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I Can’t Sing: An extravaganza full of fun, humour, and emotion

| Theatre | 30/04/2014

I Can't Sing at the London Palladium
I Can't Sing at the London Palladium

On the face of it I Can’t Sing, an X Factor musical, may be seen as a last ditch attempt to reinvigorate an ailing talent show. However, the Palladium is the perfect destination, to bring together the often bonkers, and surreal satirical fun of I Can’t Sing. The question as you take your seat in the Palladium is, can Harry Hill, a comedic genius in his own right, transform, what has in recent years been a dire talent show, into comedic gold? And the answer is a definite yes. I Can’t Sing has all the best comedic attributes that we love about Harry Hill. There was no fence that Harry would not knock down in his pursuit for fun; I Can’t Sing is an extravaganza full of fun, humour, and emotion.

Despite the hilarities going on on-stage, I Can’t Sing suffers from a narrative that attempts to do too much. In true X Factor style the heroine, Chenice (Cynthia Erivo), an orphaned teenager who lives under a fly-over, with her ailing grandfather who is confined to an iron-lung. Her only friend is a talking dog, Barlow (Simon Lipkin), that is until she meets a ukulele-save-the-world-singer-songwriter-plumber, Max (Alan Morrissey), and the two decide to seek fame and fortune on the X Factor. So far so good, but I Can’t Sing, whilst retaining a spectacular and smart on-stage presentation, adds too many levels to the narrative. In some ways I Can’t Sing is only part an X Factor musical, with all the different contestants you meet in the first half, and in the second a series of sketches involving the judges, don’t come together to form a complete whole. Still you can’t help but love I Can’t Sing, which veers much closer to a brilliant comedy; it’s a satirical take on a talent show we’ve all come to love or hate.

I Can’t Sing is a comedic triumph, but it’s also a technological triumph. The sets, the special effects, the orchestra, are all seamlessly brought together to produce theatrical gold. The lyrics by Steve Brown, additional lyrics and story by Harry Hill, have together produced London’s best new musical. There’s no longer any talk of I Can’t Sing’s opening night glitches and problems, because at present it’s nothing more than a triumph.

One thing that makes more of an impact than a battering ram demolishing Chenice’s caravan, is how much I Can’t Sing just loves to mock its messiah Simon Cowell. Whether I Can’t Sing is an attempt by Simon to show us that he too is human (although the ending of this show throws in a few question marks over this); or an attempt to cut down his over-sized ego, the show which might at times overdo its mockery of Simon, is still immensely entertaining. From the start of the show where a spaceship zooms in from the furthest reaches of the galaxy straight to young Simon’s house, where he is having a light-bulb moment about a great future talent show with an X in its name, you sense that there was no avenue that writer Harry Hill would not venture down, to achieve comedy gold.

L-R Simon Lipkin (Barlow), Cynthia Erivo (Chenice) and Alan Morrissey (Max) in I Can't Sing! at the London Palldium Photographer Tristram Kenton

L-R Simon Lipkin (Barlow), Cynthia Erivo (Chenice) and Alan Morrissey (Max) in I Can’t Sing! at the London Palldium Photographer Tristram Kenton

In amidst all the weird and wonderful offerings on-stage, there were some delightful and comedic performances. The starlet of the show is Cynthia her rendition of I Can’t Sing sends cold shudders down your spine. Cynthia is a natural on stage, and her voice is something to behold, as you sit in complete awe of her musical talents. There are also grand performances from the likes of Alan as Max, Simon Bailey as host Liam O’Deary, and not to list the complete cast, but they all gave inspiring performances. A special mention has to be given to Simon Lipkin who portrays the Barlow the pet; this could have been a move of comedic disaster, having a talking puppet-like dog in the show, but instead, it was a move of comedy genius. Lipkin provides I Can’t Sing with an added layer of comedic value, although some of his antics on stage were veering close to inappropriate, nevertheless we still love him.

L-R Ashley Knight (Louis), Victoria Elliott (Jordy) and Nigel Harman (Simon) in I Can't Sing Tristram Kenton

L-R Ashley Knight (Louis), Victoria Elliott (Jordy) and Nigel Harman (Simon) in I Can’t Sing Tristram Kenton

The three judges, Nigel Harman as Simon, Victoria Elliot as Jordy, and Ashely Knight as Louis give cracking performances. Harman, dressed as only Simon does, with half his shirt’s buttons undone; with a face gleaming with moisturiser, and is a delight on stage. Elliot’s Jordy is a little hard to stomach at times, with the constant use of Cheryl’s favourite words, ‘pet’ and ‘love’, but she like Knight’s portrayal of a frail Louis, provide I Can’t Sing with an extra level of amusement.

I Can’t Sing is a musical triumph, which brings together the weird and wonderful things we love and hate about the X Factor into fun-filled theatrical show. Though the narrative could do with a few tweaks, here and there, I Can’t Sing is nevertheless, an extravaganza filled with fun, humour and emotion.

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