After theme weeks devoted to movies, TV, the ’80s and personal sob stories, Dancing With the Stars finally got around to a salute to Broadway. On October 24, the seven remaining season 13 contestants—a motley collection of “celebrities,” to put it mildly—danced to an array of songs from musicals past and present. On hand to give the proceedings credibility were the cast of Sister Act and Tony and Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth, as well as DWTS’s invaluable conductor Harold Wheeler, a six-time Tony nominee for orchestrating musicals such as The Full Monty, Hairspray and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Who earned a standing ovation?
Best Routine: “I happen to love Broadway,” a bubbly Ricki Lake told the judges, and it showed in her quickstep to “Luck Be a Lady” from Guys and Dolls. Lake (who sang on the Hairspray movie soundtrack after creating the role of Tracy onscreen in 1988) is indeed lucky to be partnered with three-time DWTS champ Derek Hough, the show’s best choreographer and former West End star of Footloose.
Audience Favorite: If Lake doesn’t win the mirror ball trophy, it will go to J.R. Martinez, the soldier-turned-soap star with an irresistible personal story of triumph after being gravely burned in a car bomb while serving in Iraq. Martinez and his Broadway vet partner Karina Smirnoff (Burn the Floor) did a fast and fun quickstep to “Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago, the unofficial house musical of Dancing With the Stars alums. Coming soon to the Ambassador Theatre (we predict): J.R. Martinez as Billy Flynn.
Who Is That Masked Man? Poor Chaz Bono: The contestant we’ve rooted for from the beginning dared to don the Phantom’s half mask for a tango with partner Lacey Schwimmer to the title song from Broadway's longest running musical. Chaz revealed that mom Cher is a Phantom of the Opera fan and that he’s seen the show three times, but judge Bruno Tonioli dismissed him as “a penguin trying to be a menacing bird of prey.”
Seasons of Sass: Ballroom bad boy and Broadway vet Maksim Chmerkovskiy (Burn the Floor) woke up the proceedings when he lashed out at judge Len Goodman’s comments on his rumba with soccer star Hope Solo to “Seasons of Love” from Rent. Maks has had a less-than-successful partnership with Solo, who seems to have no sense of humor. “This is my show,” Chmerkovskiy crowed after the ballroom dust-up. “I helped make it what it is.” DWTS voters like humility, so Maks and Hope are headed for the exit soon.
My Fair Kristin: Kristin Chenoweth’s guest appearance, tied to her upcoming ABC sitcom Good Christian Belles, gave fans a taste of how she might perform two iconic Broadway roles: Sally Bowles (“Maybe This Time”) and Eliza Doolittle (“I Could Have Danced All Night”). As usual, Kristin was a pro, although the awkward choreography by Mark Ballas and Tyler Hanes did her no favors. We’ve seen her handle the best Rob Ashford can dish out, and it's better than tiptoeing down a runway of chairs.
As for the rest, TV crime sob sister Nancy Grace was surprisingly charming in a Spamalot-inspired fox trot to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" (complete with coconuts); David Arquette won the audience's love in a quickstep to "We Go Together" from Grease; and Rob Kardashian channeled Jersey Boys in a cha cha to that famous showtune "Walk Like a Man." Asked his opinion of Broadway week, Kardashian replied, "It's fun; it's Halloween." That makes no sense, Rob, but come to New York and check out a musical in person. You'll love it.
Last but not least, take a look at the opening number (seemingly taped earlier in the day, because the judges' chairs are empty) of Patina Miller and the Broadway company of Sister Act giving a lively performance of "Raise Your Voice" and "Sunday Morning Fever."