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
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea