ALW Cinderella - Review
Someone once said, if you are going to do a revival of a show it has to be at least as good as the original otherwise what’s the point? With Cinderella, it has been told and re-told numerous different times, including a new film which was released this year. So in this instance I’d like to amend that phrase to it has to be at least good as the other retellings and has to add something new. Given that, was it worth doing this Cinderella?
In this version we are looking at an edgier goth Cinderella who, while still put upon by her stepmother and stepsisters, is much stronger and forthright about who she is. There are also some nice changes to the story to make it a little more relevant and stops is being a “we fell in love in 24 hours and got married” snooze fest. They’re not trying to just elevate the original story but to bring a new version to the stage.
How well have they done this? Let’s start with the things which haven’t worked as well.
The music in parts is weak, in particular in the first act. The show starts with two sweet low-key songs. Even during a later song when they’re singing about how ripped the prince was, a song that has the potential to really pop, it feels restrained. There are parts of the show which are over the top but the music doesn’t reflect that. Some of the songs need to be bigger, bolder, brighter and louder. The opening song is a homage to “Who Will Buy?” from “Oliver!” but that song builds to a big climax, the music here doesn’t go anywhere. You are waiting until the end of the first act for anything exciting.
Secondly, if you are going to do a dirty, gritty Cinderella then do a dirty, gritty Cinderella. A black dress for Cinderella doesn’t make it gritty. While the town is meant to be pretty and sweet the show can really show the darkness that lies behind it but shies away from doing so. There are a few points where you think it may try to push the envelope but then holds back. However, it should be remembered this is written by the man who, in Stephen Ward, thought a pretty melody was the way to do a song about sex parties so this really should be expected.
Despite the problems there are some great parts. “Bad Cinderella” is an ear worm and is one of the stronger songs and is an early gem. “Only You, Lonely You” is a good song during the first act – it just needs to have contrasting songs around it to balance it. In the second act the song “I Know I have A Heart” stands out partly because of the scene before it. In fact, the second act has much better music overall. While the first act was “pleasant” the second act takes it up a notch and feels like it has a whole new creative team. If there was a first act which matched the second you’d have a great show.
And the cast are exceptional. We saw Jonathan David Dudley (second understudy) making his debut as Prince Sebastian. He was everything you want this Prince to be – cute, adorable and slightly awkward. He was perfect in the role and proving once again that understudies and swings save theatre! Georgina Castle and Laura Baldwin were brilliant as the two stepsisters and while still rooting for Cinderella you warm to these characters. But Gloria Onitiri stole the first act for me as The Godmother giving Cinderella her makeover.
Then of course there is Cinderella played by Carrie Hope Fletcher who proved beyond doubt why she is a leading lady. She gave an absolute standout performance (an aside – part of what makes here so good is how she is always striving to be better. She was beating herself up over her West End Live performance where she felt she should have done better. It was loved by anyone who saw it but for her that wasn’t enough. She is already a star but is only going to get better).
In addition to this it had a well-designed set. Simple in parts but effective. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t heard but the staging for the ball is unexpected and works exceptionally well. And the costumes are a delight.
For me, this felt like a work in progress. At 2 hours 40 minutes (including interval) it runs long and it felt like it. With some updates to the music and editing out a lot of the superfluous songs it could (and should) be an unmissable theatre experience. But at the moment it doesn’t live up to that potential. Its enjoyable but it’s not likely to make many top 10 lists.
Rating: 3 Stars