New London Theatre, London
This modern take on the classic fairytale is plenty of fun – but there are moments where the music and story feel a little bit flimsy.
Featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by David Zippel and a wonderfully lively book by Emerald Fennell, this contemporary take on Cinderella is plenty of fun from start to finish – but it feels as though in places it is just lacking in a bit of finesse – despite the brilliant performances from the cast.
Set in the town of Belleville, where everyone is beautiful on the outside (not so much on the inside being extremely judgmental and selfish) – except for Cinderella who has a rebellious nature and quick wit that doesn’t go down well with the villagers or her Stepmother – particularly when she graffiti’s the statue of Prince Charming who has gone missing. This means that the new (reluctant) heir is Prince Sebastian – who just like Cinderella doesn’t quite fit into the town’s ideas of ‘perfection’ and beauty.
While the book has plenty of spirit and humour that leads to some really lovely moments (tending to involve the wonderful flamboyant performance of Rebecca Trehearn as the Queen) that get you thinking about the price of beauty and what is truly important in life, it does leave you with one main question: while Cinderella is spirited for the most part – why is she then meek and when it comes to dealing with having to serve her Stepmother and two sisters? This seems to slightly contradict the confidence that the central character seems to have.
This aside, there are some decent concepts that are thrown into the mix – such as transforming the fairy godmother into a makeover artist (in a extremely creepy way) – with Cinderella’s transformation very cleverly staged against the backdrop of the song ‘Beauty Has a Price’ which acts as a striking warning about it shouldn’t be something that we necessarily aim for. Meanwhile, the twist at the end really highlights how inclusive the show attempts to be. Yet despite this, it just feels there are too many contradictions that pulls the show in different directions. But for the most part, it is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and makes for entertaining to watch – probably more for adults than children given some of the humour.
Musically, the show is at is strongest with more of the reflective songs such as ‘I Know I Have a Heart’, ‘Only You, Lonely You’ which definitely give the show a strong emotional core, drawing the audience in beautifully. But there is also fun to be had with the Queen and Stepmother’s duet ‘I know You’ that is filled with plenty of personality and allowing Rebecca Trehearn and Victoria Hamilton- Barritt to really shine. Yet songs such as ‘Hunks’ Song’ and ‘Man’s Man’ just really didn’t work in my opinion. Again it shows how the show is being pulled in two different directions.
However, visually the show is a real treat. Gabriela Tylesova’s set and costume design really captures the playfulness of the show – but still having a feel of lavishness about it that shows care and attention has been paid to each scene. I particularly loved the way in which the ball scene works to allow the audience to feel as close as possible to the action and to take in every detail of the costumes.
What really drives the show is the fabulous performances from all of the cast. In particular – Rebecca Trehearn as the Queen gives a wonderfully elegant but playful performance – really making the most of every line of dialogue. She is equally matched by Victoria Hamilton-Barritt’s villianous (but never strays into a pantomime style performance) – her interactions with Georgina Onuorah’s Cinderella are brilliant to watch. Onuorah as Cinderella is a wonderfully warm and strong personality and she has a great stage presence -capturing the character’s strength and vulnerability with great charm.
This is a show that is just about having fun with and for that reason it is entertaining. However, it does feel as though it needs to make it clearer in terms of what way it wants to portray Cinderella – is she meek and submissive or as someone with spirit that we catch glimpses of.
By Emma Clarendon
Cinderella continues to play at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. To book tickets click here or visit: Love Theatre.com, From the Box Office, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Last Minute.com and London Theatre Direct.
‘This contemporary take is plenty of fun from start to finish’: @LoveLdnLoveCul on @ALWCinderella at the #WestEnd’s New London Theatre. ★★★ #theatrereviews #AndrewLloydWebber