It’s a no from me: The X Factor musical flops at big audition

No amount of coaching may be able to save Simon Cowell’s West End ‘parody’ that shows him as the Messiah, says Jamie Merrill, who saw a disastrous preview

It has the backing of the undisputed king of television talent shows, but the first performance of the X Factor musical didn’t exactly run as smoothly as a Saturday night ratings grabber.

Producers handed out free drinks to restless fans during Wednesday night’s first preview performance of I Can’t Sing! as a “technical glitch” led to an “unprecedented” 50 minute interval at the London Palladium.

Co-producer Simon Cowell, who is part-backing the £6m show, may hope I Can’t Sing! will be the biggest new musical to hit the West End since The Book of Mormon, but the music mogul was nowhere to be seen as patrons rushed to the exits at the end of the over-running show.

The less-than-cutting parody has been made with the pop supremo’s blessing, but is the brainchild of comedian Harry Hill and Olivier Award winning director Sean Foley, who took the highly unusual step of taking to the stage on Wednesday night to tell the audience “anything could happen” and to be prepared for technical problems with the complex set.

This warning came after pre-show speculation of “awful” tickets tales and “technical difficulties” led to the cancellation of the first two preview performances.

The Independent’s theatre reviewer will be offering a formal verdict later this month, but from a cheap seat in the stalls the less-than-hilarious tale of a young woman who lives in a caravan with a talking dog and finds fame on the talent show failed to impress this armchair critic.

The cast, led by ex-EastEnders actor Nigel Harman, meanders along with a clutch of maladjusted contestants, including a hunchback, who are dismissed as “mental” and “nutters” by the judges, while Hill’s cringeworthy jokes are laboured and repetitive and the ego-boosting lyrics dedicated to Cowell’s brilliance stagnate on a few laboured riffs.

Unless you are an unashamed X Factor fan, you will likely loathe this, with particular low points including “Please Simon”, a massive ego-boost to the small screen supremo which includes Cowell descending to earth like the Messiah on a giant cloud.

The interval saw Foley return to announce a “slight hitch” with the set and offer the first drink on the house, to one of the biggest cheers of the night. The safety curtain didn’t come back up for another 47 minutes, which according to one usher was the longest delay he’d ever heard of at the 104-year-old theatre. Some audience members lamented not taking the chance to escape for a meal in the West End (or just to escape, full stop).

Some others clearly enjoyed themselves, with some gags raising a big laugh.  But Louise Tsang, 30, wasn’t impressed by the show or won over by the free wine on offer. “You have to ask yourself if it’s worth paying full price for this compared to some of the other brilliant shows on in the West End at the moment,” she said. “I mean, where on Earth has the plot come from – there just doesn’t seem to be one.”

Influential theatreland blogger West End Whingers had raised concerns a few days before the preview, telling The Independent: “I find Harry Hill very funny, but given the reviews for The Harry Hill Movie he may have gone off the boil. And the whole X Factor parody thing is way too late and has already been (over)done. The moment has passed.”

Speaking at the end of the show, Hill told The Independent “there’s still a lot of work to do,” before being spirited away by a minder, while a spokesman for the production company said it was “working hard” to reduce the interval time and claimed the audience reaction had been “hugely positive”.

Back inside the Palladium, the first performance spluttered to a lingering finish, complete with a rainbow and romantic snowfall projected on the troublesome set and a sickening love story conclusion that “fame wasn’t worth the price”.

I’m not sure the £30 ticket was worth it either.

**

We have been asked to make clear that the comments by West End Whingers, quoted above, were made a few days before the preview performance, not afterwards as we said initially.  The article has been amended to correct this point.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone