It was Disney Night on “Dancing With the Stars.” Disney Night!
For those who like to see animated snippets from iconic family flicks mixed with shameless corporate cross-promotion, this two-hour show was tailor made for you.
And, sure, there was dancing. And flying, just like Aladdin from “Aladdin”!
Curmudgeons and cynics like me, obviously, are in the minority here. The fan base has called – clamored, even – for the return of this themed episode of “Dancing With the Stars” since it first appeared during season 18. You ask, starry-eyed Disney loyalists, you get.
Look, it’s the Happiest Reality Show on Earth!
To the strains of “It’s a Small World,” the professional dancers kicked off the episode alongside Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy (in costumes) and Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and tons of princesses (via animation). Snippets of Disney’s well-loved characters made appearances throughout the show – hey, when did Pinocchio join the judges’ table? -- which executive producer Rob Wade has said was nine months in the making.
First the performers sent packing -- Suzanne and Tony – and the trio at the top – Rumer, Nastia and a resurgent Riker. And in chronological order this week, here’s the play by play.
Suzanne Somers and Tony Dovolani
Rehearsal wasn’t kind to Suzanne, during which she whined that she was “too lousy” to continue with the show. Tony pep talked her into staying, and the jazz routine he choreographed for “He’s a Tramp,” from “Lady and the Tramp,” showed off her lovely long legs. Music: great choice for her. She looked fabulous is that sparkly black cocktail dress, though her heel caught in its hem – not enough to cause a wardrobe malfunction, but enough to throw off her timing. Julianne Hough and Len Goodman thought it was her “best dance yet.” Bruno Tonioli took advantage of the obvious pun: “You’re a vamp.” She’s also a shill – she managed to sneak in a plug for hormone replacement therapy, and by extension, her book, “I’m Too Young for This,” on her way out of the competition. Score: 28
Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson
Go ahead and stoke that showmance, “DWTS” producers. Aren’t they sweet together? Rewind the pre-show video to check their chemistry, if you must, but know that good editing definitely helps. Robert was nervous headed into this quickstep (OK, he’s no Dick Van Dyke) and the judges noticed that his steps weren’t exactly in time for “Mary Poppins’” “Step in Time.” Carrie Ann Inaba said the steps and the timing do matter, and he never really captured either. Len loved his enthusiasm. Wait, what? Crankypants finally got that nap, or he must really love him some Disney. Score: 24
Patti LaBelle and Artem Chigvintsev
A knee injury nearly sidelined Patti, but she soldiered on (after ice, elevation, etc) for a waltz to “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio.” Sure, most of the footwork came from Artem, but there’s no doubt that she’s a crowd pleaser. She sprinkled stardust around the room, Bruno said, with just the right touch of Disney magic. Carrie Ann thinks she’s the fairy godmother of the show, and Len thought it was romantic, even though the routine could’ve used more “movement and flow.” He was being super diplomatic. Co-host Erin Andrews wanted to hug Patti “all day” because she’s such a trooper. Score: 27
Willow Shields and Mark Ballas
The young actress couldn’t have looked more perfectly suited to her Alice costume, nor her partner more fittingly wacky as the Mad Hatter. Their foxtrot to “Alice’s Theme” from “Alice in Wonderland” was jaunty, though not quite as theatrical as the “Hunger Games”-inspired routine from last week that earned them three perfect scores. Len and Julianne thought it was a wonderful, creative concept, and Bruno said she had lovely nuances in her movement but could use a few ballet classes to lengthen her extensions. Score: 34
Chris Soules and Witney Carson
He snapped at Witney during rehearsal – she forgave him much too easily, in my jaundiced opinion – and then hurt his calf. So did “Zero to Hero” (from “Hercules”) describe his performance in the quickstep? Did it redeem him from the lowest score last week? Not really. Len said he did “fine,” and Julianne didn’t think he was having any fun. (That makes two of us). Bruno prattled on and on about Mt. Olympus and Greek gods and some such. Carrie Ann liked it more than anyone else, though all the judges mentioned his lack of musicality. Side note: Witney should dress and style herself like that every day of her life. Smokin. Hot. Score: 27
Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess
It was a week for contestants to berate themselves and their talent or lack thereof, even wounded warrior/inspirational speaker Noah, who had trouble in rehearsals. Sharna, tough-love purveyor, told him to suck it up and stop crying. He did. His tentativeness wasn’t too apparent in his performance of the foxtrot to “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin.” Carrie Ann loved his “clear power” but wanted more “content.” Len said he had sway, great lines and musicality, but with his physical challenges, he lacked some of elements of a traditional foxtrot. The audience, as usual, loved him, and co-host Tom Bergeron noted that his dance from last week, to the Toby Keith hit “American Soldier,” has snagged 33.5 million YouTube hits. Score: 28
Riker Lynch and Allison Holker
Riker had promised a manly man version of Jack Sparrow for his paso doble to “He’s a Pirate” from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Bring on the guyliner! He certainly did seem like he was dancing for his life. Carrie Ann called it “a beast of a paso” and implied that he pulled it out of his bum. Julianne thought it was content, technique, showmanship, in short, “artistry.” They earned two 10s – awww, look at the Mickey ear paddles – their first perfect scores of the contest. Score: 38
Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy
Every girl wants to be a princess, but not Rumer. She went for a villain, which entailed head-to-toe purple body paint to become Ursula from “The Little Mermaid.” Val went green and reptilian. And the couple even did some pool research for their samba to “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” The crowd went nuts, as did the judges. Carrie Ann called it “sickly creative,” and Julianne dubbed it the best dance of the night. Bruno said it was “deliciously wicked.” Result: three perfect 10s. Score: 39
Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough
Nastia wanted the audience to see her silly side, she said during her pre-show video, even though she’d just issued a “game on” challenge to fellow competitor Willow. The jazz routine to “Love is an Open Door” from “Frozen” included some lip syncing that confused Carrie Ann (and frankly, me too) though Bruno thought the cute number was “practically perfect in every way.” What a brand ambassador that guy is. Two 10s (and two nines) landed them tied for second place. Score: 38