I have to admit that when I was asked if I’d like to attend the premiere of a musical based on The X-Factor and part-funded by Simon Cowell himself I didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity. However, after a little digging and finding out that it had been written by Harry Hill, of whom I’m a big fan, I figured it might just be worth a look. It turns out it was. Hill’s surreal sense of humour is the perfect antidote to the squeaky clean persona of the judges and sickly melodrama of the TV show to which we are usually subjected.
QUICK PLOT SYNOPSIS: A caravan-dwelling orphan, living beneath an underpass with her iron-lung dependant grandfather might not be the most obvious heroine. But when Chenice’s life takes an even darker turn for the worst, a chance meeting with a charming plumber (Max) leads her to discover a show she has never seen before “The X Factor”. With a need to make some serious money fast, surely her only hope is entering and winning the talent contest…. if only she could sing!
The director, Sean Foley, does not pull any punches when it comes to the downright rinsing of all aspects of the show. Without wishing to give too much away, expect to see appearances from a talking dog, a statue of a Premier League footballer and Quasimodo; all used to mock the institution that is The X Factor.
The cast and the songs were all excellent, none more so than the leading lady, Chenice (Cynthia Erivo), whose vocals are so strong that I kept wondering whether she’d ever considered entering the real TV show, as she would surely win it. Perhaps my only lingering concern was whether it had really gone far enough. I was left with the distinctly uneasy feeling that in fact the attack had in some way been more of, yet another, ego massage for Mr Cowell, whose thick skin is surely more than ready to deflect these satirical blows!
Glitz and Glamour
One of the most fun things of the evening was that we were lucky enough to be going to the West End premiere of the show, and so got to stroll up the red carpet and past the paparazzi, who, surprisingly, remained rather inactive at our arrival. Never mind. Although our celeb-spotting started slowly, we could hardly miss the figure of Mr Cowell as he stepped up on stage after the show to thank the cast and directors.
— Jamie Bezencenet (@BezencenetJamie) March 26, 2014
To the VIP area
Next stop was the after party at One Marylebone. Although my celeb spotting skills continued to disappoint, my girlfriend Pru managed to spot many, including Brian from Westlife and even Stacey Solomon. We also managed a quick word and photo with the leading man, Alan Morrissey (pictured below), whose excellent portrayal of the love interest, Max, had been a highlight of the show. Whilst Pru continued her search for ‘either Simon Cowell or Nigel Harman’, I was more than happy to make the most of the free food and booze. Eventually we found a staircase leading up to a VIP area where we were sure the A-listers were hanging out, but unfortunately a certain lack of gold bracelet gave away our lowly status and a rather large man turned us away. Denied!
For those of you, like myself, whose first reaction would be to baulk at the idea of an X Factor musical, I would put it to you that you might just be surprised. The Palladium is a great venue and the jokes come thick and fast through most of it.
Word from the seats
I joined scores of loyal lastminute.com theatre customers for the red carpet fun. Pru and I, along with just under 300 guests took over the majority of the upper dress circle. Many of the guests hadn’t actually realised they were going to the première! Here are a few snapshots of their thoughts on the new production.
— Greg Dickinson (@Greg_Dickinson) March 27, 2014
— roberto zampino (@Roberto_Zampino) March 26, 2014
— Samantha Henry (@ScifiDQ) March 31, 2014
— Kerry Anderson (@KFAnderson) March 26, 2014
— Laura Jane Williams (@superlativelyLJ) March 26, 2014
Who should see it?
Fans of the X Factor and TV Burp will be in their element. If you like funny, surreal and downright silly musical antics; this is the show for you. From big name stars to freshly written tunes you will be humming for days to come; this is a West End production that hits the satirical mark without taking itself too seriously. Alternatively if you don’t think this show is for you; lastminute.com has come up with a handy personalised theatre guide. Just answer a few quick questions and it will give you three show suggestions!
Venue: London Palladium, Argyll Street, London W1F 7TF
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
Visit the lastminute.com theatre page to purchase tickets, starting from £20