When the stage school which my daughter attends (Step Up Music Theatre School) were successful in their auditions, and were chosen to compete in the live finals of the U.K. channel 5 programme, ‘Don’t stop believing’ I was so happy for this hard working, talented bunch of kids and their dedicated principle, Nathalie. These youngsters always work hard and support each other all the way. Being part of ‘Don’t Stop believing’ was a big thing for the stage school as a whole, not only the pupils eligible to actually compete in this televised competition based on the very popular US programme ‘Glee.’
The group were invited to stay in accommodation near to the Maidstone studios, in Kent, for a few days leading up to the live show so that they could rehearse for the programme.
The days leading up to the show really gave the performers a great insight into the way a show such as this comes together. Not only did they have to work on their song and dance routines but they had to be able to give interviews for television; they also started to learn how very important appearance is in the industry, as they were fitted for costumes and given practise hair and make-up sessions in preparation for the live show.
It was overall a great experience in which they met the show’s presenter Emma Bunton, as well as vocal coaches and choreographers and many other professionals from the television and performing industry
As for watching the live show, tickets were difficult to get. One could apply online but getting a ticket didn’t mean you definitely would get in; just the chance if you queued early enough and it then depended on demand and how near to the front in the queue one was. Well, I was so pleased when Step Up’s manager, Nathalie, said she would pull parents’ names out of hat for the few priority complimentary tickets she had been allocated. I was delighted when my husband and I were lucky enough to be chosen.
On arriving we had to wait until being shown through and instructed to make our way to the marquee for priority ticket holders. It was a hot day and so we were pleased to get into the shade of the marquee and be able to purchase a refreshing drink from the bar.
The toilets were mobile and the unit was ramped and so access was good for wheelchair users. Disabled guests were also helped into the studio and there were seats near to the front available for wheelchairs users.
Access into the studio was orderly. Once we were seated, in a block near to other friends and family of Step Up, we had a look around. My husband was seated next to supporters of another show choir and they chatted and the atmosphere was generally pleasant once inside the studio. I was pleased that the rows were well tiered with a good view, I would think, for most of the audience. We were sitting behind the judges. The sound was good. We were asked to tuck bags and coats well under the seats and to keep all aisles clear as the compere, Emma Bunton, was likely to mingle with the audience and needed a clear pathway.
The judges were introduced. They were Anastacia, Duncan James, Tamzin Outhwaite and Charles "Chucky" Klapow.
By the time the live show and the first heat arrived, we had seen a lot of pre-show publicity; it had been very exciting to see Step up appear on various television programmes. I was very proud of the way they presented themselves on interviews and I also heard (as expected) that they had behaved well, as always, took all advice on board, whilst preparing for the show.
The show itself was entertaining. This was the first time I have been in the audience for this type of show and it gave a great insight to how this type of show is produced. Everyone and everywhere were busy with cameras moving about, makeup artists rushing on to apply some make up to a judge. The warm up man was funny and had the audience standing, clapping, cheering and becoming excited to see the forthcoming show.
The show consisted of six acts; Step Up was the third act to appear and, in my opinion, for such a young group of amateur children who attend a stage school for only a few hours a week, they truly surpassed themselves. Their vocals, in my opinion, were superb and they managed the choreography, while singing, as if they were professionals.
I loved their look and thought it went well with a young, vibrant group; the bright, funky trainers, make up and costumes in yellow, purple, pink…in fact all bright hues strongly in evidence. The hairstyles were amazing in their intricacy and, fortunately, stayed in place throughout the lively act.
They sung their rendition of Steve Wonder’s ‘Signed, sealed delivered, I’m Yours’ combined to create a very effective ‘mash up’ with Aretha Franklin’s, ‘Think.’
But the general consensus seemed to be from the public and judges that the system used to put through the acts wasn’t a very good one. The judges said their bit which seemed honest and fair and then there was a very small window of time for the general public to make their telephone vote. Many complained they couldn’t get through. An act came top which it was generally thought that these were not the ones who should have won and wouldn’t have if they hadn’t told their sad tales. The next two acts were then asked to perform again so that the judges could decide who to send through as a wild card.
The ensuing comments on television and on blogs in the week following and in the subsequent shows made it apparent that there was controversy over the system of voting. Personally I hate the way these shows seem nowadays to beg for a ‘sob story’ and then this can be more important to the programme than the talent displayed. Step Up’s manager Nathalie has no time for this and always insists that she wants her students to succeed because of their talent alone and will not relate stories of hardship. Many of the pupils have had troubles but this shouldn’t be shared on account of a talent show. In the end true talent, if given a chance will shine through and lack of it too will ultimately show. But I feel that while shows ask participants to provide a sob story then the results will often not reflect true talent. If this were done in the way of a programme such as X Factor, with acts appearing over a few shows then talent would have time enough to shine through and viewers would become a little bored with sob stories. I am not hard; I can cry along with the rest of the viewers but if it’s a talent show then that’s the criteria to be judged on. But then, as we all know, Life isn’t fair so we all have to just get on with it and the kids from Step up always do this.
Step Up pupils and management seemed very happy with their performance and what they had learned from the show. I feel that this was the start to success, and perhaps paved the way, for Step Up schools to achieve their well-deserved success in other television shows and auditions.
I feel that the televised series of this show failed somewhat; probably mainly due to the obvious failings of its voting system. The panel of judges, I felt, really tried to do their best but each week had to contend with choosing a wild card sometimes not from the acts that they liked the most. I believe that the judges were brought along for their expertise in the industry and so should have had more say in who went through to the final programme, or the show’s contestants should have been wholly judged by a public vote with a longer time slot given to enable successful phone votes.
As for the kids from Step Up well, once the show was over they climbed on to the coach, which took them away from the Maidstone studios, positively glowing. They were happy and triumphant in the knowledge that they had done their best and had positively shone.