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TV Review: Celebrity Duets – Week Three

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Here we are, starting week three of Celebrity Duets, the musical reality show pairing Non-Singing Celebrities (NSC) with famous singers together in song for our viewing pleasure.  The remaining six contestants this week are:  Lucy Lawless, Cheech Marin, Carly Patterson, Alfonso Ribeiro, Jai Rodriguez, and Hal Sparks.

Our host is comedian/singer Wayne Brady and he started out the show with answering the big question — Why?  What would possess a celebrity, already famous in his or her own right, to get up in front of millions of viewers and sing?  Fame they already have, but this is their chance to fulfill their dream of being singers.  To sweeten the deal of being selected as the Champion of Celebrity Duets is the added bonus of being awarded $1,000,000 (USD) as a donation to the charity of their own choosing.

Every week our NSCs are partnered up with a big-time musical entertainer.  After the first show of any given week, the viewing audience votes by telephone.  Votes are tallied and, on the following night, the Non-Pro with the least amount of callers gets the boot. 

But, let's not get ahead of ourselves here.  Tonight is Performance Night.  Just prior to each song, the NCSs each give us a view into what is going on in their minds as they prepare to entertain us.  Now, they don't tell us with whom they'll be singing.  For that part, we are kept in suspense about until shortly into each song.

To help us out by sharing their thoughts on each duet is the panel of celebrity judges.  Marie Osmond, singer/dollmaker/entrepreneur has been as sweet and lighthearted as her image has been from the beginning of her career.  The highly original Rock-and-Roll pioneer Little Richard tells it like it is, in a vernacular that only he can create.  Phrases like "My, My, My, my big toe shot up again in my boot" and "Don't let your voice write a check your rhythm can't cash" are the bane of the third judge, producer/arranger/songwriter David Foster, as he often left with barely enough time to utter a couple of words.

This week's duets?  As they say, on with the show…

Lucy Lawless/Dionne Warwick  In the pre-song interview, Lucy let us know that after only singing with males in prior weeks, she's ready for a change-up and work with a woman this week "to get a bit of girl power goin' up on the stage."  After reading who her partner is, she admitted that she is now "completely freaked out" and it's no wonder she's scared.  Ms. Warwick is old school Diva (yes, with a capital D!) and they sing one of her signature pieces "Say A Little Prayer."  Excellent job, I think; they blend well together in the harmonies and then kick it up a notch during their solo parts.  Marie took off her gloves this week by calling Lucy's singing timid.  David Foster kind of liked it, but he'd like to hear her sing in a higher vocal register.  Little Richard's assessment was that he did like it, not in so few words, of course.  A side-note to the producers of the show:  please, give us a DVD of all of Little Richard's comments for the run of the series.  I'd watch it forever if I thought a bit of his "cool" would rub off on me.

Alfonso Ribeiro/Deniece Williams  His main thought this week was that he really needs to put some heat in his duet.  "I want them to hear my voice.  I gotta step it up and give it my all."  In rehearsals he pushed so hard that he injured his throat and was worried it would affect his singing.  I felt this rendition of "Too Much, Too Soon, Too Late" sounded pretty smooth as I kept fact in mind.  But, as with last week performance, I'm looking for him to relate to the lyrics and show some emotion.  Ms. Osmond liked it, but thought he should try to meld more with his partners.  Little Richard also enjoyed it.  David thought it was "pretty good" but said only the last note really stood out.  He also advised Alfonso to "Suck it up, man" and not complain about being sick as "It just ain't appropriate."

Carly Patterson/Jesse McCartney  In pre-song we learn that she is "thrilled" to get this artist.  "A lot of girls are gonna be jealous of me I'm sure…he's really hot."  They sounded okay, and they did relate to each other well.  Marie thought that Carly's voice is getting there, but that she should work on loosening up a bit.  "You've come a long way, but have a long way to go," is Little Richard's bottom line and Mr. Foster is in agreement with that.

Hal Sparks/Dennis DeYoung (He's former member of classic rock band Styx)  I like the spunk he showed pre-song.  "I have less concerns about the judges and more about what the people at home think."  To me, their duet of "Come Sail Away" was just okay, but Hal's attitude was rockin'!  Marie said it was a great job and Little Richard liked it.  David Foster admits that Hal can sing, but feels that Hal thinks he's a Rock Star.

Cheech Marin/Aaron Neville  With so many years in the entertainment industry under his belt, "I don't get as nervous as the others" is what we learned about Cheech tonight.  But maybe he should have been as I'm hard-pressed to imagine that his smokey/gravelly voice can blend with Aaron's trilly tenor.  I was a little scared for him as he faced the judges, especially since his mother wass sitting in the audience.  "Charm and personality, hands down," said Marie.  But her opinion as far as his vocal abilities?  "Well, those have not risen to the level of the others."  Rare as it is for Little Richard to give a bad review, he said it fell short with him, as well.  As for David, he just came flat out and said it, "You are charming but you don't belong here anymore."  OUCH!  And in front of his Mom, no less.

Jai Rodrigues/Taylor Dane  Pre-song showed Jai appearing to be on shaky ground.  "I feel like I'm under the most pressure out of all of us because I've gotten such positive feedback across the board."  That's on top of the fact that his arranger is asking him to sing in a higher register than normal in order for his voice to stand out from his partner.  Jai, I don't think you should have worried about that at all.  Ms. Dane hadn't even joined him on stage yet for their duet of "Tell It To My Heart" and I got the major chills happening, which is my highest accolade.  Super-high energy levels and he was the only NSC to work the camera and studio audience so far tonight.  Both Jai and Taylor were having a total blast and it was a thing of beauty.  Marie really liked that he related to the camera because she felt it got the home audience involved.  But (and off come those gloves again), she didn't care for parts of the choreography as being too awkward.  Wayne Brady stepped in like he's taking the words right out of my mind by reminding Marie that Jai's the singer, not the choreographer.  But Mr. Rodrigues agrees with Marie that he could and should have worked for some changes.  "Good Golly Miss Molly" chimed in Little Richard, but David Foster felt "tonight was off.

Wayne Brady reminded us of the proper voting procedure and as clips of each performance are shown, the phone numbers to dial in voting for each duet was shown on screen.  Then he reminds us not to forget that tomorrow is the results show and we'll see not only who will get voted off but also — new duets!

Jai Rodrigues is the one to beat in my book.  And, sadly, I fear that tomorrow we will lose the affiable charm and grace that Cheech Marin brings to the show as the polling is revealed.

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