One-time painter and decorator (and winner of The X Factor’s most-watched series, no less), Matt Cardle has now made his West End debut as Huey Calhoun in the Tony and Olivier-winning musical, Memphis.
Matt Buttell rounds up some of the best things Cardle brings to the show after his opening week…
1. A great sense of comedy
Ever since Chad Kimball’s original incarnation of the role on Broadway, the character of Huey Calhoun has been something of a goofball. But, with Cardle, the producers of Memphis have struck gold. Matt demonstrates an incredible sense of comedic timing, pulling hilarious faces, kooky dance moves and demonstrating breezy charm throughout the show. He even manages to raise a few laughs from his cast mates, which gives Memphis a lovely, renewed sense of freshness.
2. Stunning vocals
As any X Factor aficionado will testify to, Matt Cardle has a wonderful voice; but his vocals is so well suited to the songs of Memphis that you could argue the role was written for him. Particular highlights included the gloriously heart-breaking Memphis Lives In Me and act one barnstormer Radio, but his voice also shines during ensemble pieces like Make Me Stronger and Stand Up, too.
3. A true acting talent
Beyond the vocals, what’s most pleasing about Matt Cardle’s West End debut is his acting prowess. He manages to hold down a convincing accent without slipping up once, is barely off the stage during the entire run, and fronts an incredibly slick and sexy show without so much as breaking a sweat – not bad for his first time treading the boards. With Huey, Matt also manages to demonstrate real light and shade in his performance. There’s the crazy Huey, yes (see point one), but also a touching, believable character who you’re truly rooting for. In doing so, Matt Cardle The X Factor Winner makes you forget he’s Matt Cardle The X Factor Winner and truly becomes Huey Calhoun.
4. Real chemistry with the rest of the cast
Obviously the chemistry between Huey and Felicia (Beverley Knight) is key to Memphis’ success; and while Matt and his leading lady clearly have chemistry in spades, what’s most impressive is Matt’s camaraderie with the rest of the cast. This is most notable in the scenes between Huey and his mother Gladys (Claire Machin), but there’s also a clear empathy between the new Huey and the likes of Delray (Rolan Bell), Bobby (Jason Pennycooke), Gator (Tyrone Huntley) and Mr Simmons (Mark Roper), too. The effect is a true family feel to the show, which feels right given Memphis’ themes and tone.
5. A hot bod
Slightly gratuitous in it’s inclusion in this list (but worthy of note all the same), is the fact that Matt Cardle is in pretty great shape. In one short but crucial scene, Huey arrives onstage in a shirtless sense of undress, and the effect certainly didn’t go unnoticed on the night we saw the show. It helps to have a hero you can really fancy, right?
Memphis is currently showing at London’s Shaftesbury Theatre until October 2015, book now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.
Like this review? See more from Matt @DarceyButtell.