Strictly Musicals Week is often the most dramatic show of the season, but this year’s edition took a turbulent turn even before the West End special began. On Saturday evening, the BBC announced on social media that EastEnders actor Nigel Harman, who was due to dance the Charleston for Mary Poppins in the quarter final, was out.
The BBC’s statement read: “Unfortunately Nigel has suffered an injury which means he is unable to perform on tonight’s show and has had to withdraw from Strictly.” This is the second withdrawal we’ve seen this season, following the mysterious departure of Amanda Abbington.
Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman confirmed at the start of the show that there would be no end this week, and no votes, but the scores would be carried over to the next show. That means we still have a three-way final.
The show after that felt a bit muted. Ellie Leach and Annabel Croft did well with, respectively, a fast-paced Beauty and the Beast and a Wicked fox, while Layton Williams got Craig Revel Horwood to raise his 10 paddles with an explosive Moulin Rouge! double paso.
But the Dirty Dancing elevator turned Bobby Brazier, and we had strange diversions such as the Fishermen’s Friend: The Musical cast “treating” us to a musical round-up of the night’s performances in the form of sea tales. I would love to share Harman painkillers at that point.
How will strictly fill the time in the results show without dance-hour? Will Revel Horwood preview his pantomime dance? Will Anton Du Beke sing (God with us)? Join us to find out Sunday night at 7:20pm on BBC One.
A sad farewell says Nigel
Nigel Harman came to the studio to explain what happened. “I was jumping off a rostrum, about to be caught by some very handsome men – while I was flying I had Peter Pan on, and when I landed I was going to A&E,” he told Winkleman. Although he put on a brave face, Harman was clearly in pain, and he and Katya Jones looked very brave.
Harman explained: “I’ve done something painful to my ankle. I am very much on painkillers at the moment.” He continued: “This didn’t really sink in.” Wrapping one arm over his aching side, he said: “I feel like I’m doing a Napoleon impression.”
An emotional Jones told her partner: “It’s hard to talk at the moment. I love all of us creating magic on the dance floor. I know you did this for your daughter and your parents. I know they will be very proud of you.”
Harman responded: “The only reason I’m standing here is because of all the work you’ve put into me. You turn up every day with hundreds of great ideas. You push me, challenge me and support me. You are now a part of me.”
God I hope I get it
Well, if we can’t have our ballroom dancing pros, at least they used their opening group number to celebrate a musical for and around dancers: A Chorus Line. Giovanni Pernice conducted the tough, ’80s-styled audition (hello, leg warmers), before Karen Hauer took Cassie’s solo – although technically this was the version from the film, not the stage musical.
Of course we ended up with One – the “singular sense” highlight with top hats and high kicks. The judges get in on the act too, and Craig Revel Horwood certainly has never looked happier. Incidentally, this wonderful musical is on tour in the UK next year and is well worth seeing.
Ellie is a ballroom beauty
Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola did their quick step to Belle, the action-packed opening number from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – and the Strictly dance floor was busy with extra dancers and a giant fountain. Leach did well (and will no doubt have West End offers coming her way post-Strictly), and Coppola was very funny as pony-tailed Gaston, but it dampened their actual pace. However, that’s bad for Music Week – Leach still deserves credit for what she’s achieved, including her neat footwork and neat transitions. 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36. My score: 9
Annabel interrupts us
Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe danced the foxtrot to For Good, the gorgeous climactic song from Wicked that celebrates the central friendship between couples – and so beautifully encapsulates this partnership as well. In contrast to Leach, there were no distractions here: just Croft and a green-skinned Radebe roaming the floor, with a beautiful (if occasionally drooping) frame, beautiful control, and the best acting we’ve seen. from Croft for a long time. maybe because it came from such an honest place. 8, 8, 8, 9 – 33. My score: 9
Layton goes full bohemian rhapsody
Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin performed an extraordinary full-throttle paso doble to the mixtape Backstage Romance from Moulin Rouge! The Musical, which mixes Bad Romance, tainted Love and many more. Throw in the extra dancers, and the heart of Moulin Rouge, and it really did look like a scene from the show – or Williams’ amazing audition for it. There were recognizable paso figures, who danced determinedly as a partnership, as well as those who were doing splits and lifts. 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40. My score: 10
Bobby can’t reach the height
Did Dirty Dancing need another salsa? Certainly not. Natasha Kaplinsky, Pamela Stephenson, Louis Smith and Ashley Roberts have done this exact routine, and it’s become a tired cliché. However, Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell threw themselves into it, with Brazier looking strong as she led a pack of male dancers. Unfortunately they made a mistake on the famous lift though – there’s always a risk of expanding your routine to such a recognizable movement – and Brazier’s footwork was very quick. Fun but not their best. 8, 8, 9, 9 – 34. My score: 8
Layton and Nikita – 40
Ellie and Vito – 36
Bobby and Dianne – 34
Annabel and Johannes – 33