Andrew Lloyd Webber is like marmite – you either love his work or you hate it. I love it. And this brand-new reimagining of the classic fairytale Cinderella does not disappoint.
Prince Charming has fled, leaving his bride to be at the altar. The town is in fear of financial ruin and the Queen must create some positive news in order to turn things around. The only option, to marry off the other son – Prince Sebastian. A ball is thrown where the prince will choose his bride – but the only person he wants to marry is his friend Cinderella who has never looked twice at him romanticly and doesn’t believe in marriage. That’s ok though because Cinderella’s stepmother has two beautiful (if not overly intelligent) daughters, whom she will stop at nothing to ensure one of them is chosen to become the royal bride.
I think it is important to note that this show is ‘loosely based on the fairytale. There’s no pumpkin carriage, no trying to find the person who fits the shoe, and a prince that doesn’t quite live up to expectations.
The music is typical of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Each character or couple has its own melody that is used when they are on stage together. The Queen and The Stepmother have a wonderful song ‘I Know You’, where they dance around the subject of bribery, and The Stepsisters song ‘Unfair’ brilliantly shows them off as spoilt brats. At the beginning of the show, Cinderella sings the poptastic ‘Bad Cinderella’ which sets the tone for a brilliant show, and Prince Sebastians ‘Only You, Lonely You’ is a beautiful love song that gets well-deserved extended audience applause after.
Act 2 focuses on the ball and really makes it an interactive experience for the audience. I won’t give the game away but the Gillian Lynne Theatre (previously the New London Theatre and original home of Cats) has not only kept the famous revolving stage, but they have improved upon it.
Carrie Hope Fletcher is no stranger to the stage, having performed as a child in both Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins in the West End. Since becoming an adult she has played both Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables and starred in The Addams Family, Heathers, and The War of the Worlds. She is a best-selling author and YouTuber. Oh, and she’s still only twenty-eight years old! Everything about singing and acting seems to come effortlessly to Carrie. She performs consistently well in whatever role she plays and has such control over her voice that she always sounds flawless.
I’ve seen Cinderella three times already and I’ve seen Prince Sebastian understudy Michael Hamway twice now and he is wonderful. Ivano Turko (who usually plays the role) gives a more sweet and soppy edge to the character and Michael plays it more like a fish out of water who doesn’t fit in. Both ways work well.
Gloria Onitiri is fabulous as Ther Godmother, fulfilling Cinderella’s dreams by giving her a makeover, so she can look beautiful at the ball – it is just sad she doesn’t have a bigger part in the show.
Rebecca Trehearn is perfect as The Queen and her scenes with The Stepmother are brilliant comedic moments in the show.
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt gives a career-defining performance as The Stepmother. She manages to easily steal the show (when there is so many stand-out performances) embodying Margaret Thatcher and Kim Woodburn at the same time. Her laugh will forever be my favourite part of the show. In the original fairytale, the stepmother forbids Cinderella from going to the ball but this version gives a more manipulated version of the story. Cinderella can go if she wants to but why would she bother when she is too ugly and unlovable to be chosen to become a princess.
Cinderella’s stepsisters Adele and Marie are gorgeously played by Laura Baldwin and Georgina Castle. Georgina Castle is fantastic at the end of the show, smirking and drunkenly swigging from her hip-flask at the side of the stage whilst her mother and sister stare depressingly into space. It’s an easy moment to miss as it happens in the background but it is brilliantly executed by the three of them.
Now, there is nothing wrong with saying a show is five stars but also being critical about what doesn’t work so well (that used to be the whole idea of reviews). The show isn’t perfect. At 2.45 hours the show is a bit long and the whole Prince Charming storyline could be cut as doesn’t really need to be there (apart from making the storyline more controversial). The ensemble of scantily clad male six-packs is fine but I hoped a brand new Musical like this might embrace body positivity more. Some of the lyrics are a bit cringy (rhyming ‘Cinderella’ with ‘Salmonella’ and ‘excuse’ with ‘vamoose’) but even with all that, Cinderella is one of the best new musicals that London has seen for quite a while. Whether or not it survives in this current climate is unknown but I really hope it is here to stay for a while. I will certainly be going back for a fourth time soon!
Reviewed by West End Wilma