Charing Cross Theatre, London – until 21 December 2019
Despite having various lives since it first premiered in London in October 2011, this is my first time seeing Soho Cinders. The premise is simple enough, a contemporary gay retelling of the Cinderella story. The book created by Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis is full of comedy, modern twists and it is far from a straight (pardon the pun) retell. Politics, sex scandals, greed and the modern obsession with fame, all ensure that this is a rich and inventive version of the classic fairytale. The show is further elevated by a wonderful soundtrack by Stiles and Drewe, which blends comic numbers with tender and heartfelt songs.
This production is directed by Will Keith, his first for the newly formed Theatre Syndicate London. Their ambition is to create a company which aims to give actors and creatives a bigger voice within the production of theatre. A very worthy ambition that translates here into a spirited, uplifting and above all else, fun show.
Focusing on the emotional core of Soho Cinders we have Robbie (Luke Bayer) struggling to get by with the help of his best friend Velcro (Millie O’Connell), while conducting a secret affair with London mayoral candidate James Prince (Lewis Asquith), who happens to be engaged to Marilyn Platt (Tori Hargreaves). All four are likeable, conflicted characters, vibrantly brought to life by this gifted cast. They provide the soul of the show, with songs like ‘Wishing for The Normal’, ‘Gypsies of the Ether’ and ‘Let Him Go’ beautifully delivered in a way that is guaranteed to pull at the heartstrings.
In contrast we have our comic antagonists. Clodagh (Michaela Stern) and Dana (Natalie Harman) are Robbie’s nasty stripper step-sisters. Stern and Harman are not afraid to go full trash in their performances, bringing much humour and energy to their roles. They are two very talented singers, and their voices are showcased to the fullest in ‘I’m so over Men’, with their range being used to further the comedy of the piece.
James Prince’s odious campaign manager William George (Ewan Gillies) is so much fun to hate, being convincingly immoral and misogynistic. If ever there was a character you’d be tempted to boo, it’s him. Lord Bellingham (Christopher Coleman) is the creepiest Fairy Godmother you are ever likely to encounter, and while not as over-the-top as our other antagonists, he does bring a dangerous desperation to the role.
Adam Haigh’s choreography is bright and energetic, really tapping into the musical beats and changing moods of the show. Will Keith’s production brings out the emotional heart of the piece, while also celebrating the comedy and spectacle.
Soho Cinders is running at the Charing Cross Theatre until 21st December. It is a naughty, feel-good and fun show, perfect silly season entertainment.
To give you a taste, here are Robbie and Velcro “Wishing for The Normal”, performed by Millie O’Connell and Luke Bayer