I admit I wasn’t the least bit excited the first time I heard there was going to be a musical based on the popular casting show The X Factor. The thing is, casting shows really don’t interest me. I have never watched any of them and I don’t plan to give them any attention in the future. That and the fact I am not British probably doesn’t make me the target audience for I can’t sing which has just opened at the London Palladium. However, the cast alone meant I simply had to go and see it.
I can’t sing tells the story of Chenice, a poor girl living in a caravan beneath a motorway who is persuaded by plumber max to audition for The X Factor. She gets in, her and Max both become finalists and it seems Chenice’s dream is coming true.
There is no denying that the show has its flaws. The stereotyped jokes get a bit too much with time and mocking every casting show cliché imaginable alone doesn’t make a show funny or good. The story of I can’t sing is paper-thin and I won’t even start with the ending which left me completely stunned (in a “What the…?!” kind of way). Plus I found the Hunchback and his “back story” (get the joke??) nothing but embarrassing even though I do get the idea behind it.
But despite that I laughed a lot and I left the theatre with a smile on my face.
The sets are impressive and well designed, the show has a great original score and the costumes range from lovely to completely outrageous – in a good way. It is obvious that a lot of money had been spent on the outer appearance of I can’t sing. This show definitely puts form over content. And that’s OK because I can’t sing doesn’t pretend to be anything but a silly night out. It doesn’t want to be Shakespeare. It simply wants the audience to sit down and laugh at funny characters and silly jokes and enjoy catchy songs. And for me it succeeds in doing so with few exceptions.
Simon Lipkin is wonderfully witty as Barlow (the dog) and Simon Bailey’s Liam O’Deary is quite simply hilarious. Then there is Cynthia Erivo who shines as Chenice and once again proves that she is one of the rising stars in London’s West End. Nigel Harman’s comic timing as Simon is spot on – I just wish his appearances were a little more balanced (two minor scenes in act one, almost never off stage in act 2). And despite having no idea who they were based on (this happens when you are a non X Factor watching German) I enjoyed Victoria Elliott’s Jordy and Ashley Knight’s Louis. Alan Morrissey does a great job as plumber / singer / songwriter Max and I have to give a special mention to Joseph Prouse whose Undertaker really made me chuckle.
I can’t sing is definitely a Marmite show. It is full of very silly jokes, stereotypes and some quite offensive clichés and it doesn’t really teach us anything beside the fact that casting shows are a platform for vanity and are lead by internal politics. So don’t watch this show expecting a clever and well-developed story and complex characters or you will most likely be disappointed. I can’t sing offers light entertainment and the opportunity to just stop thinking for 2 hours. And in our busy and often rather unfunny world maybe that is just what we need.