The wonderful people at Talk Talk sent some of us bloggers down to the London Palladium to see ‘I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical’. Their hospitality was wonderful and I was amazed to be just a few rows back from the front; these were some of the best seats going! Was also fabulous to meet up two of my favourite Queens of Blogging – Lilinha and Michelle (selfie below for good measure)
Long-term readers of this blog will know that I’m not overly enamoured with The X Factor, but I DO love a good musical. As it’s penned by Harry Hill and Steve Brown I was hoping it’d be masses of fun.
It tells the story of Chenice (Cynthia Erivo) and Max (Alan Morrissey), two lovesick twenty-somethings who enter The X Factor. Chenice is inspired to by the death of her Grandad and Max who ‘just wants to sing his songs’. It’s obviously very tongue-in-cheek, with Simon (Nigel Harman), Louis (Ashley Knight) and Jordie (Victoria Elliot) as the judges. You can pretty much guess how it all ends as soon as it starts, but it’s a ‘fun’ journey.
Fans of the X-Factor won’t be disappointed; there are plenty of parody contestants from the past: the ‘Alterboyz’ being similar to Jedward, a SuBo-based character (with a nod to Heather from Eastenders) and Vladimir who is very similar to Wagner. There is also a ‘Dermot’ character by the name of Liam O’Deary (Simon Bailey). Bailey REALLY has his Dermot impression nailed, despite not looking exactly like him as the voice and mannerisms are wonderfully observed. There are lots of references to having a ‘back story’ and the press coverage of the show and the contestants which made me smirk too.
With it being a Harry Hill penned show there HAS to be a puppet which is ‘Barlow’ the dog, operated by Simon Lipkin (think Avenue Q puppets). Barlow made plenty of cheeky, cutting comments in a ‘nudge-nudge-wink-wink’ style and got the audience chuckling. The Jordie character also deserves a mention as she was brilliant and stole most of her scenes with her Cheryl Cole-inspired accent and ‘sultry’ pouts.
Technically and visually the show is very, very good. They use cutting-edge projection throughout and it is done brilliantly. The vast ‘dressing room’ sets in the second act are very clever, but probably why the show has been beset with technical difficulties! This really is how stage production in 2014 should look – lots of high and low tech fused together brilliantly. Also it is LOUD in places; the basslines of some of the songs can be felt pressing against your chest. Smaller ones might not like it, but it made me grin.
The songs are VERY catchy and I struggled to get to sleep as I had ‘Please Simon’ going round in my head. The song that Max performs in ‘The Final’ is possibly one of the sweetest things I’ve heard in a long time and the title track, ‘I Can’t Sing’ is pretty good too! The ensemble are excellent at what they do with lots of pizazz and energy that flows into the audience.
Is it any good?
No. No it’s not.
It really pains me to say it, but aside from the above, I spent most of the show agog with shock and not quite believing my eyes and ears. It was bloody awful. I always like to give anything I’m watching a fair chance. I’ve never walked out of a film or not finished a book because I like to get a feel for the whole thing. With ‘I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical’ I was wanting to leave at the interval, and after the lengthy second half and slightly bizarre finale, I wish I had. Perhaps the only saving Grace in Act 2 was Max’s solo.
I’m sure if you are an X-Factor nut, you’ll probably find it brilliant and laugh a lot more than I did, but as a piece of musical theatre, it was the worst I’ve ever seen. Not even the wine I had beforehand helped! Nigel Harman as Simon was a disappointment. He’s been fitted with some ‘Cowell’ style teeth which look ridiculous. On top of this, his singing skills aren’t really there for him to be on the top of the bill. Louis too, whilst definitely having the look of everyone’s favourite Irish idiot, he just didn’t have the accent right at all – my drunken ‘Ian Paisley’ is a closer match.
The dialogue is cliched and poor and I spent most of the show with a clenched bum not quite believing my ears. Harry Hill and Steve Brown can definitely write a tune or two, but dialogue? No. I think I’ve heard better dialogue babbled out of J’s mouth.
I didn’t feel overly comfortable with the racial stereotyping of the ‘security guard’. His thick Caribbean-style accent was a bit too close to Jim Davidson’s ‘Chalky White’ for my liking. Simon Cowell’s ‘right hand man’, Gerrard Smalls (Billy Carter), had every ‘gay’ stereotype going. I cringed – a lot.
So, in conclusion – if you REALLY like the X-Factor then ‘I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical’ will probably be right up your street – otherwise though…
“It’s a no from me.”