Monday, 5 May 2014

I can't sing - The X Factor Musical

Theatre addict as I am, I find it extremely difficult to stop myself from going to see a musical that is closing. There is something so irresistible about the possibility of a show never returning to the stage. And in this particular case, that is a more than likely outcome, following the early closure on the 10th May.

Having opened a mere 6 weeks ago surrounded by a lot of hype, the X Factor musical was absolutely panned by the critics. This obviously had a knock on effect on the sales which were not huge. And they desperately needed to be. Placed within one of the largest of the West End's theatres, the London Palladium, it demands over 1000 tickets to be sold every night in order to fill the house as is necessary for a new musical. Needless to say, this did not happen with sales dipping to as low as half what they were hoping for, on some nights.

However, the failure that has caused this musical to close so early can not be blamed on the size of the London Palladium, but on Harry Hill's poor writing. I am not a huge fan of Hill's slapstick comedy anyway, and as the musical continued it became more and more absurd with crazy props and a plot I couldn't always follow. Considering that only a couple of years ago, the age old classic of The Wizard of Oz was on this very stage, the X Factor musical was very unsophisticated. But even if you ignore my personal tastes in comedy, the plot was undeniably rubbish with undeveloped characters and an odd pacing - some parts moving far too slowly while others moved confusingly fast. The songs were musically samey throughout, the lyrics were uninspired and the choreography lacked individuality.  Props were overwhelmingly and unnecessarily large, in an effort to fill the Palladium's huge stage (or maybe that's why it was placed within this theatre in the first place) yet still the stage felt a little empty. However much you may enjoy Harry Hill, what became abundantly clear is that he is not talented when it comes to writing musicals.

Saying that, the cast did brilliantly with the underwhelming resources they had to work with. All were talented (and could indeed sing very well). There were some humorous moments that I managed a small giggle at, although most of these were from sarcastic referrals various characters made to the musical's early closure (that obviously would not have been added had the musical been a success).  They interacted with the audience in a faintly amusing way. Furthermore, the actors imitating the celebrity judges and Dermot O'Leary were spot on, playing their characters' mannerisms to a slightly exaggerated perfection.

The failure of this musical reminds me strongly of Viva Forever. Firstly this is due to the plot as they each chart a young girl's journey through a talent show and her subsequent disenchantment with fame. Secondly both were written by similarly successful comedians but both were flops. It just shows that musicals which are put on purely to cash in on a brand, don't work. Leave the theatre world alone to do what it does best. And I have to admit before I go, I am feeling faintly smug that this little part of Britishness has remained safe and (almost) untainted by Mr Simon Cowell's greed.

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