I Can’t Sing: The X Factor Musical takes a wry, behind-the-scenes look at the world of the television talent show The X Factor, satirising the backstage dramas, intrigues and romances. It stars Nigel Harman (probably best known for EastEnders) as the Simon Cowell-esque judge, with the extremely talented Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple, Lift) and Alan Morrissey as a pair of lovers and star-struck young talent-show hopefuls.
The show is written by comedian Harry Hill with music and additional lyrics by Steve Brown so the show has lots of off the wall comedy that you would expect from Harry Hill as well as some fantastic visual surprises.
It’s clear from the impressive opening flashback sequence — with smart video imagery swooping down into the home of a short-haired kid named Simon dreaming of revolutionising TV while living in suburbia on Waistband Avenue — that the show has its tongue wedged firmly in cheek.
Preaching as it is to the choir, it then cheerfully sets up its heroine, Chenice (Cynthia Erivo), with the ideal contestant back-story heartbreak: she lives in a trailer under a flight path with her grandfather, who’s in an iron lung and her only true companion is a talking dog. The talking dog played by a puppet handler Simon Lipkin (Avenue Q), dressed in black, who runs around the stage, commenting sarcastically on Chenice’s activities, and who, for reasons never made clear, fancies the pants off Simon Cowell… maybe Simon’s involvement as producer of the show helped with this idea?!
Alongside Erivo’s brilliant performance, Billy Carter gives an ideally ridiculous turn as the archer-than-thou producer (reminded me of the character Carmen Ghia from The Producers). Simon Bailey is very funny as host Liam O’Deary, a dead ringer for the real UK host Dermot O’Leary, famously hugging everyone on the show; he had his mannerisms down to a T!
There’s also Alan Morrissey as Chenice’s love interest, who wants to sing his own songs (accompanied by his ukelele) and finally gets to do so with touching effect, a very beautiful song “A Song I Wrote For You”.
I think you need to understand The X Factor and some of the famous characters that have been seen along the show’s run, such as Wagner, otherwise some of the jokes and parodies will be meaningless. I just hope the critics give this a chance as it deserves it, clearly so much hard work and imagination has been invested. I would definitely see it again as I feel it would be an ever changing script with jokes being added especially now The X Factor is coming back to our screens. Find tickets and further information at the show’s website.