Strictly stars prepare for Musicals Week as Nigel Harman exits show: ‘It’s now or never!’

todayDecember 2, 2023 4

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The stars of Strictly Come Dancing are rehearsing their jazz hands before the Musicals Week quarter-final – as one couple dramatically exited the competition just weeks before the final.

Saturday (2 December) night’s show will see the remaining contestants competing once more with a series of glitzy routines inspired by the West End and beyond.

However, the quarter-final will be a different night than planned. Mere hours before Strictly is due to go live, it was announced that Nigel Harman has been forced to pull out of the competition completely after sustaining an injury.

According to reports, this means that nobody will be sent home during Musicals Week.

Speaking to The Independent on Friday (1 December), Harman had seemed in high spirits about rehearsals for their Mary Poppins-themed Charleston. However, the musical theatre star did say that he had struggled with feeling sick during the routine.

“My fitness is really quite good,” he said. “I’m quite tired but I feel like I’m feeling quite fresh in some ways. I know that’s a paradox. I’m quite a little bit proud of myself to be 50 and still be leaping around out there, so that’s quite good. But then I get to the end of the Charleston… It’s the closest I’ve come to being sick at the end of a routine.”

With nobody due to leave the competition, that means only one of the remaining couples will miss out on a spot in the grand final. While four couples usually compete for the Glitterball Trophy, Amanda Abbington’s exit earlier in the series means only three will appear in the final.

Harman and Jones have pulled out of the competition

(BBC/Guy Levy)

Taking on the role of a Disney princess for her routine will be Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola, who are performing a Quickstep to “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast. For Leach, it was an easy choice, as she was often compared to Belle as a child.

Coppola agrees: “I find the character of Belle to be very suitable on Ellie. For me, it was not difficult to visualise Ellie [as Belle]… it makes a lot of sense.”

As the name suggests, Quicksteps tend to be pretty fast. But Leach says: “We’re actually dancing quicker than a quickstep this week!”

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The Coronation Street star says dancing has totally “changed” her fitness levels. “I think from the first week, I would do a star jump and be out of breath,” she says. “At the beginning, we were able to do one [take of the routine] with the music from the beginning and I would be like, ‘I can’t do this anymore!’, sitting on the floor. Over the weeks you’ve built your stamina. Obviously, it’s still very tiring… But I have found that I’m a lot fitter in general.”

Leach and Coppola are getting Disney-fied

(BBC/Guy Levy)

Fresh off their spot in last week’s bottom two, Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin are determined to stay positive going forward. “It wasn’t cute, let’s not lie,” Williams says of finding themselves in the dance-off with Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu, with Kuzmin reassuring him that their scores were “really good”. He insists: “It may seem like they’re not good because we were in the dance off but we got 34. That’s actually really good.”

The pair are back this week with a scintillating Paso Doble to “Backstage Romance” from Moulin Rouge! The Musical.  For Williams, rehearsals have been “amazing”. “We are feeling like we are having our comeback,” he says.

“We had a little bit of a dip at the beginning of the week because, Lord, obviously being in the bottom two is not the cutest. But it gives you a little bit of fire up your booty and it makes you realise what you could potentially have lost,” he leans on Kuzmin, “like my friend here.”

“The dance-off is really hard,” Kuzmin says. “Coming back on a Monday after a dance-off is psychologically really hard.” Williams agrees: “You quite simply just have to get over it. Someone’s always gonna be in the bottom two, and that week, it was us. The steps were ‘lumpy’ so you know… you pay the price!”

Williams and Kuzmin are determined to go back out there after their bottom two stint

(BBC/Guy Levy)

Perhaps the most highly anticipated dance of the night belongs to Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell, as they perform a Salsa to “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” from Dirty Dancing. It’s a song and routine performed on Strictly multiple times (by 2012 winner Louis Smith and 2018 finalist Ashley Roberts) with an instantly recognisable lift that’s show-stopping if done right, but seriously dangerous if not.”

The dance was initially a struggle for Brazier, who was lauded last week for his Couple’s Choice routine honouring his late mother Jade Goody. “On Monday, I hated it,” he says. Buswell made the choice not to show Strictly’s previous Dirty Dancing salsas to Brazier, “because I think Bobby is Bobby. We can’t compare ourselves to anyone else”.

So what about that lift, then? Brazier seems surprisingly calm, saying: “It’s one of them things where it happens on the night or it doesn’t. It’s a balancing act.” Buswell shoots him a look, pointing out that the lift comes three-quarters of the way through the routine.

“I forget about it at the start,” she says. “There comes one moment and I think, oh God, it’s time… and I walk to the back of the set and Bobby’s dancing at the front and then I just run for him and I’m like, oh, it’s now or never!”

Buswell is putting her faith in Brazier

(BBC/Guy Levy)

Buswell clearly has trust in Brazier. After all, she’s never attempted this lift with another pro, as they’ve been “too scared”. “They’re like, oh no, I, I can’t, I can’t do this lift,” she says. “In all my career, I’ve never been able to do it with anyone, so the fact that I’ve tried it with Bobby means I obviously trust Bobby. The fact that Bobby is literally getting me up there is very impressive.”

Brazier jokingly flexes his muscles, as Buswell continues: “He’s like ‘show and tell’ at the moment. Anyone we meet, there’s a screenshot on your phone and he’s showing everyone this lift! Even if he’s met them for two minutes, he will show them.”

Brazier proudly agrees: “This lift is gonna change my life, seriously. Every wedding I’m going to for the rest of my life… It’s like the Argentine Tango – it’s a great thing to have in your locker!

The last couple competing on Saturday are Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe, who will be playing Wicked’s witches Elphaba and Glinda for a Foxtrot to “For Good”.

Radebe says Croft is the ‘most-improved’ star of the series

(BBC/Guy Levy)

Originally one of the competition’s underdogs, tennis player Croft has risen up the ranks to become one of Strictly’s most praised contestants, with fans saying she has a real shot at the final.

Radebe is in agreement: “Every week has been quite a surprise,” he says. “She thought she would have been gone by now. So I have to say what’s been lovely has been to see a transformation throughout the series. I know I’m being biased because she’s my partner, but I do think that she’s the most improved contestant.”

Like Leach, Croft has too seen a noticeable improvement in her fitness from her time on the show and feels “absolutely amazing”. “I mean, I’m 57 now. Can you believe?” she says, incredulous. “I can’t believe it when I say that myself, but I feel fitter now than I’ve ever, ever felt in my life. I really mean that – I’m not exaggerating when I say that.

“When I played tennis, of course, you’re fit for tennis, but tennis is a very different sport… When we think back to week one, Johannes was trying to get me to lift my arms up and it was like, does that look OK? There was no space anywhere and now everything feels really free.

She continues: “I’d always said as I got older, I wanted to be more supple and I think that some people look older because the way they hold themselves because they’re hunched over and stiff. Whereas when you’re supple you can be more useful. That’s how I feel. I just feel like my body has been this great big ball of string when we started, that sort of started to unravel. It’s been an amazing feeling and you actually feel more energised when you feel less bunched up. So, keep dancing!”

Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturday 2 December at 7.25pm on BBC One.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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