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A CurtainUp London Review
I Can't Sing
This musical has comedy at its heart although, on the second viewing last week, I was starting to believe in the romance between Chenice (Cynthis Erivo) and plumber and green eco singer Max (Alan Morrissey). Sean Foley and Harry Hill's I Can't Sing is more about jokes than romantic outcomes.
A London suburban house has schoolboy Simon (Noah Key) trying to devise a way to make money and a stageful of boys in school uniform dance variations of the figure X with arm movements crossing and recrossing in "If That's Not Entertainment."
"It Could Be Me" has a line of hopefuls who want to be contestants in the X Factor. Our favourites are there, the Susan Boyle-alike (although she was discovered on another Simon Cowell show Britain's Got Talent) Katie Secombe playing supermarket cashier Brenda, Steven Serlin as Vladimir based on the posing Wagner and a pair, Altarboys, Irish zany boys with a nod to Jedward, the twins from Ireland.
Chenice lives in a caravan under the motorway with her grandfather (Joe Speare) who is encased in an iron lung which runs from the sole electric socket in the caravan. This means that in order to boil the kettle or make toast Grandpa has to be momentarily switched off. Their pet dog Barlow (Avenue Q veteran Simon Lipkin) has plenty of comic material for this poverty struck family who live off road kill.
So to the auditions for the X Factor and Liam O'Deary (Simon Bailey) delighted me in his imitation of Dermott O'Leary the animated compère of the real show with his spinning agility with the microphone and his hugging personality. Simon Bailey's performance will bring a smile to your face.
Armed with a Tazer, Billy Carter plays Simon's protector and producer Gerrard Smalls in high, and very funny, camp. Simon arrives in half a yellow Rolls Royce topically carrying the new baby Eric in a baby carrier and the crowd sing "Please Simon". Brenda will sing "All Woman" with choreography seeing her seductively stretched out on a supermarket till moving belt. Poor Grandpa passes on and Chenice goes to the Victorian undertakers in a scene from Oliver!.
Chenice who has scientific ambitions believes that she can't sing but her show stopping number with its ironic allusions to musical ability "I Can't Sing" is stand out musically, a lovely tune and singing to die for. She is joined by Max in a duet where he sings, "You Can Sing".
Comedian Charlie Baker plays Trevor Modo in a character based on the Hunchback of Notre Dame in a wig giving him more than a passing resemblance to Andrew Lloyd Webber meets Richard III. In a scene with break dancing monks, this is reminiscent of that strange French Canadian musical Notre Dame de Paris. Interestingly the ALW joke I heard at preview was left out. ALW owns the London Palladium, the musical's home.
Max and Chenice sing "Missing You Already" a lovely ballad with textspeak captions. The First Act closes with the nation on sofas for "X Factor Fever" as the audience gather with popcorn to watch the progression through the Judges' Houses to the Live Shows.
Act Two opens with a number reminiscent of Jerry Springer the Opera as an army of gold breast-plated Valkyries greet Simon, patron saint of fame, lowered from Heaven to a stirring mock operatic chorus. We meet the other judges Jordy (Victoria Elliot) a singer from the north-east and from Ireland, Louis (Ashley Knight). Simon's tap routine with the Tiller Girls (at least two of these Tiller girls are boys) is stylish. Altarboys give us a Riverdance spoof before Jordy's publicity fuelled mission to split up Chenice and Max. A scene in the shower: Max the plumber mending a tap with Jordy looks like the Rocky Horror sex scene behind the smoked glass. Grandpa comes back in a scene from Ghost or even Hamlet to remind Chenice of her priorities. Chenice gives a Beyoncé concert finale. Again Cynthia Erivo has a magnificent voice. Max sings the pretty tune, "The Song I Wrote For You". There is an ironic twist with Trevor Modo reappearing and a largely irrelevant but spectacular finish!
The sets are colourful and many, the lighting fabulous for this tongue in cheek pastiche of a show. It's great fun identifying the stolen moments from other shows. Cynthia Erivo is a singing sensation but Simon Bailey's Liam O'Deary was so brilliant that I wanted to take him home with me!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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