Its producers hope it will be the biggest new musical to hit the West End since The Book of Mormon launched last year, but the future of I Can’t Sing!, a parody of The X Factor, has been called into question after the show's opening preview performance was cancelled for the second time in a row this weekend.
The £6m musical, which tells the story young woman who lives in a caravan with a talking dog and finds fame on the talent show, stars former EastEnders actor Nigel Harman who leads a cast including characters based on Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh.
The venture, which after two delays is now due to open on Wednesday at the Palladium Theatre, is the brainchild of comedian Harry Hill and directed by Sean Foley. However, reports have suggested the production, which has the support and financial backing of X Factor supremo Simon Cowell, has suffered “awful” ticket sales, while a report in The Telegraph this morning said some of the shows dancers “were still some way off putting it together”.
The show’s troubles come after a string of setbacks for West End productions, including Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musical, Stephen Ward, which was cancelled after just three months due to poor ticket sales. This afternoon tickets were still available for the new opening night of I Can't Sing!.
Influential Theatreland blogger West End Whingers told 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.”
Known cryptically only as Phil, the blogger added, that while it is not unusual for previews to be cancelled at short notice (it happens quite often), the big question is whether the West End needs “another X Factor-type musical after the horrors of Viva Forever!?”
The Spice Girls musical was the last production to be inspired by the reality television industry, however its troubled run at the Piccadilly Theatre closed early last summer after poor ticket sales and damming reviews.
In a statement Rebecca Quigley, producer for Stage Entertainment, blamed a “fault” with a “particularly intricate” piece of the set for the I Can’t Sing! delays.
She said: “I’d like to offer our sincere apologies to everyone who has bought a ticket for this week’s preview performances and can assure you that everyone at the Palladium is working night and day to guarantee that I Can’t Sing!, in all its hilarious, all-singing, all-dancing glory, will begin previews next week as scheduled.”
A spokesman for Stage Entertainment told The Independent there was “no truth” in suggestions of poor ticket sales or trouble behind the scenes at the production.
He added that Cowell, who is backing the show financially as well as lending it his brand, has “visited the dressing rooms and is very happy with the production.”
However, disappointed fans have labelled the delays a “shambles”. Selena Zafar, from Manchester, who is hoping to travel down to see the show next week, said: “I guess all new shows have technical issues at the start but this does seem to be rumbling on a while… you get the feeling they just aren't ready. Will they be ready next week? Who knows?"
Update (13/3/14): The Independent now understands that The Telegraph article to which this piece refers (in quoting its mention of the show’s dancers being “some way off putting it together”) was based on interviews and observations that took place in rehearsals in early February, almost a month before the first preview.