I suppose it was inevitable that before long we would get a spoof musical of the hugely popular ITV talent show The X Factor and it now arrives in the shape of I Can’t Sing (London Palladium) written by TV comedian Harry Hill together with Steve Brown. But this show manages to be both an affectionate celebration and funny parody, set to a jaunty musical score.
The heroine is an orphaned teenage girl and would-be astrobiologist Chenice, living in a caravan under a flyover with her ailing grandfather in an iron lung. Her only friend is a talking dog, but then she meets a ukulele-playing plumber Max and the two of them decide to find fame and fortune on The X Factor.
This is a musical which hits all the right notes, coming as it does when the nation is gripped with an obsession with fame and celebrity. It mixes the surreal and the satirical in an irreverent mischievous way, going behind the microphones and under the judges’ desks to reveal big bust ups huge voices, and, at the same time, telling a touching love story. It is at times hilarious and at other times vulgar and wildly over the top, but its eccentricity is oddly endearing. There are some scenes I will treasure such as Simon Cowell – or rather the actor playing him – making his grand entrance, descending from the skies, or later when this sinister svengali (the show mercilessly sends him up) steps out of his limousine and, realising he has forgotten something, opens the door and sheepishly brings out his new baby.
The song by Steve Brown, with additional lyrics by Harry Hill, offer an exuberant pastiche in a wide variety of styles. There is an amusing rap number sung by a furious hunchback called Trevor Modo, as well as soaring power ballads for Chenice, including the title number in which while protesting she can’t sing, her voice swoops and soars to great effect.
This indeed is a show which could well make a star out of its leading lady Cynthia Erivo, who combines a Cinderella-like charm with formidable lung power, in the role of Chenice. There is also a terrific performance by Nigel Harman as Cowell, exuding impenetrable self-regard and bearing more than a passing resemblance to the man and fine support comes from Simon Lipkin as a loquacious canine, Billy Carter as a camp TV producer and, Simon Bailey as an unctuous Irish host.
Es Devlin’s ingenious and often spectacular sets are a sight for sore eyes!
This, I feel, will prove to be a popular hit for musical theatre lovers of all ages.
Booking until October 25
Box office: 0844 811 0058