For the second time in a couple of months, I last week had the good fortune to see a brand new musical in it’s first run. The first was the one woman show about Janis Joplin, Tomorrow May Be My Last, the brain child of Collette Cooper and couldn’t be more different from the big stage production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher. Due to the ongoing Covid restrictions, it’s a miracle that this first preview performance was able to happen at all but the experience was wonderful, due to the amazingly helpful front of house staff, the well thought out layout and the show itself. You would never know it was a first preview.
As befits a title character, the role of Cinderella is triumphantly owned by Carrie Hope Fletcher – the song above is her biggest song in the show and shows her consummate skill as both actor and singer. The whole audience was in the palm of her hand and gave her a well deserved standing ovation. This Cinderella, as written by Emerald Fennell and played with gusto by Carrie is a modern, feminist version who has plenty to say about obsessions with female beauty and behaviour that sometimes don’t seem to have fundamentally changed since the first Cinderella was born. In support of this, the best lines and songs all go to the female characters in the show; Rebecca Trehearn and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as the step mother and the Queen, have the time of their lives, practically stealing the show in their tour de force rendition of an hysterically funny ‘I Know You‘.
Whilst the show remains faithful to the original fairy tale, the necessary retelling to make it more relatable to today’s audience brings the chance to have some terrific fun with the storyline and details therein. The Fairy Godmother becomes a couturier come plastic surgeon, played wonderfully by Gloria Onitiri and the two step sisters become much more rounded characters, given depth by Georgina Castle and Laura Baldwin.
There are some future classic musical theatre songs in Cinderella and ALW aficionados will hear nods to some of his previous classics dotted throughout – there are some real barnstorming numbers here, ‘Marry For Love‘ being my favourite. Lyrically, this show has it all. David Zippel (City of Angels, Mulan, The Woman in White) has written some superbly witty lines, laden with innuendo, that don’t take themselves too seriously whilst remaining true to the overall show.
Cinderella is a fabulously over the top show that thoroughly entertains without falling into a panto style caricature. And crucially, for such a well known story, the creative team still manage to throw in a few surprises. It deserves to do thunderingly well.
Cinderella is currently open for previews at the Gillian Lynne Theatre and is expected to open fully on 19 July. Tickets are available here.