It’s a Maybe from me. The tunes sounded catchy in a hit-musical kind of way, and Simon Cowell really did look an awful lot like himself. He was working with a slight handicap, obviously, as he hadn’t got any acts to big up or put down; just us, the audience of yesterday’s press launch of I Can’t Sing at RADA’s cosy little theatre off Tottenham Court Road, London.
So there we were, looking at him on the stage and there he was looking back at us in the auditorium. What was he going to tell us? That we were never going to make it? Out of tune? Makeweights from the cruise circuit? No, none of these. It was us assessing him, and goodness we were getting away with it. Temporarily shorn of his right – no, his duty – to be judgemental, he did look oddly vulnerable. Put it down to pregnancy? No-one dared ask.
Don’t be fooled. The 45-minute presentation at RADA was all about him since the musical I Can’t Sing is all about X Factor. If it is possible to make this great big boo-hiss TV icon-cum-cad any more famous than he already is, the show might just do it. Sub-title it Simon Cowell The Musical and it puts him up there in a rich gallery of human show-themes. Evita springs to mind since she, like Cowell, was more powerful than the state; so does Sweeney Todd, who killed people in a single stroke.
Goodness, this one’s grabbed itself a long runway before take-off. The material may be done and dusted but the show is not due to open until next March. So, dated even before it’s opened? We’ll be the judge of that, Simon.
The weirdest thing about yesterday’s launch was seeing him sat just a couple of stools away from his potential nemesis. This is Nigel Harman, who will portray him in I Can’t Sing. Harman must have a thing about getting inside British institutions. Downton Abbey this autumn, Cowell next spring. Yesterday there weren’t many lines for him, with the real thing so close. Still, less can be more in show business, and the mere sight of his face cowelling slightly with all the facial disturbance of Roger Moore was wickedly enticing.
The comedian Harry Hill was also on good form, but then he generally is, being as reliable as Cowell in his own way. He told us Cowell had invited him – and his wife – to join him on a cruise, “and I said, no Simon, you don’t get me that way.” It’s Hill who has co-written the lyrics for the show, with composer Steve Brown (Spend Spend Spend) and on the brief evidence of the three songs showcased yesterday, it’s a Yes from me. Apart from the song ‘I Can’t Sing’, in which the excellent Cynthia Erivo proves the opposite, there is a mass petition, more an implore-in, “Please Simon,” from a chorus of hopeless hopefuls. A hint of X-Factor’s public tragi-comedy here, in which there is a mighty mismatch between the number of applicants and the number of places available for the jobs vacated by Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. Then a wannabee ballad from the young plumber Max (Alan Morrissey), in which he aspires to be a bit like Chris Martin “but not a whinger/Or Ed Sheeran, but not so ginger.”
“I get it in the neck throughout,” said Simon, “and I don’t care.”
“We’re taking the mickey,” said Hill, “but we’re not being cruel.” Cries of “shame”, but all inaudible. Shame on us.
Lord (Andrew) Lloyd-Webber was there and Cowell thanked him for letting him have the Palladium rather as a bloke might thank his mate for the loan of his car.
The last laugh fell to the Sycotic One himself, but not on him, as his questioner from the audience might have intended. “Will there be re-writes in the light of recent events?” she asked, referring to news of his impending parenthood with New York socialite Lauren Silverman. “The show opens in seven months,” he replied. “There’s only so much that can happen in that time.” A big laugh on this one. Keep it in, I say.
by Alan Franks
I Can’t Sing opens at the London Palladium on 26th March 2014.
3rd September 2013