It's a shame that the "American Idol" voters have already picked off most of the contestants of high-school age, because this would have been the perfect week for them to put those drama club skills to good use.
The theme for Tuesday night's show was "musicals," a bizarre choice for a competition that's purported to be searching for pop stars. It's been a long time since a song went from Broadway to the weekly top 40, and none of the songs from this week threaten to break that trend.
While not many of the performances are likely to inspire a trip to Tower Records for a quick browse through the show tunes section, Constantine Maroulis did continue to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler rock star in waiting. The favorites did well enough to feel safe, and after three weeks in a row that have seen women voted off the show, some of the guys have to be nervously wondering if it's finally a man's turn to leave.
Scott Savol, 28, Shaker Heights, Ohio: It's been a tough week for Savol, whose criminal record hit the Internet thanks to The Smoking Gun website. It made his selection of "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of La Mancha" more poignant, but it didn't make it any better — the song sounded thin in spots and had pitch problems throughout.Grade: C-The judges: "It ended with a bang, but it wasn't like a Bang! bang. It was just a'ight." – Randy Jackson.Stay or go: Savol hasn't even sniffed the bottom three yet, but that will probably change this week. Between a mediocre performance, the off-stage revelations and his position leading off the night, Savol may be the most likely of the final nine to be shown the door Wednesday night.
Constantine Maroulis, 29, New York: Perhaps realizing that he's not likely to win a rock competition with Bo Bice, Maroulis has totally changed his game over the last few weeks. He's kept the sultry look and the stage mannerisms, but has come up huge with some softer numbers. His rendition of "My Funny Valentine" from "Babes in Arms" was just the latest in a string of impressive efforts.Grade: A-The judges: "I admit it – I'm falling in love with you." — Paula Abdul. "But did you like it?" – Simon. Stay or go: Abdul's been in love with everyone on the show at various times, so there's no need for Maroulis to go ring shopping. But he'll definitely advance, and now has to be considered among the favorites.
Carrie Underwood, 21, Checotah, Okla.: This wasn't Underwood's best performance, but all she had to do was get through "Hello, Young Lovers" from "The King and I" without falling on her face or forgetting the words. She managed that very well, though the most memorable part of the performance was that the hairstylist and makeup person had her looking exactly like Reese Witherspoon. She'll also benefit because Simon's criticisms were lost in disbelief that he's British enough to refer to detergent as "washing powder."Grade: BThe judges: "That song. Really boring. I was starting to fall asleep. But you sang it – you sang it great." – Randy Jackson.Stay or go: It was just an average performance from Underwood, but that's all she needed. Given her background, it was surprising she didn't pick something from "Oklahoma," but she's doing fine.
Vonzell Solomon, 21, Fort Myers, Fla.: Solomon said it took her three hours to pick a song, but it was time well spent. Fast cementing her status as one of the judges' favorites, she won accolades for her version of "People" from "Funny Girl," though Simon said it left him "a little cold."Grade: BThe judges: "Barbra is Barbra, and Vonzell is now Vonzell." – Paula Abdul.Stay or go: It's hard to tell if the audience is as keen on Solomon as the judges are, but she'll almost certainly avoid the bottom three again this week.
Anthony Fedorov, 19, Trevose, Pa.: The last teenager left in the competition, Fedorov picked an appropriate song in "Climb Every Mountain" from "The Sound Of Music." He'll need to climb the equivalent of Mt. Everest to win this, and may be the next to go after a thoroughly mediocre performance. The arrangement turned the song into some sort of ’70s lounge act, which Fedorov fed into with his low voice and snapping fingers.Grade: C-The judges: "Hideous." – Simon Cowell.Stay or go: Fedorov and Savol are the two most likely to be heading home Wednesday night.
Nikko Smith, 22, Town & Country, Mo.: Broadway show tunes don't appear to be Smith's thing, and he seemed less comfortable than usual on stage singing "One Hand, One Heart" from "West Side Story." Still, it was good enough to keep Captain Comeback in the game for another week.Grade: B-The judges: "You are the comeback kid, Nikko." – Paula Abdul.Stay or go: Simon noted, correctly, that the first part of the song was out of tune. It doesn't matter. Smith is a lock to be back next week.
Anwar Robinson, 25, East Orange, N.J.: Robinson went with "If Ever I Would Leave You" from "Camelot." It was a better effort than he's given lately, and the second half of the song was particularly strong.Grade: B-The judges: "You are, technically, the best singer in the competition." – Paula Abdul.Stay or go: Robinson was in the bottom two last week, so he can't be feeling too secure. But it was a lot better than some of the other guys could manage, so he's probably safe.
Bo Bice, 29, Helena, Ala.: Bice always looks like he's taken a time warp back to 1972, so it's appropriate that he picked out a song from "Pippin," that year's top musical. With the long hair and the open collar, he seemed straight out of a sepia-toned period piece, but he sounded fine despite Simon's snarkiness.Grade: BThe judges: "Once again, consistently great." – Randy Jackson Stay or go: The only down note for Bice is that this makes two weeks in a row that Simon expressed some disapproval at his effort. Still, he'll easily advance.
Nadia Turner, 28, Miami, Fla.: Turner really has to work on her song selection. Her version of "As Long As He Needs Me," from the musical "Oliver!" was excellent, and her sultry presence did a lot to liven up the performance — but it definitely needed the livening up, since the song itself isn't particularly memorable.Grade: B+The judges: "It was the strongest you've been in three weeks, but I have to ask Ryan Seacrest not to pick the show's themes any more." — Simon Cowell.Stay or go: Turner's been in the bottom three for the past two weeks, so it's obvious she's not connecting with the voters. That could leave her in the bottom three again this week, even though the vocals themselves were a lot better than that. But it would be an upset if she was voted off the show this week.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.