I’ve always worked on the principle that if it interests me enough to write about it, then it must interest a lot of other people.
Morris West, 1916 – 1999
I’ve been caught up in the drama of Charlotte and Jonathan, two teenagers who took the world by storm with their audition on Britain’s Got Talent in late March. The ITV editors of the clip on YouTube.com admirably captured the audition’s mythic qualities. If you have not seen it yet, you simply must. Though only 17, Jonathan Antoine has one of the great voices of the ages. This is your chance to have the same experience some lucky person before you had when they watched a youthful Michelangelo carving or saw the Beatles play the Cavern Club or were in the gym when Michael Jordan was trying out for his first team.
The audition story is a concise, seven-minute opera. Two awkward teens enter stage left into brilliant light before an audience that towers several balconies above. The camera catches lead judge Simon Cowell sharing a put-down, later superimposed so the viewer will be sure to recognize him for the villain. The boy is morbidly obese, dressed in teenaged slop suited for lounging around the house. The girl is curvy and pretty but dressed to try too hard. They are a most unlikely combination, Charlotte and Jonathan. Simon targets Jonathan about being shy.
The editors cut to B-roll of the pre-show interview where Jonathan reveals his pain at lifelong teasing for his weight and Charlotte stoutly defends him, establishing their sympathetic back-story. When the action cuts back to the live audition, Simon dryly inquires, “And you think this could work?” People in the audience sneer and snicker and gape in preparation for a laugh. Simon dismissively starts the audition.
Jonathan, on edge with nerves, looks at Charlotte for inspiration. He fluffs his queue, jumping in too early, but a shared glance with Charlotte sets him right. Then they open their mouths and heaven pours out. Jonathan has a pure and masculine tenor that seems to surprise even him with its power. Charlotte’s sweet soprano is crystalline.
The faces of audience and judges register astonishment, then delight. The musical selection “The Prayer”, was made famous by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion, and is an inspired choice of operatic pop duet with a poignant lyric in Italian and English. Applause ascends in a roar that nearly overwhelms the singers, and they rise to it with a tremulous greatness. The soundman must have really scrambled to balance their mics. Ant and Dec, comic relief and Greek chorus in the wings, voice amazement.
Simon gives an abashed grin, while pound note signs dance in his head. His fellow judge, the classy Alecia Dixon is visibly touched. Intercut shots reveal audience members moved to tears. The song ends with a roof-shaking crescendo, and the audience rises almost as one, roaring with approval in a standing ovation.
Then the final act ensues. Jonathan is giddy with pleasure. Winsome Charlotte is stalwart as Simon damns her with faint praise to gush on about Jonathan’s gift, but her pretty cleft chin trembles just a bit when Simon suggests that she may hold him back. The video editor pauses action to build the tension. Will the duo be broken? Jonathan scowls and affirms they are ever a duo, proving himself the true friend. Charlotte beams and dimples. The audience weeps and cheers. By the judges’ unanimous vote of approval, the duo are voted to the next level, the drama concludes, and the two teens head offstage to float on a pink cloud of adrenaline. “Do you think it could be life-changing?” Charlotte asks Jonathan outside. “Well, yeah” he gasps, still taking it all in. ‘I think, for you,” she echoes wistfully.
The seven-minute clip is great theater, which is why I have not tired of it. That and the truly remarkable voice. Jonathan Antoine’s amazing natural tenor has benefitted from some years of classical training as you can discover if you search out the smattering of posted amateur videos from school and church recitals where the nascent power of his voice shines through dodgy recordings, and the fact that he hasn’t a clue what to do with his hands or how to stand is endearing. Charlotte Antonelli likes musical theatre, and had she gone to my high school she would have easily won the lead in the big spring musical, but her voice will never match his in size or quality.
Yet these kids are a great iconic couple. He is the fat man with the tortured soul who admires her, she the pretty girl who sees the good in him. Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers before them (she gave him sex appeal, he gave her class), this team has potential for success (she gives him vivacity, he gives her artistic stature). If they can be guided to the right material, they might just take off due to their fresh musicality that far surpasses the current stale, Auto-Tuned pop scene.
Is the duo of Charlotte & Jonathan is primed to win the BGT for 2012? If only I could receive ITV-1 from Britain. I’ll be on tenterhooks until the finals!