Gillian Lynne Theatre, London,
till May 29 2022
As an individual, Andrew Lloyd Webber is an acquired taste, at best, but his work is, generally speaking, a lot more mainstream. His Cinderella makes the point well enough.
After all the delays and the composer’s publicity machine turning this production into a cause célèbre in theatreland’s great battle with the government over Covid restrictions, it’d be nice to have strong view about it, now that I’ve finally seen it, to be able to write a single or a five-star review.
In the event, it’s a perfectly satisfactory, middle-of-the-road, unchallenging and unthreatening show, conscientiously rather than inspiringly directed by Laurence Connor.
It’s not in the league of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – a much earlier Lloyd Webber collaboration with Tim Rice now being revived – and certainly stage is the star in so-so show not Anything Goes. So why Lloyd Webber should have got so het up about this theatrical muzak I’ve no idea. I can’t, as I write this the morning after the first night, recall a single one of its big numbers (the lyrics are by David Zippel), let alone have them still playing out in my head, always the mark of a great musical.
What I recall is the look of the show: all burgundy velvet drapes, statues and gold, and, it is in all honesty, it’s spectacularly naff. It feels a bit like visiting the world’s biggest Aberdeen Steak House.
Emerald Fennell’s script takes quite a few liberties with the traditional Cinderella story, and, with words like “imbeciles” and “bimbos” in it, it lacks finesse and certainly sensitivity.
It doesn’t help Ivano Turco as Prince Sebastian that he’s is periodically reduced to telling people to “shut their faces.” He’s an amiable enough young actor, but he doesn’t achieve much of a chemistry with Cinderella (Carrie Hope Fletcher), who looks very much like a youthful Kate Bush in her early scenes, before she’s transformed, in what looks like Frankenstein’s lab, into a not entirely convincing belle of the ball.
The acting honours, to the extent there are any, go to Victoria Hamilton-Barritt in full Cruella de Vil mode as Cinderella’s wicked step mother. If the show has a star, I’d say it’s the revolving stage. It causes the earth to move not just beneath the characters, but a vast tranche of the audience and it’s every bit as awesome as a San Francisco earthquake.