'X Factor' Musical: Simon Cowell Attends First London Sneak Peek

Simon Cowell

Former soap opera star Nigel Harman, who joined the cast of "Downton Abbey" for its fourth season, portrays the creator of the talent show.

LONDON – The X Factor creator Simon Cowell attended a sneak peek on Monday night for a musical that spoofs the TV show and is scheduled to open here next year.

I Can't Sing! The X Factor Musical, written by British comedian Harry Hill, is expected to open at the London Palladium theater in the spring. Cowell decided to back the show, which pokes fun at him and the talent show, after originally having doubts about the project.

While he has said he is leaving the creative work to the show's team, he is understood to have had a hand in the casting.

Portraying him in the show is Nigel Harman, a former star of U.K. soap opera EastEnders who last year won an Olivier Award for playing Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical. He previously joined the cast of Downton Abbey for its fourth season, which is scheduled to air here later this year.

"I didn't want to do a musical that we took too seriously," the Guardian quoted Cowell as saying Monday. "The X Factor is a serious show, but it's also a fun show, and I like Harry's sense of observation. The big thing for me was the songs, were the songs going to be good or not."

"Cowell was the butt of many jokes -- mostly about lovechilds and yachts," the paper wrote Tuesday about the three songs previewed for attendees of Monday's event.

"I get it in the neck throughout, and it's constantly evolving this story, and I don't care," the Guardian quoted Cowell as saying.

The musical focuses on a young woman who lives in a caravan with a talking dog and finds fame on the show.

"I honestly thought this is the worst idea I have ever heard," said Sean Foley, who will direct the musical, according to the paper. "It just sounded like a terrible cash-in thing." Quipped Cowell: "We've never done that."

Among the three songs previewed Monday night was one entitled "Please Simon," in which show candidates seek Cowell's approval. "My mum's an alcoholic, and my dad's a psycho," one of them sings, according to the Guardian.

Another song was performed by the actor portaying a main character who is "a Bono wannabe plumber/environmental warrior," with the third song coming from lead character Chenice, played by Cynthia Erivo.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai