Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella turns the world-famous romantic tale on its head, transforming it into a modern story filled with glitz and punk. Emerald Fennell’s dialogue and David Zippel’s lyrics introduce a new heroine, one that is imperfect but genuine. This new Cinderella (Carrie Hope Fletcher) is a grungy outsider who plays pranks on people and cares nothing for others’ opinions of her.
The story begins with a celebration in Belleville, a superficially perfect town. In a very un-Disney-like scenario, Prince Charming is dead, and a crowd eagerly awaits the unveiling of a statue to honouring him. Meanwhile, everyone shuns his younger brother Prince Sebastian (played on the night by Michael Hamway, who is very convincing in the role usually filled by Ivano Turco), the simple, unassuming guy destined to become king. To the horror of the queen (Rebecca Trehearn), and everyone present, Prince Charming’s statue has been defaced, and the culprit is none other than Cinderella herself.
As a longtime friend of Sebastian, the rebellious protagonist mocks the young prince when he tells her that his mother has organised a ball for the purpose of finding him a wife. The queen believes that a royal wedding will distract from the trouble that the monarchs find themselves in, but her plans don’t unfold quite as expected. Among the contenders hoping to fill the role of future queen are Cinderella’s step-sisters (Laura Baldwin and Georgina Castle), egged on by their evil mother (an excellent Victoria Hamilton-Barritt).
The production is larger than life on many fronts. Gabriela Tylesova’s costumes glam things up with their dazzle. Catchy songs abound and the choreography, coupled with a rotating stage, ensures that the action is never static. The extravaganza does feel somewhat over-the-top at times but is kept under control thanks to the talent of the performers, as they handle the material with dexterity even when it’s inherently silly. Hamilton-Barritt and Trehearn provide most of the entertainment as Cinderella’s stepmother and the queen, and Gloria Onitiri is also brilliant as the plastic surgeon-godmother.
The high quality of so many single elements make for a glorious whole, but there are also some cracks in the production. With Cinderella presented as an independent modern woman, the aesthetic (and thus shallow) intervention of the godmother seems contradictory, as is the protagonist’s declared aversion to marriage when she in fact seems to aspire to wed. Fletcher wows with her singing but her character remains aloof and not so easy to warm up to. Still, the musical hits the jackpot when it comes to the entertainment factor and, although it’s not a magical fairytale, it certainly does bewitch the audience.
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Cinderella is at the Gillian Lynne Theatre from 25th June until 13th February 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.