I Can't Sing Review
It's been a while since I've been able to wholeheartedly recommend a new musical in London but I'm delighted to be able to report this one is a real treat. In fact I haven't enjoyed a show so much since The Producers or Book of Mormon, it's that good.
All 3 shows share the same mischievous love of old fashioned musical comedy which they send up to the hilt. The combination of laugh, even groan, out-loud jokes, fantastic singing and dancing and eye popping spectacle make this a treat for everyone - and to think gossip was that this would turn out to be a disaster.
In fact I haven't enjoyed a show so much since The Producers or Book of Mormon, it's that good
Some of the best shows at the moment seem to be by writers coming fresh to the genre unencumbered by the rules and traditions that so confine writers who think they've studied the form. In this case comedian Harry Hill brings the same crazy humour, so beloved from his TV show, to the stage of the Palladium.
He sets out to parody TV talent shows, and I didn't think it was possible to say anything new about this often pastiched entertainment. Indeed shows like the X Factor have become so cynical that they're ludicrous in their own right.
But instead of trying to take gentle swipes as many writer have already done Hill takes the essence of these contests, where wannabe pop stars try to win public votes with their performances and their tragic family histories and he pushes them to ridiculous extremes.
So his central character comes from an absurdly tragic home, a condemned caravan underneath a fly over, where she lives on road kill with her grandfather in an iron lung, her talking dog (only we hear him) and an erratic power supply that prevents her from watching the X Factor.
She also believes she can't sing which is the most absurd of all because as played by Cynthia Erivo she has an incredible voice that's given full rein to stop the show every time she opens her mouth.
When a cute plumber, who also has X Factor aspirations, accidentally turns off the electricity supply that keeps her grandad alive, entering the X Factor seems the obvious way to build a new life and that's when the fun really starts.
Harry Hill obviously shares the nations love for every element of the talent show which are beautifully integrated, taking all the absurdity and exaggerating it beyond funny to hilarious. We get the crazy fans queuing for an audition, their surface camaraderie underpinned by ruthless jealousy, the ludicrously self-important security and production staff one of whom teasers the contestants like cattle and warns women not to look at Simon Cowell directly lest they fall pregnant. Best of all Simon Bailey ruthlessly captures all presenter Dermot O'Leary's mannered speech patterns and contorted physicality.
Then after the interval we're into the Alice in Wonderland surrealism of the contest's live final where a Viking opera chorus welcome Nigel Harman as Simon Cowell on to the stage like a Nordic god.
Harman is terrific at capturing Cowell's swaggering virility and self belief that's so over macho that it's camp. Poor Louis Walsh is presented as an ancient, chimp like creature who's zimmer frame is whipped away from him just before he's pushed on stage.
If I had one criticism it's that the female characters are sent up with a far nastier one dimensional edge. The character representing those overweight, middle-aged women who find fleeting fame is made to look ugly and desperate and the Cheryl Cole figure is just played as a ditzy slut.
Director Sean Folley is a genius with using funny props and visual gags. Here the huge budget he's been given to do this with defies belief with vast Terry Gilliam style props, including a stage filling mock up of our heroines mouth, complete with a giant fly that are used for one quick gag.
The songs already sound like musical comedy classics and embrace a wide range of influences.
The songs already sound like musical comedy classics and embrace a wide range of influences. A hunch back contestant (Charlie Baker) delivers Gangster rap, Cowell, his hilariously hyper side kick (Billy Carter) and Victoria Elliot, in the Cheryl Cole role all have terrific songs celebrating various shades of self love. Whilst our compare sings "I love hugging people I don't know."
Don't miss this visual and musical feast and the more you know about the X factor the more you'll laugh.