More and more details are emerging about the upcoming X Factor musical which is now to be called I Can’t Sing! The Musical. The show, which had the original working title of X Factor – It’s Time to Face the Musical, is set to open at the London Palladium on 26th March 2014 (previews from 27th February) with tickets now on sale.
Previous announcements about the X Factor musical revealed that it will feature music by Steve Brown, who has written 19 original songs for the show, and that comedian Harry Hill has written the book. The duo released a joint statement regarding the new title, which was named after one of the songs from the show, saying: “We’d been umm-ing and ahh-ing about the title for a while – then it hit us – I Can’t Sing! It also happens to be the title of one of the funniest songs in the show, and we hope hints at the direction we’re taking this production.” They then went on to add how thrilled they were to bring this “all singing, all dancing, all mickey-taking spectacular to the home of entertainment itself, The London Palladium. We’re pretty certain that you won’t have seen anything like it before and it’s great that Simon (Cowell) is backing it 4,500 per cent.”
Simon Cowell’s company Syco Entertainment is co-producing the show with Stage Entertainment UK, and last month, he visited a private work-in-progress performance which he described as “one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.” Cowell must have a sense of humour about himself; he is a featured character in the show, alongside fellow X Factor judge Louis Walsh and composite characters of other former judges, which pokes fun at them all and even offers an explanation for the much-reported height of Simon Cowell’s trousers. Press material for I Can’t Sing! The Musical describes it as a show which is “in turn irreverent, anarchic and strangely touching…an affectionate poke at the world’s most talked about talent show that will please friends and foes of The X Factor in equal measure.” It goes “behind the microphone and under the judges’ desk to reveal the (not necessarily accurate) story of heartache and laughter that keeps millions tuning in every week.”
Olivier Award-winner Sean Foley is set to direct I Can’t Sing! The Musical as part of the creative team which includes choreographer Kate Prince designer Es Devlin, sound designer Gareth Owen, lighting designer Hugh Vanstone and musical supervisor Phil Bateman.
I have to admit, I’m still not sure what I make of an X Factor musical. When it was first confirmed, my first thought was one of incredulous disbelief as I’d previously joked about the TV talent show becoming fodder for musical theatre, without actually really thinking they’d do it. Visions of a cheesy musical that spouted clichéd speeches about ‘fulfilling dreams’ and ‘doing it for my family, blah, blah, blah’ swam before me and I’d pretty much condemned it to a Viva Forever! fate there and then, especially with the involvement of Harry Hill. It almost caused me physical pain to use the word ‘comedian’ in front of his name earlier as I have never found the man funny – more irritating to the point of wanting to do a Van Gogh and cut off my ears to avoid hearing him talk! The latest revelations have led to higher hopes for the musical however.
Director Foley recently told The Evening Standard that I Can’t Sing! The Musical will have an “old-time theatrical” flavour and that they don’t plan to push the show on stunt casting. It’s a positive move that they won’t be letting most of the show’s weight rest on the shoulders of celebrity names, and if they stay away from the obvious route of ‘dreams coming true’ and really do go in a genuinely satirical direction, then it may just have a chance of succeeding. Anyone who has read Ben Elton’s novel Chart Throb will see how well true satire can work. Chart Throb is a shamelessly thin-veiled satire of The X Factor that good-humouredly ridicules X Factor judges Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh, as well as head honcho Simon Cowell, through the characters on its judging panel and not-so-subtly paints the show as a well-oiled machine that exploits its contestants in the name of money and entertainment. It stretches the limits of credibility with such narrative plots as Prince Charles being a ‘Chart Throb’ finalist and one judge being seemingly kidnapped and mutilated by an unstable former contestant. That is exactly why it works though as it is so obviously satirising The x Factor in every aspect. If I Can’t Sing! The Musical can convincingly and successfully manage this, then it could end up becoming a big hit for the West End. That being said, I still think there is better subject material for a musical out there than The X-Factor – although who would have thought a musical based on Mormonism would do so well!
I Can’t Sing! The Musical is coming to the London Palladium next year whether you like it or not. Watching it up on that stage, it is the audience who will be the judges and their verdict that will ultimately decide if this musical receives that big red cross of rejection or whether it really does have the X-factor.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 23rd May 2013