Tag Archives: Alex Young

REVIEW: I Can’t Sing – The London Palladium

The X Factor has become the touchstone for all that is abhorrent about Britain today: the unhealthy obsession with celebrity and the overwhelming lack of desire of young people to become anything other than ‘famous’. With its tear-jerking back stories, meant to tug at our heart-strings, but which are increasingly making us turn off in droves, the mockable and deluded ‘losers’, the plucky ‘triers’ eternally looking for their big break, it was with raised eyebrows and cries of derision that the news that Harry Hill was writing an ‘X Factor musical’ was met.

But surely Hill wouldn’t harness himself to a project that might ruin a reputation built up over 20 years, would he? And how far could it really go with Simon Cowell on board as one of its producers? Ever the optimist, it was with an open mind that this reviewer headed to the Palladium to see I Can’t Sing!

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 08.52.38The crux of the matter is; Is it entertaining? Simply, the answer is a resounding yes. Did I laugh? Yes – a lot. Are there any good tunes? Yes – a fair few. That said, there are as many moments of bemusement as amusement throughout. There’s a hearty dose of the eccentricity and surrealism that characterises Hill’s work, but as amusing as this all is to a native audience one can’t help but wonder how the foreign tourists, upon whom much of the West End’s economic health depends, will fare with it’s UK-centric plot and cultural references. Indeed, on the evening I attended there was a joke worked in about MP Maria Miller’s resignation which had happened that morning.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 08.52.49The plot is as flimsy as tissue paper (basically that of a modest young hopeful with a tear-jerking back story and the eccentrics that surround the circus that is the TV talent show circuit) and the material sometimes seems as if it’s spread a little thin over the two and a half hour running time, but it rocks along at break-neck speed and there are enough cheesy jokes, mayhem, high octane energy, good tunes and eye-popping visuals to keep the interest levels high throughout.

Its greatest strength however is its cast, made up of the great and good of the UK musical theatre world:

Nigel Harman is suitably oily as a Messiah-like Simon whose self-adoration knows no bounds. He particularly shines in a Las Vegas tap-dance spectacular.

sing004Cynthia Erivo is our ‘heroine’ Chenice, an orphan who lives in a caravan with one plug socket under a flyover with her grandfather in an iron lung who daily has to make the choice between toast or oxygen! Erivo has a knockout voice which she gets to showcase well, particularly in the title song.

Simon Lipkin is Barlow, Chenice’s talking (to the audience) dog (yes, you read that correctly).

Relative unknown Alan Morrisey shines as Max the plumber, Chenice’s love interest and fellow contestant, he has an excellent voice and a natural charm that communicates well to the audience.

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Simon Bailey is a knockout as Liam O’Deary and has the real X Factor host’s mannerisms down pat. The only gripe being that we don’t get to hear Mr. Bailey’s rather fine singing voice enough.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 08.54.37Charlie Baker delivers a show-stealing turn as hunchback(!?!) Trevor Modo. There’s also a Subo-like checkout operator from Wales and spawn of Jedward Irish duo Altarboyz thrown into the mix.

imageThe other judges are ably played by Ashley Knight as a doddery Louis and Victoria Elliot as Jordy, a Tyneside celebrity singer whose speech is peppered with familiar ‘pets’ and ‘loves’ and whose contestants are “like little brothers and sisters to me”, sound a bit familiar?

sing002Steve Brown‘s songs cover almost every genre of popular music and there are some standouts, in particular Trevor Modo’s hysterical rap number and the lyrics are often a hoot. The accompanying band are on fine form too, if at times, at ear-splitting volume.

I Cant sing palladiumLes Mis it ain’t but entertaining it certainly is. It’s crude, at times surreal, often nonsense, always ear-drum burstingly loud and completely and utterly bonkers throughout but there’s much to enjoy here. Leave your preconceptions at the door and go along for the super silly, surreal ride. You might just enjoy it.

All images courtesy: http://www.icantsingthemusical.com/media/

REVIEW: High Society – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

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Wealthy socialite Tracy Lord is in the midst of planning her lavish summer wedding to dull but reliable George Kittredge, when ex-husband, C. Dexter-Haven turns up to disrupt the proceedings in an attempt to win her back.

Meanwhile the notorious Spy magazine, in possession of embarrassing information about Tracy’s father, sends reporter Mike Connor and photographer Liz Imbrie to cover the nuptials. Tracy begins an elaborate charade as a means of revenge on the pair, pretending that her Uncle Willy is her father Seth Lord and vice-versa. To complicate matters Connor falls in love with Tracy. Amid the farce she must choose between three very different men. As the day of the wedding draws nearer we’re left guessing which groom the bride will eventually choose.

There are few musicals that are as beloved as High Society, starting life in 1939 with Philip Barry’s play The Philadelphia Story, then coupled with the classic songs of Cole Porter for the 1956 MGM musical, even the hardest of hearts can’t fail to enjoy this tale of true love.

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This production oozes class from start to finish, reminiscent not only of a time and way of life gone by, but also a style of musical from another era. That said, with both Singin’ in the Rain and Top Hat riding high in the West End, the public’s appetite for golden era shows is at a peak, and indeed the packed house at this performance is testament to that.

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The cast, principals and ensemble alike, carry the show with refinement and skill. Michael Praed ( C. Dexter Haven) and Sophie Bould (Tracy Lord) both turn in highly polished, delicately refined performances: deftly handling the glorious songs of Cole Porter as well as the moments of drama and comedy.

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In support Teddy Kempner as roguish Uncle Willie raises the biggest laughs and little sister Dinah (Katie Lee) is the 12 year-old voice of reason in the piece.

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As reporters Mike Connor and Liz Imbrie, Daniel Boys and Alex Young provide a healthy disregard for the ways of these high society folk, the highlight of Boys’ performance being his delivery of the classic You’re Sensational. However, Young’s tendency to resort to comic voices in almost every line she delivers only serves to garble much of what she says and grates as the show goes on.

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Special mention must go to the ensemble who are particularly slick here: executing the intricate and period-perfect choreography of award-winning Andrew Wright flawlessly. The set design by Francis Connor and the beautiful lighting by the talented Chris Davey are also particularly effective.

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This is pure escapism, go along and allow this show to take you on a beautifully performed, picture perfect journey to a world of glamour and style.

High Society comes to Glasgow from 30th April to 4th May – tickets and information here 

All production photographs copyright Pamela Raith 2013 – http://pamelaraith.com/