Despite the fact that our "Idols" had to jet off to Vegas to work with him, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber added an element of culture that's usually sorely lacking to this week's "American Idol."
While he seemed reasonably flummoxed by some aspects of the show — why boys were opting to sing diva ballads and how to make sense of Jason Castro, among other quandaries — the Lord was an enthusiastic and admirable coach.
Still, watching him working so intently with our kids was a bit like seeing Simon giggle boyishly — compelling, in other words, but odd. I mean, we're used to having the mentor episodes be all about the mentor, where the fun is in trying to figure out, say, why Mariah looks like she's lit differently than everyone else or how Dolly doesn't seem to age. But with Webber, it was all about the kids.
His intensity served Syesha Mercado well, as her rendition of "One Rock 'n Roll Too Many" (from "Starlight Express") was a showstopper. Though the girl is clearly obsessed with starting out by sitting on the piano "Fabulous Baker Boys"-style, I have to admit that her talent is beginning to render my dislike for her meaningless. The fact is, she's really good and I should probably just start to accept that.
Webber had little to no impact on Jason Castro, who butchered "Memory." Still, Castro did seem to notice when the judges criticized him (save an even-wackier-than-usual Paula, who called his decision to do the song a "wise choice"), which means that he's not as out of it as he often seems.
And then there was the Brooke Thing. In a move that seemed tailor-made for the girl, Webber grabbed her hand during rehearsal and told her all about the emotions behind the song she'd chosen ("You Must Love Me" from "Evita"). Now I'm going to guess that Webber didn't quite know what he was getting into here. Brooke? Emotions? Not since peanut butter and jelly have two things belonged together more.
Unfortunately, Brooke's emotions were so overwhelming during her performance that she completely spaced on the lyrics to the song. While it was jarring to see her stop and start over again, how can you blame the girl? I mean, she was widely praised for doing something similar on "Every Breath You Take" all those weeks back.
But Paula started in on her about how she should never do that, which was weird not only because Paula was the one who most enthusiastically supported the move before, but also because this came after she gave the girl a standing O! To heap extra crazy on top of the crazy sandwich, Paula then told Brooke she simply should have made words up. I only wish they could have flashed to a reaction shot from Webber on that one.
As for everyone else — well, David Archuleta wasn't as good as he can be (not that those screaming teens care) — but a cheerier-than-ever Carly Smithson rocked the house and David Cook was solid as usual.
I say if they were a sports team, David Archuleta and Carly Smithson would be the Most Valuable Players, David Cook and Syesha Mercado Most Improved, Jason Castro the rookie, and Andrew Lloyd Webber Coach of the Year. Which means, I'm afraid to say, that Brooke White would be the player who's about to get kicked off the team.
Anna David is a freelance writer. Her novel, "Party Girl," is in stores.