Review: “Bad Cinderella, great Cinderella”

©Tristram Kenton

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s newest creation returned to the stage last month after a 6-week hiatus. Based on the classic fairy tale, the musical swirls the well-known story around with a comical modernised approach. Guillermo Názara reviews the reworked version of British composer’s latest gamble, to let us know if magic finally happened onstage.

Beauty is everything. There’s no question about it. And that’s all I (and anyone) can learn from watching a musical like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revised version of the classic fairy tale Cinderella: nothing else matters except for this attribute. At the end of the day, that’s what this show can prove and teach others to have: an appealing story, charming morals, attractive lyrics and, above all, an enchantingly breathtaking score. Cinderella is, to some extent, the epitome of what this genre is supposed to be: quality entertainment, and it’s hard to run out of reasons to explain why.

Set in the fictional town of Belleville, this adaptation turns the well-known Perrault / Grimm’s romance upside down by tranforming it from a modernised point of a view. By that summary, one could instictively picture it as a new strike by the PC brigade – nothing further from the truth. Wit, cunning humour and a deep understanding of the human soul. The piece is probably an example of what Lord Lloyd Webber does best as a ranconteur – to tell stories of iconic outcasts who feel unfairly rejected by the world they were senteced to live in. Gothic, ugly and ill-tempered, Cinderella is quite the opposite of what we’ve been usually presented with before – and it wouldn’t be crazy to say this is, in some ways, better.

There’s no waggish mice or gentle birds (ask the Bellevillian from the opening number) to assist the poor heroine in this universe. Instead, a young independent nonconformist Prince Sebastian would be his partner in crime. Wonderfully played by new actor Ivano Turco (who’s vocal, acting and dancing abilities do constitute a triple threat), this work thoroughly explores the importance of individuality and staying true to oneself, all of which is encapsulated through David Zippel’s lyrics, who once again (as he had already done in Hercules) exhibits his effortless capacity to blend irony and profundity with natural yet tastefully penned lines. Emerald Fennel, as a bookwriter, keeps the machinery in motion with well-constructed scenes and (audience-tested) hilarious dialogues.

But none of this would be effective should the people in charge of bringing it to life just couldn’t keep up with the rythm. Luckily for its creatives, it’s pretty much the contrary. From swings to leads, the cast of Cinderella takes us flawlessly through the mischievous paths of this unknown adventure. One of the highest praises (apart from the already mentioned staggering male lead) goes to Victoria Hamilton-Barrit and her hysterical Joan Collins-esque performance of the Evil Stepmother. Georgina Onuorah (as the alternate for the title character) does justice to the part by exhibiting notable vocal skills, while Laura Baldwin and Georgina Castle bring the public to tears (of joy, that is) as the inept senseless Stepsisters.

All in all, Cinderella is much more than a jolly good effort, it’s a glorius triumph that ensures Andrew Lloyd Webber as still one of the biggest references in musical theatre – both as a creator and, this time, also as a producer. The intricacy of the costumes (with an astonishing level of detail and palpable craftsmanship) and covenient sets (both credit to Gabriela Tylesova) constitute the final checkpoint, confirming that the 74-year-old composer and impresario may have at last landed something special and, most importantly, different to his most recent works. There’s nothing to think over – among many Cinderellas, this is the one I’ll pick to the ball.

5/5 stars.

Cinderella is perfomed at London’s Gillian Lynne Theatre from Tuesday to Sundays. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Názara

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