We went to see I Can’t Sing tonight. For those that don’t know, this is the X Factor musical, written by the zanily irreverent comedian Harry Hill. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have touched it with a barge pole. I don’t approve of Simon Cowell’s “get-in, get-rich, get-out” philosophy and certainly don’t want to line his enormous pockets with any more money. It was also one of those shows which semi-marketed itself (very unwisely in my view) as an “anti-musical.” Anti-musicals don’t attract new audiences. They put off those who like musicals and those who don’t aren’t fooled by the hype.
I was horrified when I heard that Cowell had pulled the show after just six weeks, taking with it the dreams and wage packets of performers, musicians, stage hands and front-of-house staff, who no doubt felt they’d be on guaranteed salaries for at least six months when they heard that they were working on a big West End show. More worryingly, rumour has it that the powers-that-be actually wanted to pull the show on the very night they’d decided it was doomed, but were forced to give the cast a 2 week notice period. When a show gets pulled it’s worth remembering that the cast and crew don’t continue to be paid. The show comes off, and, apart from a little bit of holiday pay which they may or may not be eligible for, that is the end of their money. No gardening leave. No compensation. No redundancy package. It’s a perilous industry.
So, when Nathan’s ex-partner, Billy, one of the leads in the show, managed to bag us a couple of comps, I somewhat begrudgingly agreed to go. If it was as shocking a spectacle as a show which closes after six weeks ought to be, it was going to be worth a trip, for no other reason than to say in ten years’ time that I’d seen “that dreadful flop.” [I find myself very jealous of Nathan for having seen The Fields of Ambrosia, although I did see Romeo and Juliet, which defied description...]
But you know what? I loved it! I LOVED I Can’t Sing! Sure, it’s just a bit of fun. It doesn’t make any grand statements about life or the world. It’s not worthy. It’s not political. But it’s escapist, it’s witty, it’s grand, tuneful, well-acted... In fact, it’s all the things that you’d look for in a good musical. It plainly doesn’t deserve to go down in history as a disaster and I think its producers made a very big mistake in taking it off quite so early. They should have had faith in the piece in my view, and stuck by it.