Sunday, 23 March 2014

I Can't Sing: The X Factor Musical

London Palladium
Saturday 15 March 2014, 2.00pm (preview)

I Can't Sing is absolutely bonkers.

What a treat, in what are sometimes depressing times, to watch a show that will just make you giggle.

This show is a colourful, fun and technically fascinating homage to what is now, love it or loathe it, a British institution - the X Factor TV show.

It depicts a trail of hopefuls as they move from auditions to live shows, but none can compete with heroine Chenice who cannot only sing but the fact she has to unplug her grandfather's iron lung in order to use the toaster gives her the most important of qualities to be a winner - a heart-wrenching back story.

She also believes she can't sing - although I don't believe anyone who enters the X Factor thinks this - it's usually the other way round and they really can't!

But this isn't a cruel parody. It packs in all the show's cliches in such an affectionate way that it made cynical old me, someone who had long fallen out of love with the TV show, want to love it all over again.

A host of other misfits with voices which pay homage to former TV contestants including a "Tesda" checkout girl, Irish twins, Wagner and bizarrely, a rapping Quasimodo. This seems maddest of them all - until the ending, when you realise his role.

I Can't Lie - I have always been a Nigel Harman fan and he could probably just have stood on the stage doing nothing and I would have thought it wonderful just to be in his presence.

But thankfully he puts in a great performance as a heightened caricature of the original - slightly more camp - and of course better looking than the real thing. A true triple threat - Harman sings, dances and acts and generally looks fabulous, even with a preposterous set of dazzlingly white teeth.

Cynthia Erivo's Chenice is a mixture of feisty and sweet. She has a tremendous voice to boot and her relationship with Alan Morrissey's boy next door Max is a vehicle for the show romance story.

Simon Bailey's Liam O'Deary is just a fantastic parody of X-Factor presenter Dermot O'Leary - every nuance of his movement is captured. I didn't even realise Dermot did that until Bailey heightened it in an impression. His song - I Love Hugging People I don't Know - was just genius!

Other favourites for me were Barlow the Dog, cleverly worked by Simon Lipkin, Jordy, the Geordie judge and a brilliantly understated but perfect Louis (Walsh).

Charlie Baker's hunchback was another highlight simply because it was so ludicrous!

Complemented by a very strong ensemble cast, everyone just looks like they are having the time of their lives - while gently poking fun at some of the technical problems the show had in preview.

It just needs interactive voting during the interval to make it complete but that would probably be a technical headache too far!

The final Simon Cowell reveal is just mad - but strangely appropriate - and to be honest all you would expect of the hilarious writer - Harry Hill.

If you have never seen the X Factor, you may well wonder what the heck you are watching, and I'm sure some critics will get on their high horse about it but I'd just say chill out, appreciate the madness and just laugh!

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