THE REAL problem with shows such as X Factor is that they educate audiences to expect less. They sell the idea that performers who are at best mediocre and at worst downright awful, have talent. Not just a little talent, but that they are the cream of the crop.
It’s all hype. From the sob stories engineered to engage viewers at a personal level - you know the drill, “I was brought up by my one-legged granny, who worked 26 hours a day, never slept or ate to make sure I had singing lessons after my parent were killed in a freak accident while milking cows on a friend’s farm which was about to go bankrupt,” - to the brain-washing... if Gary Barlow/Louis Walsh says an act is great often enough, the audience will simply accept it. Ignoring the fact that there are better voices out there who will never be discovered because they don’t look right or aren’t willing to sell-out.
This week I sat bemused for an hour and 45 minutes as Idina Menzel, a star of Broadway, ‘entertained’ at the Usher Hall. From the moment she stepped on stage 1000 fans screamed their admiration - it was akin to being at a Bay City Rollers gig back in the day.
Then she sang. And they screamed again. The next 105 minutes was an experience, as the singer launched into her life story, regularly highlighting people she had lost along the way. People cried. Then they screamed again... and sang along. In fact, some of those invited to duet with the star had stronger, better voices. A fact to which most appeared oblivious.
Pure X Factor, then.
It’s a pattern repeated in musicals across the UK at the moment - few do not sport at least one reality TV star with a ‘back story’ to sell.
Musical theatre should be more than this. More than a cynical exercise in hype over talent.