‘Twas six days before Christmas, and all through Vegas town,
Nine-and-eighty beauties prepping their swimsuits and gowns.
All are in a race to win themselves a crown
In the aim of returning as heroes in their hometowns.
A bright stage is set for the Yuletide occasion
But there are agendas afoot, to the fans’ consternation…
As befitting the festive occasion, the “Holiday Edition” of the Miss Universe pageant opened with some customized verses derived from that old Christmas classic poem attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (a.k.a., “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). And with that spirit, I also opened with my own variation above. The punchline of the opening is the sight of the co-owner of the pageant, Donald Trump, dressed as Santa Claus. It was cheeky fun and I was amused at the sight.
The rest of the pageant followed the template of 2009 and 2010, with the Donald performing pre-recorded voiceovers, and the 89 delegates appearing onstage as a pre-recorded disembodied introductions played. This year, the delegates’ onstage catwalks were filmed live (while they walk coming from various directions) as their voiceover introductions played, as a medley of “Winter Wonderland” and a club remix of One Direction’s “Live While We’re Young” played in the background. But unlike the tight dancing back in 2010, the opening choreography performed by the 89 delegates underwhelmed this year.
Hosting this year’s proceedings were Bravo TV’s Watch as it Happens host Andy Cohen and E! News anchorwoman Giuliana Rancic, with How Do I Look? host Jeannie Mai providing color commentary. Having previously hosted together at the 2011 Miss USA pageant, the two main hosts have an easygoing chemistry and I find very little to fault them in terms of hosting. Jeannie Mai, meanwhile, is slick speech-wise, though the content of what she conveys lacks depth or substance–generally empty platitudes of positivity during the evening gown round, for instance. But she was a charmer when she snuck up to winner of the Miss Congeniality award backstage to announce her win, especially with her commendable attempt to speak Spanish (more on the award winner later).
The semifinal swimsuit round featured dancing from the non-finalists, this year to the canned accompaniment of the mostly instrumental dance hit “Levels” by Avicii. Unlike the previous Vegas edition number that showcased a medley from the Cirque du Soleil show Viva Elvis (“Burning Love” and “Viva Las Vegas”), the choreography this year lacked oomph and the ladies were not always synchronized and the supposedly best dancers lacking in verve unlike back in 2010.
The evening gown round also featured a special guest–Train, who performed a medley of three of their songs: the Top 20 hit “Drive By”, new single “Mermaid”, and the holiday-themed (originally promoted in a Coca-Cola commercial) “Shake Up Christmas”. It doesn’t have the classy feel that John Legend and the Roots delivered two years ago, and aggravating matters is that lead singer’s Pat Monahan’s voice is not apparently in peak condition as he missed a few high notes when he sang the middle song. I also noticed that the gown choreography performed by the non-finalists made me recall the opening number of Miss World 2002, with the simple turns and hip sways.
The Final Five features the usual pick-a-judge-by-a-card system, with the judges asking a question that is actually composed by the production team, not the judges themselves. There is a twist this year that one of the judges will be asking the question posed by a member of the audience via Twitter. After that, the five finalists would walk in their gowns again–this year, they decided to turn it into a full-blown production featuring guest performer Timomatic* dancing and singing his dance hit “Set It Off”. Have to say, it did bring an extra element of energy in this part of the pageant, but the grander production could also be distracting, too.
* He’s a Nigerian-born singer/dancer based in Australia. He’s a veteran of reality competition shows in his adopted country, having placed 8th in the Australian version of So You Think You Can Dance back in 2009 and 3rd in Australia’s Got Talent in 2011. “Set It Off” was also a big No. 2 smash in Australia last year.
Now, let’s pay tribute to the non-finalists who garnered airtime because they won special awards, starting with:
MISS CONGENIALITY: GUATEMALA – Laura Godoy. She was a graciously surprised winner when Jeannie Mai came up to her backstage to tell her about her win. But I still maintain she ought to have made the final cut instead of this consolation prize–but then she earned more with this prize than what a semifinalist gets.
BEST IN NATIONAL COSTUME: CHINA – Ji Dan Xu. It was initially assumed that this would be determined by popular vote, but it turns out it is determined by a special panel. It’s a deserving win, if you ask me.
COMING UP: THE TOP 16 SEMIFINALISTS