The eXtra Factor claims to bring to the stage the combination of music and backstage gossip which has made talent/reality TV shows like the X Factor and Fame Academy so popular. Sadly, as a stage show, it doesn’t really work, not quite knowing whether it wants to be a play, a musical, a pantomime or a pop concert.
The story follows the last two weeks in a reality television show called The eXtra Factor. The remaining six contestants share a house and we see their various storylines unravel in scenes interspersed between two songs from each of them.
The ultimate winner is voted for by the theatre audience via text message, creating the possibility of a different winner each night – a format employed with greater success by current West End incumbent Eurobeat.
The cast are enthusiastic, but a predictable script laden with obvious gags does nothing to help this lacklustre production. Antony Costa is surprisingly good as the young and innocent Cal, and Kevin Kennedy (formerly Curly Watts from Coronation Street) can always be counted upon to entertain.
However the main problem comes from the way the music and drama are mixed. Each time the action stops for a song, it feels like an interruption. The subsequent return of the drama does the same to the music. The result is a production which never settles down to the job of entertaining the audience, with storylines feeling too short and too obvious, and songs shoe-horned and only loosely associated with the plot.
The stage design, which doubles as both the contestants’ house and the show’s studio, is functional without being remarkable – like so much about this show. The saving grace of the evening is the music which, the occasional bum-note aside, is enjoyable and entertaining, although an emphasis on ballads denies the audience the chance for the sing-a-long they obviously craved.
If you devote your life to programmes such as the X-Factor, or absolutely have to see your favourite pop star in the flesh, then this might be the show for you. Otherwise, I would advise you to save your money and stay at home watching Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole & Co laughing at contestants on TV instead!
- Calum Kerr