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Sunday, April 5, 2009: Any Dream Will Do

This is hands-down my new favorite competitive reality show, but to say it is new is a little bit of a stretch, since this show aired in its entirety already in the UK in 2007. I could easily do a Google search and find out who won the opportunity to star in the title role of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat in London, but really, knowing the ending is only half of the fun of this series, which we're just now getting to watch stateside on BBC America.

Basically, it's a format that has been tried out here rather unsuccessfully with Grease: You're the One That I Want or that horrible High School Musical show or even with the Legally Blonde MTV thing. For some reason it works better in the UK and Canada, where they've had success with How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and I'd Do Anything, which cast roles in West End productions of Sound of Music and Oliver!. There's all the typical fare: the audition rounds, the "school" round, the judges, the audience voting. For me, it's the perfect blend of musical theatre (which I love) and reality shows (which I also love).

Any Dream Will Do has a little spark, though, that the Americanized attempts at this show were missing -- not to mention the fact that they know how to get down to business. The entire audition round and "Joseph school" week were condensed to two hours. Now that's what I'm talking about. Not 20 hours of really untalented people, like a certain show that is insanely popular. I think the magic here is really in the fact that they just don't care about rules on this show. There are auditions going on, yet Andrew Lloyd Webber goes to local schools and choirs and handpicks people to try out. Some axed contestants get miffed about not being picked for the Top 50 by the judges and go to ALW's house (his house!!!!) to beg for another chance to get to go to Joseph school... and he lets two of them. Randomly, when the judges can't decide between two talented people, they decide to call in ALW and have a sing-off. It's just got an unpredictable quality that is very appealing.

And there is the matter of the judges. Andrew Lloyd Webber is on hand in an advisory capacity, but the lion's share of the judging is left to theater producer Bill Kenwright, vocal coach Zoe Tyler, flirty actress Denise Van Outen and, of course, the entire reason I tuned in, Doctor Who/Torchwood star John Barrowman. They know their stuff. And have no shame in asking contestants to show off their abs, or blatantly flirt with them during the auditions. They're a raucous bunch, but they're also pretty sweet. They give hugs and encouragement to the contestants who do/don't make it through to the finals, which I found adorable. And Graham Norton is hosting the whole business and seems to delight in making fun of the contestants, as well as actually offering his opinion on the talent of a person's singing.

I'm not even a huge fan of the music from Joseph, though all week I've caught myself singing the "Any Dream Will Do" song, which lends itself to the title of this reality series. It makes me excited to think of the possibilities of other shows they could do. I'd love to see Jellicle Cats search for the next Rum Tum Tugger, or All I Ask of You find a new Raoul or I'd Be Surprisingly Good for You seek someone out to erase the memory of Madonna's Evita from my mind. Of course the one that I'd most love to see would be Superstar, where they'd find the new Judas. That would be incredible to see... even two years later.

Any Dream Will Do airs Sunday nights at 8/7C on BBC America.

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