Tag Archives: Simon Bailey

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: Phantom of the Opera – Edinburgh Playhouse with John Owen-Jones, Simon Bailey, Katie Hall.

After 25 phenomenal years in the West End and the 25th anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall last year, this new production, based on the Albert Hall celebration, is touring the UK.

The rather decaying glamour of the Edinburgh Playhouse with its faded colours, peeling paint and candle-lit gloom, is unintentionally, atmospherically and appropriately setting the scene for this production of what it is arguably Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterwork Phantom of the Opera.

The key to the success of this re-staged Phantom is a foot-perfect, note-perfect and emotionally pitch-perfect cast. Added to that the brilliantly inventive design and new direction by Laurence Connor this is now a show with greater emotion and depth.

John Owen-Jones as The Phantom is an actor playing his strongest role. It is a role he has played a record-breaking 2000 times but to his credit it is as fresh as someone playing it for the first time. He brings real emotion and a tender vulnerability to his acting which makes you feel the pain of the man in the mask. He does, as always, sing with a voice so beautiful it would soften the hardest of hearts. 

Katie Hall, is a very young Christine, but despite her youth she manages to convey the necessary fearfulness, love and a real sense of longing, which makes the love triangle between the Phantom, and Raoul far more believable.

Simon Bailey is renowned for his beautiful voice but here he gets the chance to show his acting chops, delivering a well-rounded performance, imbuing the often weakly characterised Raoul with drive and strength.

The production is impeccable throughout. It would be easy to enthuse for hours about the set, costumes and music, but that would only spoil the surprises in store. Tickets are like gold-dust for this month-long run and deservedly so, it is a rare thing to see a cast of this calibre and a production of this quality on tour. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket – you’ll regret it if you don’t.

Runs until 20th October at Edinburgh Playhouse details here.

REVIEWS: Ramin Karimloo in concert – The Road To Find Out – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 20th May 2012

Now this is a difficult one – a concert by probably the biggest male-lead in West End musicals at the moment, however, this show is his attempt to break free from the musical theatre world into the mainstream. The problem is that the majority of the audience are here on the strength of his performances and reputation as a musical theatre performer. So how the non-musical theatre numbers go down is going to be interesting…

…so how did it go?

Well it’s a tribute to Karimloo’s engaging warmth and sincerity, as well as his phenomenal talent, that right from the first song, he had the audience in the palm of his hands and kept them there throughout. The audience itself was on astounding form – with whoops and cheers ringing out throughout the auditorium all night. Karimloo himself tweeted after the show:

“Thank you Glasgow. Last night was unreal. I’ll never forget it. We had such a great time. Now for a long drive home. But so worth it. Thanks for the kilt love. It was a kind present sent to me before arriving to Scotland from my Scottish friend. I’m grateful. See you soon.”

as did his guests for the evening Jonathan Ansell and Simon Bailey:

  His debut UK album, which entered at number 16 in the charts was the focus of the night and despite my misgivings about this being neither a musical theatre night or an out and out concert of his own material – this was just a sublime evening’s entertainment.

There were a few brief trips to Musical Theatre Land with The Impossible Dream, Radames Letter, ‘Til I Hear You Sing, a banjo version of Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Somewhere and Bring Him Home and, of course, an encore of Music of the Night: these showcased his considerable vocal skills at their best, however, they weren’t what moved me most. He actually looked uncomfortable singing these songs and I think the rapturous reception with which his own material was received made him all the more keen to shake off the shackles of musical theatre.

Each of the original or collaborative compositions from the album were delivered with such sincerity that you couldn’t help but be won over. All of the songs from the album also played out much better live than on the recording – the life he gave to them on stage elevated them to a level that the production of the album couldn’t.

He is obviously a deeply spiritual man and he talked about his journey from Iran to Canada via Italy, and eventually his leaving his home and family to come to London with one suitcase to “become the Phantom” and now “well I’ve done that – what now?” This concert was aptly titled The Road To Find Out and the way the material was presented here, really made you want to go on the journey with him. 

His first guest Jonathan Ansell provided a musical theatre moment for the crowd with Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar, a duet on Muse’s Guiding Light and a surprisingly good version of Queen’s Somebody To Love which raised the roof.

Second guest Simon Bailey, currently Raoul in the Phantom national tour also provided a moment of musical theatre magic with Why God Why? from Miss Saigon as well as an emotional duet with Karimloo which Bailey dedicated to his recently deceased father.

The night finished with a second encore of Green Day’s Time of Your Life with the good citizens of Glasgow providing the final words of the song.

This is a calculated move away from musical theatre and it’s great to see an artist of Karimloo’s talent spread his wings, previously I would have cautioned against any musical theatre artist completely abandoning his roots – but I would urge Karimloo to have the courage of his convictions and take the time to grow and develop as a songwriter as this was a truly magical night. I would also hate to see him abandon the theatre stage as his is a rare talent – the West End would be bereft without the promise of him eventually returning.

I was a fan before, but I’m an even bigger fan now. A truly special evening.