Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cinderella” Needs Work Before Broadway
There’s a satisfying musical buried somewhere in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cinderella”, currently playing in London’s West End. But, like the main character, the new show could use a fairy godmother’s wand.
Bibbidi-bobbidi-coupe 30 minutes!
Bibbidi-bobbidi-remove the scenery and the costumes!
Bibbidi-bobbidi-more jokes and dancing!
Which parts do not need the help of a spell at the moment? Unsurprisingly, “Cinderella’s greatest assets” are its cast and the thrilling ballads of Lloyd Webber sung on a bare stage.
Cinderella, Georgina Onuorah (she is the replacement, the role is normally played by Carrie Hope Fletcher), makes a striking West End debut with a modern pop twist in a song called “I Know I Have a Heart”. She sits, broken after the ball, in the center of the stage in a big white dress and screams her pain loudly at us.
As Prince Sebastian, a non-traditionally geeky heir, talented newcomer Ivano Turco innocently hums “Only You, Lonely You” about his budding love for his childhood friend Cinderella. It is soft and surge – Lloyd Webber doesn’t often put these two qualities in one and the same pitfall – and ends with a masterful button from lyricist David Zippel: “Only you can save me alone!” Gorgeous.
The problem is, this revisionist “Cinderella” isn’t gloomy and brooding like “The Phantom of the Opera”. With a book by Emerald Fennell, Oscar winner of “Young Promising Woman”, he imagines himself to be a musical, like “Guys and Dolls” or “Hairspray”. But on the morning I attended, the silent crowd might as well have been watching Ibsen.
“Cinderella” sometimes brings tears to your eyes, but hardly ever makes you smile.
This lack of joy must be corrected if he is to – as Lloyd Webber recently told The Post – come to Bibbidi-bobbidi-Broadway.
Fennell’s revamped plot starts off campy. “Cinderella” takes place in Belleville, a French storybook town that prides itself on the oo-la-la warmth of its people. “Each a chiseled god, with a ripped and rockin ‘body!” the ensemble sings as director Laurence Connor’s turntable spins these sexy people to such an extent that you’d think he was auditioning to be a DJ.
Belleville does not depend on agriculture or textiles to stay afloat, but on tourism. The key to their plan? Cinders, a rebellious, angry, black-robed orphan who spits verbal venom and degrades property with spray paint. Her introductory tune, “Bad Cinderella”, reads “Stream girl, disagreeable peasant”. Because of its Gothic antics, the hamlet loses the coveted prize of “Most Attractive Town”.
A girl hurting the local economy as a teenager is a pretty low-stakes plot if you ask me, but the musical quickly forgets about her anyway.
Meat is in the love story.
Prince Charming, the city believes, died in a war, so now it’s up to his less-buff brother Sebastian (Turco) to marry and become king – because nothing draws crowds like a royal wedding. It turns out that Seb is Cinderella’s only friend and realizes that she has always been his future wife. In order to put a ring on her, he tells her that she has to come to the ball and dance with him. Easy enough.
To put it simply, the show takes its time – a good two hours, 45 minutes in all. You think you don’t know what’s going on in a scene, but the answer tends to be “fill time.”
The Queen and Cinderella’s stepmother (Rebecca Trehearn and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, strong comedic talents with meh material) casually plot to marry Sebastian to one of the evil half-sisters.
A muscular group called the Hunks dance topless and brag about their masculinity like we’re at a Vegas bachelorette party that also invited kids.
The Fairy Godmother (Gloria Onitiri with a thunderous voice) strangely holds scalpels and syringes as she sings “Beauty Has a Price”.
The last unwieldy half hour of the show changes settings, from Belleville to Crazytown.
Our confusion is not always the fault of the book. Connor’s hardworking, one-note direction is the production’s biggest offender, and Gabriela Tylesova’s drab and forgettable sets and costumes arrive right after, made especially noticeable because Broadway has seen dazzling storybook designs in ” Into The Woods “,” Shrek the Musical “and, well, the 2013 cover of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s” Cinderella “.
But in his own little nook, in his own little chair is Andrew Lloyd Webber and his wonderful musical score, filled with catchy hooks and intoxicating melodies you’ll want to play over and over again. If the show hits Broadway (Bob Wankel of the Shubert Organization was supposed to fly to see it today, but delayed his trip at the last minute), let’s pray that his associates meet him at the ball.