Ever since ‘Pop Idol’ exploded on to our screens in 2001, TV talent shows have dominated viewing schedules. Even as I took my seat in the Journal Tyne Theatre last night, over 10 million people were tuning in to see series four of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ grind in to action on ITV.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em the format shows no sign of abating, so it was inevitable that somebody somewhere would seize the golden opportunity to produce a musical on the subject.
What a shame, then, that somebody somewhere didn’t get there before writer Dave Simpson and the team behind Pop Star The Musical.
Peter Kay’s ‘Britain’s Got The Pop Factor’ and more recently Harry Hill’s ‘The K-Factor’ have proven that this is a genre ripe for top-drawer satire. It is so engrained into popular culture that the moment Sam Kane strides on in a tight black v-neck t-shirt we know immediately that his Ricky may (disclaimer: or may not) bear a striking resemblance to a certain high-waisted-trouser wearing multi millionaire music mogul.
But any opportunities for parody, insight or humour are buried underneath a dismal script. Crudity seemed to be the order of the night, which may sound rather Mary Whitehouse-y but it just didn’t sit right and seemed unnecessary. Any spark with the audience came during the songs, and it was soon lost again when the action switched to the shared house and another slow, coarse,clunky scene.
With the show so poorly written and directed, it relied heavily on the talent of its performers and all of the cast slogged their guts out.
Divided between their off-air antics and on-stage performances, we saw the six contestants battling it out for a £1m recording contract, all under the watchful eye of The eXtra Factor’s sleazy presenter/producer.
Fomer Hollyoaks beauty Ciara Janson and Blue’s Antony Costa made a nice dumb and dumber couple, while Miranda Wilford as ambitious Harriet most hit the mark with her concocted sob-story. Walford’s bad-lad John Altman as ‘the-one-with-the-tragic-past’ was for choreography what ‘Pop Idol’ judge Dr Fox is for the medical profession, but there was something endearing about his efforts. One-time talent show contestant Rob McVeigh (‘Any Dream Will Do’) did not have a great deal to do as Jamie, but he sang well and bared his chest which pleased many of the crowd.
My vote (yes, I did text vote – you have to enter in to the spirit!) went to Gina. Ex-Hollyoaks actress Sarah Jane Buckley as the gutsy single mother surprised me with her excellent singing. Her power ballad face-off with Wilford was a much-needed highlight.
Despite all of this I did smile as well as cringe; I laughed; I clapped along and I shouted out the name of my favourite in the ‘tense’ reveal of the finalists. There was something Panto-esque about it all that needed to be better exploited, although the vulgarity put pay to any charm it may have had.
So there is an argument to be made for Pop Star The Musical to be listed in the 'it's so bad it's good' category. Possibly.