Robert Tanitch reviews I Can’t Sing! at London Palladium, W1
A satire at the expense of Simon Cowell and The X Factor might be good enough for an extended revue sketch; but, on the evidence of this show, it is hardly sufficient for an extravagantly designed, full-scale, 6-million pound musical in a very large theatre.
The book is by Harry Hill. The music and lyrics are by Steve Brown. Simon Cowell is one the producers; which means the show obviously has his blessing. The satire at his expense is tame; so is the satire at the expense of his contestants.
If you have never seen The X Factor and do not know who Simon Cowell is, then I Can’t Sing! is definitely not a show for you.
The first act is pretty dire. The second act is better but still not nearly good enough. The plot is poor. The choreography is disappointing. The songs are unmemorable. There are some funny jokes; but the script could do with many more. The best gag is a leg gag which is repeated once and is so good it should have been a running gag throughout the show.
Nigel Harman, who plays Cowell, spends much of the first act off-stage which is to the detriment of the book and Sean Foley’s production. Harman gives the show an immediate lift in his interaction with Alan Morrissey, who is cast as an amiable, ukulele-playing plumber.
The musical high spot is Cynthia Erivo, as the plumber’s girl friend, singing I Can’t Sing. If you saw Erivo in The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory last year you will already know what an exciting singer she is.
Simon Bailey does an amusing take on presenter Dermot O’Leary. The funniest performance is by Simon Lipkin as a talking dog that fancies Cowell. The puppet dog has the best lines.