I Can't Sing the X Factor Musical review - March 2014

If I Can’t Sing! were an X Factor contestant it would have a large proportion of the full package.

I Can't Sing The X Factor Musical encapsulates modern day sentiment in a weird and wonderful piece of cultural candy floss. Or maybe a better analogy would be popping candy; a surprise and delightfully strange indulgence. Yep, I Can't Sing! is a lot like popping candy, it's a kind of low brow, brief enjoyment, that lacks the meatier chunks of a full meal, but fun none the less.

Depicting the fictional tale of young talent Chenice’s rise to glory via the X Factor experience, I Can’t Sing! is the lastest “new” musical on the block. And wow….this production has some serious talent, not to mention some serious funding from Sy-Co, behind it! If I Can’t Sing! were an X Factor contestant it would have a large proportion of the full package. It has the looks (thanks to fabulous set designs by Es Devlin) the moves (thanks to Kate Prince) the humour (provided by Harry Hill) and of course, the voice which by and large comes down to the unstoppable pipes of vocal powerhouse, Cynthia Erivo. But what of the heart…?

So lets start with the looks and the moves. Together Devlin and Prince create a full on theatrical extravaganza that is seriously pleasing to the eye. Having now seen the show, I can sympathise with the early technical issues as this show is a serious display of what is possible in modern day performance. I was drawn in from the very first scene and often couldn’t believe what was happening in front of my very eyes.

Chortle chortle, this play is kind of a laugh riot, but also kind of cringey at the same time. There are jokes. So many jokes. Hill goes all out to try and entertain all members of the audience with an array of humour, including a few nods to the art form itself such as an amusing one liner about War Horse, a less amusing comment on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and a down right wacky play on the haunted wig cupboard of the Victoria Palace Theatre. Niche. Whilst it is nice to try to accommodate for all types of humour, it can often alienate other members of the audience who don’t really get it. Maybe that is the nice thing about the show though. It’s very strange and perhaps you aren’t supposed to get it. Perhaps a bit too much Verfremdungseffekt?!

All actors on stage, from principle to wind effect (…yep!) played their roles with the utmost of conviction, which made all the weirdness of the show totally acceptable and at times lovable. I mean, who cares if Chenices’ granddad can’t survive without a peculiar pair of Wallace and Gromit wrong trousers that somehow power his iron lung enabling him to breathe (…yep!) we love him anyway because he is a hoot! Also, yeah, there is a strange talking dog empowered by puppeteer Simon Lipkin, but you know what, in this kooky universe it works!

Which of course brings me to the voice…oh Cynthia! I’m kind of thinking Ms Erivo is an alien sent down from planet, er, pop, to stun us all with her superhuman singing abilities. The fact that her character Chenise “can’t sing” is passable phase that of course turns out to be completely untrue as she belts out a few sky rocket notes, wowing the entirety of the audience in the ever beautiful London Palladium. The only thing that stands in her way to stardom are, of course, the judges. Hubble bubble toil and trouble, I’ve seen these three somewhere before? Oh right, it’s Louis, Simon and…um…"Geordie," who doesn’t quite fare so well in the fun poking sentiment. Nonetheless, they are solid and Nigel Harmen’s dance moves and general persona as the music mogal, come godlike being Mr Cowell was a joy.

So finally, what of the heart. Eeeek. Yes the show is fabulous, a glittering affair with plenty of pazazz… but what does it all mean? Very little. Rather like it’s real life counterpart, the X Factor, it is all a bit of fluff. It tickles the senses but doesn’t really leave any lasting sentiment. Yes, I Can’t Sing The X Factor Musical is theatrical popping candy; it is a fun assault on the senses, but soon after fizzles and dissolves away, leaving one with a sweet but short lived taste in the mouth.

26 March 2014, London Palladium