American Idol: Idols Give Regards, and A Few Other Things, to Broadway

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After a season of intentionally provoking our contestants into the most deliciously awkward, humiliating and shameful of situations, the producers of Idol have clearly lost all sense of restraint. On last night?s American Idol, the songs of musical theater composer Andrew Llloyd Webber served as the ?music of the night.? Throughout the season, anecdotes and baby pictures have painted pictures of our contestants? childhoods. Tonight we learned who had friends in middle school (Brooke, Carly and Jason Cook), and who spent most of afternoons organizing collections of Broadway revival programs (Syesha Mercado, David Cook). While Carly, Jason and Brooke all seemed reluctant about the theatrical challenge of this campy composer, Cook, Archuletta and Mercado were clearly up to the challenge.

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First up: Syesha Mercado singing a sexy version of ?One Rock ?N? Roll Too Many.? The performance wasn?t earth-shattering, but it importantly revealed our ex-actress?s true comfort zone: Broadway musicals. The chances of Syesha winning are, well, zero-ish, and while our songstress may not be the brightest bulb, she?s clearly started thinking past the last episode, grinning and nodding profusely after Simon and Randy suggested that she might have a successful go at the Great White Way in the future. Go Syesha! It was hard to not like you, but with your fifteen minutes of fame safely secured somewhere in the future, I feel far better anticipating your departure with excitement.

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I cannot begin to fathom why Jason Castro chose the famous ballad sung by the dying old cat Griselda in Webber?s feline inspired musical Cats, besides it making a fantastic exit tune. After a season of trading on the illusion of musician-with-dreadlocks-and-guitar so easily construct, it took Andrew Lloyd Webber to reveal to us that Jason cannot sing to save his life. The singer was ashamed to admit that he ?hadn?t seen any of the musicals? (read: is still not really sure who Andrew Lloyd Webber is) and seemed fully prepared for the reaction his dreadful performance garnered from the judges. You know it?s time to leave the top ten when Randy and Simon suggest that you have chosen a song with ?too much melody? and Ryan Seacrest shakes your hand, wishing you ?good luck? after announcing your vote-in number.

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Someone needs to put the order in for a valium dart for Brooke White — pronto. Responding to her own anxieties about her impending elimination, the ex Goddess of Sunshine delivered a desperate and spotty version of ?You Must Love Me,? from Evita. Dang girl, chill out! Haven?t you been watching the former Idol contestant interviews? Getting booted won?t be that bad. To make maters worse, Curly pulled her second false start of the season, a faux pas that Paula reacted surprisingly strongly too. ?You must never start and stop!? she warned from the judges? seats. Looking like she was on the verge of a meltdown during her post-performance interview, Ryan Seacrest rubbed her back while Simon and Randy assured her her trainwreck performance wasn?t all that bad.

What a stormy first act! Cleary, our two singer-songwriters were simply not cut out for the challenges of Lord Andrew. But like a twist of fate after intermission, our next three contestants cast a more optimistic light on the evening.

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Carly Smithson?s performance of ?Jesus Christ Superstar? wasn?t awful! Our Irish songstress looked fantastic in a retro-inspired dress, and despite some shouty-ness that Randy noted in the middle of the song, her performance was upbeat and enjoyable. If you ignored the lyrics, you could almost forget about the nightmarish circumstances of the evening. No doubt she?ll be safe this week.

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David Archuletta provided a similar respite from the night of humiliation. His rendition of Phantom?s ?Think of Me? was pleasant at best. Simon called it forgettable, ?one of those you?re not going to remember.? More interesting: the back story developing about David?s relationship with his father, Jeff Archuletta, and vocal coach Dean Kaelin. With rumors as juicy as these it?s no wonder David?s performances have gotten more vanilla.

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Last was favorite David Cook, who has been making quite a name for himself reinventing songs that need no reinvention. I was looking forward to a Chris Cornell version of one of Webber?s ballads but Cook took a purist?s approach to the Lord?s ?Music of the Night,? indulging his longtime love of musical theater. I agree with Simon that the Broadway baby part of Cook is a ?side of him I don?t particularly like,? but watching Andrew Lloyd Webber hit on him during his run through at the piano provided the best two minutes of the season to date. ?Think of me as a 17 year old girl,? Webber coyly advised the crooner. Ten bucks says they kissed a little after.

Tune in tonight to see if you can spot any hickies.

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