Let it Shine: Starway to Heaven

Gary Barlow leads the judges on Let It Shine
Gary Barlow leads the judges on Let It Shine

The BBC’s new Saturday night entertainment show received mixed reactions – as did ITV’s slightly tweaked format of The Voice.

Gary Barlow was in West End musical mode, opening the show with a full stage production that may have flummoxed X-Factor viewers, but set the stall out nicely for those of us who previously enjoyed the hunt for Maria, Dorothy, Joseph and Nancy.

This is not just another singing talent show, this is geared towards finding leading musical theatre actors who have the talent and stamina for an 8 shows a week run.

The five chosen lads will form ‘The Band’ and it’s not necessarily the best vocalists who will make it. Think Take That and the boy band formula: The Quiet one; The Cheeky One; The Mysterious One; The Singer and The Dancer.

It’s more important that these boys gel as a unit and with that in mind, Let it Shine already won the night, having all the lads in the Play Room, chatting naturally to each other, playing darts and comparing notes.

They were joined by Mel Giedroyc, who left the cringworthy “how are you feeling” questions outside and simply congratulated, commiserated or chilled with the contestants. Take That’s Mark and Howard were on hand to dish out advice and encouragement, and who better to do that?

Take That's Mark and Howard have words of encouragement for the contestants on Let it Shine
Take That’s Mark and Howard have words of encouragement for the contestants on Let it Shine

There’s a warm heart to the show, with positive feedback, critique and encouragement from judges Martin Kemp, Amber Riley, Dannii Minogue and Boss Man Gaz, whether the contestant made it through or not – a “cruelty free zone” was how I saw it referred to on Twitter. Pacey editing meant we weren’t hanging around, wishing they’d get a move on (we’ll talk about The Voice elsewhere). And hallelujah – no sob stories!

Two outstanding performances of the night, the first of which was Nicky Price (what is it with the Welsh and singing?) Powerful yet subtle, he also had the charisma and stage presence needed.

The episode concluded with Jason Brock, already appearing in the West End, who had the judges standing before the end of the performance. I’ve rarely heard a Whitney song sung better, we were a little way into it before I realised what it was, such was the individual stamp he put on it. Fantastic voice, twinkly eyes and smile – pretty adorable all round really.

Of the rest, a confident and cheeky Essex lad Nick Car(l)sbeg made it through; Gary made the joke we all wanted to make but now can’t, while both myself and judge Martin wished Quentin had stuck with the slower, piano version of Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher – he definitely lost impact when he upped the tempo, but did enough to get through. Deglean Arthurs was the surprise of the night – a voice so deep, Satan sat up. However, he showed he had range, and the lower one wasn’t his best. Bags of personality with lots of potential.

I wasn’t overly impressed with all of them, but since there was nobody outrageously talented who didn’t make it through, I had no reason to shout at the telly and look forward to next week.

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