Cinderella by Andrew Lloyd-Webber is lavish delight, but not exactly the belle of the ball.
CINDERELLA REVIEW BY ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: The town’s hottest ticket finally opened its doors last night – but will the play and the audience find their happily ever after?
It has frequently seemed as if getting to this ball would necessitate more than a glass slipper and a legion of fairy godmothers. With many defeats accompanied by Lloyd-operatic Webber’s attacks on the government over their confusing Covid replies, the backstory seemed more tragic than the Grimm’s most dramatic fairytales. Expectations were sky-high with the world (and Whitehall’s finest) watching on opening night, a score by a musical theatre icon, a book by Oscar winner Emerald Fennell, and a red-hot leading woman Carrie Hope Fletcher.
The show hits all the right notes, from gender politics to body image, and even throws in a show-stopping gay kiss for good measure. As with every major Lloyd-Webber production, there is one particularly spectacular sequence, comparable to the Phantom gondoliering in the catacombs. The cast is fantastic, and The Lord has written a few of lovely melodies that are on par with his best work. However, there aren’t enough of them, and the act is so focused on its confused message that the carriage’s wheels fall off by the end.
Fairytales, after all, have always carried a message. The best have a pitiless accuracy that never compromises harsh truths for sentiment, meticulously exposing our flaws and inadequacies. Fennell has given the conventional rags to royal riches routine a modern morals makeover and given it a sharp updating. We’re in Belleville, the screamingly superficial kingdom where appearances are everything, and the musclebound baker is proud to showcase his “hot buns” in these days of equal opportunity objectification.
With Prince Charming, the idealized masculine ideal, gone and assumed dead, his manipulative mother is ready to cash in on pity with a new statue and a picture opportunity. The statue has been vandalized, and the enraged citizens already know who dunnit: the rotten egg in their lovely basket.
Fletcher’s ‘Bad Cinderella’ comes to mind — and because this show isn’t subtle, it’s also a song. The punchy track is delivered by a leading lady who is equally at ease portraying the malcontent outsider who rages at the insanity around her as she is at playing the leading lady. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”