Sometimes in the West End, you just can’t see where your money’s gone: £50 or more to see a show with a no-frills set, a cast of five, and a pisstake profit margin, shelled out for in the weary knowledge that you truly are capitalism’s bitch.
Well that’s not the case with Harry Hill’s musical ‘I Can’t Sing!’. Notionally an officially sanctioned spoof of ‘The X Factor’, the comedian’s West End debut is a work of near operatic whimsy in which you can see every penny being pissed up the wall with gleeful abandon.
There’s the giant pair of lips – ravishingly designed by the great Es Devlin – that appear for, ooh… 30 seconds. There’s the flying sofas. And the dancing supermarket checkouts. And the dead pig. And the human fly. And the guy hired to play the wind. And the rapping hunchback. And the leprechauns. And Young Simon Cowell. And Sinitta. And the totally mental thing that happens at the end that I can’t say what it is.
The first half of Sean Foley’s production is as joyously weird an hour as I’ve spent at the theatre: a flailing riot of sketches, cut-scenes and ridiculous notions that introduces us to plucky young Chenise (Cynthia Erivo), a girl who lives in a caravan under the Westway with her talking dog Barlow (a puppet manned by Simon Lipkin) and her iron-lung-bound Grandpa (Joe Speare). A series of really weird events leads her to ‘The X Factor’, and if only half of the gags are actually funny, the chutzpah of spending so much money on so much silliness is exhilarating – I laughed at the audacity as much as the jokes.
In its second half, reality TV catches up with ‘I Can’t Sing!’, as the show settles into a ho-hum send-up of ‘The X Factor’. Nigel Harman’s Simon Cowell is surprisingly bland; Ashley Knight’s Louis Walsh and Victoria Elliot’s Cheryl Cole-alike Jordy are one-joke characters; so is Simon Bailey’s show host, but he channels Dermott O’Leary’s air of matey creepiness so perfectly that I wanted more.
But the breathless eccentricity of the first half is gone, exposing ‘I Can’t Sing!’s weaknesses. No fault of winsome soulster Erivo, but Chenise isn’t much of a character. Steve Brown’s songs are pedestrian: a reggae pastiche, a disco pastiche, a rap pastiche, a power ballad pastiche… nothing that lasts longer than a smirk. And it’s hard to see what the point really is: Hill never puts the knife into ‘The X Factor’, and while Cowell is in fact the producer, I don’t get the impression Hill is holding back – he just doesn’t have a lot to say.
Before the interval, ‘I Can’t Sing!’ is ‘Harry Hill: the Musical’, afterwards it’s ‘X Factor: the Musical’. I’m not convinced anybody will love both. The West End’s newest contestant has the whiff of an expensive folly to it, but for sheer balls it gets a 'yes' from me.
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I went to this with very low expectations after reading mediocre and poor review so I was surprised at how enjoyable it was. It is essentially a Harry Hill musical about the X factor so don't go expecting anything high brow. It is daft, but funny with excellent and energetic performances. The Dermot actor is particularly good.
Pleasantly surprised at how good this was. I saw it last night and loved some of the tunes and found it genuinely funny even though I don't normally find Harry Hill that amusing...
I went to see " I CANT SING" at the London Palladium last week with my two sons aged 7 and 11 and we all really enjoyed it. The dancing and singing was fantastic. It was a " feel good" experience and laugh out loud. With jokes to keep both adults and children happy. Whether your a fan of X factor or Simon Cowell doesn't matter as it actually sends it all up in an intelligent and humorous way. Excellently written by Harry Hill I was glad I didn't read the reviews or we could have missed an uplifting and fun night out. .If Chekhov is your thing maybe give it a miss.
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