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Our verdict: Matt Cardle joins the cast of Memphis

Our features editor Ben Hewis reflects on the X Factor winner's West End debut

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In 2010 Matt Cardle was a painter and decorator living in Essex. Following a private school education and several unsuccessful attempts at fame in rock bands Darwyn and Seven Summers, he auditioned for, and won, ITV's The X Factor.

After being dropped by Simon Cowell's label after two years and watching One Direction - third place runner-up in his series of the talent show - achieve world domination, you'd forgive Cardle for packing it all in and swapping the microphone for the paintbrush.

I must admit that when Memphis producers announced earlier this year that Killian Donnelly - who left the show to join the cast of Kinky Boots - would be replaced by Cardle, I was ready to write it off as another popstar stunt casting, all too common these days as producers trade talent for saleability. But following last night's media performance I'm genuinely pleased to say that Matt has joined Beverley Knight (who continues to produce show-stopping performances night after night) not only in this sublime show but also as a bonafide musical theatre actor.

We all knew he'd be able to sing the songs - "Memphis Lives In Me" is a standout performance - but Cardle also brings canny comic timing, a wonderfully geeky-and-proud persona, not too shabby dance moves and bags of charisma.

I'm still of the persuasion that casting directors should first look towards the abundance of talent pouring out of UK drama schools when selecting their leading lads and ladies, but on this occasion it's thrilling to see a genuine talent given a second chance. Cowell's loss is the theatregoers gain.

Memphis the Musical is booking at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 31 October 2015. Click here for more information and to book tickets.

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