Alexander Hanson, recently on the West End stage in An Ideal Husband opposite wife Samantha Bond, is to play Simon Cowell in The X Factor musical after impressing the casting team and Cowell himself in auditions.

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The 51-year-old actor – whose TV work includes roles in The Bill, Casualty and Auf Wiedersehen Pet – apparently had Cowelll “howling with laughter” as he looked on during the read through.

A source told The Sun: “He’s not exactly a Hollywood A-lister but he does a bloody good Simon Cowell. Simon had to admit he was the right man for the job.”

In the production, Hanson’s Cowell sings a huge number called Falling In Love With Myself – a send up of the X Factor judge’s vanity.

The comedy-musical has been written by former TV Burp star Harry Hill, while Steve Brown – who was responsible for much of the music in satirical puppet programme Spitting Image – has written the songs.

The storyline follows the journey of pop hopeful Shenise – believed to be loosely based on real life winners Alexandra Burke and Leona Lewis – who goes on a journey from a caravan park caring for her father, who has an iron lung, to win the singing competition.

The judging panel is made up of a Geordie – based on ex-judge Cheryl Cole – a Louis Walsh-type character and Cowell, who, at the end of the musical, is revealed to be an alien in control of planet earth.

Cowell’s record label, SyCo, has funded the £10 million production – set to run at the London Palladium next spring – and even though the show mocks his talent show, he is said to be delighted with the end result.

A source close to the star said: “He genuinely loves it. Simon knows that many people see him as a bit of a cartoon character so he doesn’t mind being made fun of.

“It’s a very funny script Harry Hill has put together and the songs are laugh-out-loud amusing.”