**WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS**
We recently went to see Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre for my birthday. Like most of the musicals I see these days, I didn’t know much about it and hadn’t listened to the soundtrack prior to going.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical, with the story written by Emerald Fennel, is really funny. Set in Belleville, where looks and appearance mean everything, the town has won the most attractive town award every single year – except this year. Cinderella graffitied the statue of Prince Charming.
The Queen decides that a royal wedding will save the town from ruin – and stop the townspeople from revolting. Except dashing Prince Charming has disappeared for years, so a royal wedding must happen for the not so dashing Prince Sebastian, Cinderella’s only friend.
The first couple of songs were very obsessed with looks and appearance, which sets the whole scene of the musical I suppose. By the third song I felt the musical came into its own, with Cinderella swimming against the tide.
Cinderella had a strong voice, and I really liked her main song. The singer was really easy to watch and really nice to listen to. I liked Cinderella’s friendship with Prince Sebastian: they’re the only people in Belleville who don’t care about looks or appearance and genuinely care about each other.
Prince Sebastian had a few ballads and put in a lot of emotion in his scenes. There are several dances in the musical where Prince Sebastian is in the side lines moping about and reluctant to dance. Then at the end of the musical the Queen demands that he dances, and he does, surprisingly well! He kept that well hidden! That was really funny and it was entertaining seeing the actor go all out dancing to the music.
I absolutely loved the Queen and, dare I say it, the Stepmother. The Stepmother was absolutely hilarious! I felt the actor had fun playing this role. Usually you’re meant to dislike the Stepmother, and I did at first; but her songs were funny, her lines were funny, and even her laugh was funny – I couldn’t help but like her. Every time the Stepmother came on stage you knew it was going to be gold.
One scene when Cinderella calls her Stepmother a “b*tch”, there was an audible gasp from the audience – harsh words, after all. But the Stepmother simply responds “well I can’t take all the credit, you’re a natural” and everyone burst out into laughter. You feel for Cinderella and you know you should dislike the Stepmother, but the actor really makes it hard to dislike her.
The Queen and the Stepmother had a catchy song together, I Know You, which was really funny and littered with innuendos. The Queen loved her beautiful son Prince Charming, almost incestuous in fact, which was essentially the joke.
There was a Magic Mike type scene which was quite funny. The guards are all pumping iron, except Prince Sebastian of course, and the Queen enters noting the testosterone in the room. The obliging guards suggest opening a window, but the Queen responds with a twinkle in her eye “no, I love it!”. There were lots of children in the theatre but there were some risqué lines that probably went over their heads!
Good use of stage and props, in fact there was a revolving stage allowing actors to walk around. The background visuals were well done too, it’s nice to see a musical that doesn’t rely on screens and virtual visuals.
The stage and front stalls rotated round at the ball scene, so the stage was right in the middle of the stalls. Dancers and actors were entering the stage via the aisles past the audience, which was really cool. Prince Sebastian was looking around for Cinderella, so having the stage rotate around added to the frantic frenzy of his search.
There was also a scene with the Godmother where Cinderella has a makeover behind some screens: the actor is sitting there one moment and then appears in a completely different dress the next moment. Some stage wizardry there, unless the dress was underneath the raggedy clothes all along.
Of course I’ve mentioned that the townspeople only care about looks and appearance and they are willing to go through pain with botox and surgery to achieve their desired looks. It was quite funny at the start when the townspeople were preparing for the ball and had plasters on their noses indicating they were healing from nose jobs.
The only two people who don’t follow this are Cinderella and Prince Sebastian, but Cinderella does visit the Godmother in the end, even if the effects are only temporarily. Funnily, Prince Sebastian doesn’t recognise her after the transformation and simply says “oh, another one!”
There were hints of generational trauma, with the older step sister suggesting to Cinderella that they could work together to topple the Stepmother. Also Prince Sebastian does not wish to marry, but agrees to it to appease his mother the Queen.
When Prince Charming finally arrives to stop the dreaded wedding, after hearing the loveless engagement of his dear brother, he reveals that he also did not wish to marry the woman that the Queen selected for him because he was in love with someone else: a man.
Love triumphs all. Though, some things never change, the Queen happily agrees to the marriage of Prince Charming as “what’s better than one handsome king, but two handsome kings!”. Anything to get the town back on the tourist map again.
Apparently in the original soundtrack the statue at the start had ruder graffiti on it and songs would reference that, but the theatre version is tamer with no reference in the songs and no rude words graffitied on the statue – presumably aware of the amount of children in the audience.
A really funny musical with some very catchy songs. It took a couple of songs for me to get into it, but very enjoyable throughout. I felt there were no standout songs, but if you take the performance as a whole it’s such a nice and funny musical.
Definitely worth watching, for sure. This is coming to an end mid June and is moving to Broadway, but hopefully it will come back to the West End for more people to enjoy.