Strictly Musicals Week is often the most dramatic show of the season, but this year’s edition had a shock twist even before the West End special began. On Saturday afternoon, the BBC announced on its social media that EastEnders actor Nigel Harman, who had been due to dance a Charleston to Mary Poppins in the quarter-final, was out.
The BBC statement read: “Unfortunately Nigel has sustained an injury which means he is unable to perform in tonight’s show and has had to withdraw from Strictly.” This is the second withdrawal we’ve seen this season, following the mysterious exit of Amanda Abbington.
It was confirmed at the beginning of the show by Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman that there would be no elimination this week, and no votes, but the scores will be carried over to the next show. That means we’ll still have a three-couple final.
The subsequent show felt slightly muted. Ellie Leach and Annabel Croft both did nicely with, respectively, a Beauty and the Beast quickstep and Wicked foxtrot, while Layton Williams finally got Craig Revel Horwood to raise his 10 paddle with an explosive Moulin Rouge! paso doble.
But Bobby Brazier’s Dirty Dancing lift flopped, and we had odd diversions like the Fishermen’s Friend: The Musical cast “treating” us to a musical improv round-up of the night’s performances in sea shanty form. I would have loved to share Harman’s painkillers at that point.
How will Strictly fill the time in the results show without a dance-off? Will Revel Horwood preview his pantomime dame? Will (god help us) Anton Du Beke sing? Join us to find out on Sunday night at 7:20pm on BBC One.
Nigel says a sad farewell
Nigel Harman came to the studio to explain what happened. “I was leaping off a rostrum, about to be caught by some very handsome men – as I flew I was Peter Pan, and when I landed I was off to A&E,” he quipped to Winkleman. Though putting a brave face on it, Harman was clearly in pain, and both he and Katya Jones looked devastated.
Harman explained: “I’ve done something painful to my rib. I’m high on painkillers right now.” He continued: “This hasn’t really sunk in.” Holding one arm folded over his painful side, he quipped: “I feel like I’m doing a Napoleon impression.”
An emotional Jones said to her partner: “It’s hard to talk right now. I have loved everyone moment of us creating magic on the dance floor. I know you did this for your daughter and your parents. I know they’ll be really really proud of you.”
Harman said in return: “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, you challenge me and you support me. You’re part of me now.”
God I hope I get it
Well, if we can’t have our ballroom pros dancing ballroom, at least they used their opening group number to celebrate a musical that is for, and about, dancers: A Chorus Line. Giovanni Pernice ran the tough, 80s-styled audition (hello, leg warmers), before Karen Hauer took on the Cassie solo – although technically this was the version from the movie, not the stage musical.
Of course we ended with One – the “singular sensation” climax with top hats and high kicks. The judges get in on the act too, and surely Craig Revel Horwood has never looked happier. Incidentally, this amazing musical is touring the UK next year and is well worth catching.
Ellie is a ballroom beauty
Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola danced their quickstep to Belle, the action-packed opening number from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – and the Strictly dance floor was similarly busy with extra dancers and a huge fountain. Leach coped well (and she’ll surely have West End offers coming her way post-Strictly), and Coppola was very amusing as the pony-tailed Gaston, but it rather diluted their actual quickstep. However, that’s a Musicals Week evil – Leach still deserves credit for what she accomplished, including her tidy footwork and neat transitions. 9, 9, 9, 9 – 36. My score: 9
Annabel bewitches us
Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe danced their foxtrot to For Good, the gorgeous climactic song from Wicked that celebrates the central odd-couple friendship – and thus a lovely encapsulation of this partnership too. In contrast with Leach, there were no distractions here: just a green-skinned Croft and Radebe gliding around the floor, with a lovely (if occasionally drooping) frame, beautiful control, and by far the best acting we’ve seen from Croft, perhaps 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 did an extraordinary full-throttle paso doble to the Backstage Romance medley from Moulin Rouge! The Musical, which mixes Bad Romance, Tainted Love and more. Add in the extra dancers, and the Moulin Rouge heart, and it really did look like a scene from the show – or Williams’s impressive audition for it. There were recognisable paso figures in there, danced convincingly as a partnership, plus those whopping splits and lifts. 10, 10, 10, 10 – 40. My score: 10
Bobby can’t hit the heights
Did we need yet another Dirty Dancing salsa? Certainly not. Natasha Kaplinsky, Pamela Stephenson, Louis Smith and Ashley Roberts have all done this exact routine, and it’s become a tired cliché. Still, Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell threw themselves into it, with Brazier looking strong both leading her and heading up a pack of male dancers. Unfortunately they botched the famous lift, though – always a risk building up your routine to such a recognisable move – and Brazier’s footwork was clompy. 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