’t suit the song she was singing and maybe stage presence and actual performance is something she will need to work on. Not to say she sounded bad, it just wasn’t as memorable.

  • Adam- I bought every second of it.
  • Blake- I love how you insist on being a big deal. (Huh? Is that even a compliment?)
  • Christina- You’re a dynamic performer. (Is she hung over or something?)
  • Cee Lo- I believe in you as a person and as a personality.

Pitbull  comes to perform his newest single, “Give Me Everything,” featuring Ne-Yo. Christina finally got up some energy to paw at the dancers moving around her red chair. Otherwise there was little notable about this performance.

Beverly McLelan and coach Christina team up for the next duet, singing “Beautiful.” Christina seems genuinely excited about this, which earns her a few personality points (too bad they are not enough to make her actually likable). I don’t know if this song was as unique and different as Christina promised, but it was certainly a powerful and moving performance. (Former Idol contestant Katherine McPhee sings this song in Smash so they plug that as well.)

Dia Frampton represents Team Blake with her original song, “Inventing Shadows,” which we can already tell from rehearsal will be a strong one. The song suits her voice well and it pretty much sounds the same as every other one of her performances. Blake is all but rocking out to the song, which is cute.

  • Christina- Lovely but let’s complain about the background dancers.
  • Cee Lo- Wonderful as usual.
  • Adam- I got distracted by the background, but you were amazing.
  • Blake- They’ll just be distracted by your single dominating theirs.

Javier Colon and Adam take on the Michael Jackson hit “Man in the Mirror.” Javier sounds excellent in this song and Adam harmonizes well. If anything, Adam is at the disadvantage here because his vocals are not nearly as strong as Javier’s.

Country singer Brad Paisley steps on stage for a performance. This song did nothing to endear me to country music, but SURPRISE! Blake Shelton is singing to Christina!

For the last original song of the night, Beverly McLelan of Team Christina, performs “Lovesick.” Christina advises her to infuse her personality into the song. Finally Christina leans forward in her chair and seems to be avidly watching a performance. The song is fine and works for a single but doesn’t show off her voice and won’t help her win. The judges do give her a standing ovation though.

  • Cee Lo- Bev, wow. I enjoy you all the time so thoroughly (that sounds a little dirty…)
  • Adam- What you did transcends all competition and makes this fun.
  • Blake- If music was crack, you would have a serious problem. It’s awesome.
  • Christina- You have great work ethic, you always show up and smile…

The final duet of the night is performed by Vicci Martinez and Cee Lo Green. They perform “Heartache to Heartache” with a bunch of child dancers which is always cute. This energetic, theatrical performance is much more suiting for showing Vicci off.

Expedition Impossible

Trying to pretend this show is different than the Amazing Race, we follow thirteen teams of three as they trek across Morocco’s deserts, rivers, and mountains. There will be ten stages to this journey and the team to finish the entire thing first will receive $150,000 and 3 Ford Explorers.

During each stage, there are multiple checkpoints, each providing clues for where to go next and occasionally a task that must me completely before moving on. If any one member of the team quits, all three are disqualified.

The biggest difference between this show and the Amazing Race is that there aren’t any taxis or trains. Contestants have to really make their way on foot (and occasionally by riding camels).

Otherwise, the show feels like a repeat of every other travel show we’ve seen on TV. I’m not sure what they can do to make this show any more exciting or unique, but it needs something to stand out. (Perhaps it works because it is the summer and there isn’t enough competition for it to matter.)

The Nine Lives of Chloe King

ABC Family’s newest sci-fi/fantasy adventure (the likes of which we haven’t seen since Kyle XY) is another book to small screen series following Chloe King, a seemingly regular teenager who discovers that she descends from the ancient race called the Mai. She has catlike abilities (night vision, claws, cat-like reflexes, etc) and nine lives, which makes her unique even among her people. She may be the warrior mentioned in a prophecy, meant to save Mai and humankind and stop an impending war between them and the Order, a group dedicated to destroying them.

Skyler Samuels plays Chloe, which for me is the biggest negative to the show. The first time I saw her, she was in The Gates as a teen discovering she was a succubus. I didn’t particularly like her then–she has this sort of whiny, needy persona–so I wasn’t thrilled to see her starring in this series. I don’t like her much better in this new role, though she is perhaps a little less annoying.

The best characters on the show seem to be everyone besides Chloe herself. Her non-Mai friends are entertaining, her Mai friends are interesting and intense. I’d like to get more of a look into the Mai world, which we haven’t really gotten at all yet. I’m sure it will come with time and a few episodes.

At this point, the show leaves something to be desired, but I’m willing to stick with it for longer to see how it develops. Other ABC Family shows leave me hopeful.

Falling Skies

TNT’s latest foray into genre television is a sci-fi show about a war-ravaged world where an alien invasion has left only a small amount of humans, foraging for food and struggling to survive. We learn about this world through the eyes of Tom Mason, a father of three. His wife was killed during the first wave of the attack. His oldest son is now a soldier in the human rebellion attempting to stop the aliens. His middle son is missing–taken by the aliens and “leashed” so that he has become a mindless slave. His youngest son is basically just cute sweetness (meant to give us the awwwww factor).

Tom is played by Noah Wylie (of ER). It’s a very different role, but I liked him then and I like him now. There’s something about him that makes the scrappy, fighter thing work. Tom already has something of a love interest in Anne (Moon Bloodgood), a pediatrician who has become their primary doctor post-invasion. There are a lot of characters in the story, but for the most part we know little about any of them. That would be my main complaint about the show, but I assume that in a few episodes we will start learning about more people.

The show did a smart thing by skipping the big theatrics that could have been in the pilot. Rather than start with the alien invasion itself, which would have a big impact but be nearly impossible to live up to, they started some six months later, with the resistance already in full swing if not yet being as effective as they desire. The biggest problem I find with sci-fi shows is they start so big that the rest of the show is dull by comparison. There’s also the plus of not spending the entire season trying to figure things out, which is nice since that was where shows like FlashForward became dull. Sure, there will be surprises and things to discover, but it isn’t a show about people trying to figure out why something already happened.

So far, I’m really enjoying the show and have a lot of hope for its future I hope the ratings dip from episode 1 to episode 2 isn’t enough to put the show in danger.

The Protector

Considering the flood of cop procedural shows on television, I can’t say that I was particularly excited about one more. Plus I didn’t have high hopes for a Lifetime cop series.

Ally Walker plays Gina Shephard a police officer and single mother of two. (Plus pseudo-mom to her slacker brother.) She’s quick-witted, a bit confident/arrogant (in a way that’s usually reserved for men on television), and has a bit of a snarky-sarcastic streak.

If not for Ally Walker, the show would probably be pretty dull. But like Sarah Shahi in Fairly Legal, she adds something to a show that would otherwise be boring and predictable. While it isn’t particularly unique or exciting, it does have a sort of charm that makes it enjoyable despite its lack of innovation.