The former Lions wide receiver channeled his inner feline on for a ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Broadway-themed episode

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Former Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson transformed once again into a feline — though not in silver and blue — when he prowled and pranced on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” Monday night.

The six remaining celebrity couples in the reality TV competition danced to hit musicals for “Showstoppers” night. Broadway star Idina Menzel, known for her roles as Maureen in “Rent” and Elphaba in “Wicked,” was a guest judge and performed her new single “Queen of Swords.”

Johnson and partner Lindsay Arnold waltzed to “Memory” from “Cats” as Leona Lewis, who’s starring as Grizabella in the Broadway production, sang. The pair weren’t in cat costumes — Johnson wore a fur-lined white suit while Arnold sparkled in a fur-trimmed gown — but they did travel to New York City in the past week to learn choreography and get a kitty makeover.

“I played football for nine years. I was a Lion. This is clearly not my uniform,” Johnson joked in a video, while dressed in a leotard cat costume.

After performing, judge Julianne Hough said it was one of Johnson’s “best dances” in the past nine weeks. Judge Bruno Tonioli added the former Lion was “majestic, like a Siberian tiger toying with a little pussy cat, and (there’s) not a scratch in sight.”

Menzel brought football into her comments, mentioning that her dad taught her everything she knows about the sport.

“He always taught me football players always get a bad rap because you’re supposed to be tough, but you have to be very graceful, especially as a wide receiver,” she said. “I know now why you were an amazing athlete and an amazing graceful dancer — you have both, and that was beautiful.”

The two earned a 37 out of 40.

Actress Marilu Henner and partner Derek Hough also got a special guest performer — former DWTS pro dancer Mark Ballas, currently starring in “Jersey Boys” — for their samba to “December, 1963. (Oh What a Night)”. As judge Hough exclaimed, it was Henner’s night. The judges awarded them 36 out of 40.

Actress and singer Jana Kramer of Rochester Hills and partner Gleb Savchenko waltzed to “She Used to Be Mine” from “Waitress,” a Tony nominee for “best musical” this year. The number earned them a perfect score.

Menzel said they would make “Waitress” stars Sara Bareilles and Jessie Muellar “so proud.”

“They have so much complexity in their voices, and you had so much complexity in the entire performance that you just broke me,” she said.

Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said she felt like she wasn’t watching a performance, per se.

“I feel like I’m watching a slice of your life unfold in front of us,” she said to Kramer. “I just want to thank you for sharing it and making it so beautiful and mesmerizing every time.”

In the second half of the episode, the celebrities danced in pairs for a “Team-Up Challenge,” competing for extra points.

Kramer, 32, danced a contemporary number with Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez, 16, to “Bird Set Free” by Sia.

Calling themselves Team Sisters, the women’s emotional performance began and ended in a cage. The impressed judges awarded a perfect score.

“I’m just completely speechless,” Menzel said. “It’s so beautiful. I have a younger sister, and I know how it feels when you just click in and you’re both really there for each other. It was a magical, magical dance.”

Johnson was paired with IndyCar driver James HinchCliffe. As the last men in the competition, they called their team “Last Men Standing” and performed a sexy western-themed paso doble that earned 37 points.

“I just wish all guys did a paso to deal with their problems — like that’s how they just duke it out,” Hough said. “Honestly, that’s the reason why you guys are the last men standing. ...You guys both came out and rocked it.”

Menzel admitted it wasn’t the dancing that captivated her.

“I’m probably the worst judge ever because I didn’t see anything but how hot they both were,” she said, laughing.

Actresses Terra Jole and Henner came in third, with a 36 for their jazz routine.

At the end of the episode, the hosts announced Henner was eliminated from the competition, after receiving the lowest score from the judges and viewers’ votes last week. But she ended her run on the show with glowing remarks from Menzel, who said she’s been inspired by Henner her “whole life.”

“If I could give as much life and joy to my audience as you have through your career,” she said, “then I feel very lucky.”

The remaining couples will advance to the semifinals next Monday.

ssteinberg@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2156

Twitter: @Steph_Steinberg

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