At the opening of Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella the bar area was replete with a troupe of unmasked celebs ranging from a Loose Woman, a hard-hitting Sky anchor, and Vanessa Feltz who actually came dressed as a princess to this ball, writes Michael Holland.
But this is no ordinary Cinderella, this is one with the book by Killing Eve writer Emerald Fennell who has done away with weak women, and has discarded the prince’s foot-fetish.
The set is very Disneyesque and the show opens with a Disneyesque song and dance about how fantastic Belleville is, but that is where any connection ends. The town has won the Best Town accolade for 49 years and pretty much runs on its Best Town tourism industry. Alas, as the Queen unveiled a statue of Prince Charming, the King-to-be who had gone MIA while out slaying dragons, there was collective shock when the crowd saw it had been vandalised with spray paint.
The Best Town Committee immediately took Belleville’s award away, which meant the Queen would have to close hospitals and care homes to fund her regal extravagance.
The people, dutifully tooled up with torches and pitchforks, set out to find their only suspect – Cinderella – the only Emo in the village, who was taken to the forest and left tied against a tree for wolves to finish off. That is until Prince Charming’s boring, inept brother Sebastian rescues her – and this isn’t the first time. Their lack of social skills had brought them together years before. He was the odd one out at the palace because it was all about his dashing brother there, and Cinderella was the unloved, put upon stepsister at her house. Their ‘mateyness’ hid deeper feelings.
The Queen, now worried about her lifestyle being put at stake as tourism drops, decides to marry off her remaining son to rake in the cash generated by a Royal Wedding and plans a grand ball where Sebastian will choose a bride. No easy task when there isn’t a lady in the land who wants him and when he only has eyes for Cinderella.
Elsewhere, Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother seeks the fame and money a foothold in the palace will bring so she puts her own two daughters forward who, as much as they would rather not be seen with soppy Sebastian, will do anything to become a princess.
Now, with Cinderella and the hapless prince kept apart by fast-moving circumstances, something has to change. The wimp Sebastian merely does what he’s told by his mother, but Cinderella, who has realised she loves him, wants to stand a chance at the ball against the over-made up womenfolk so goes for a makeover and botox at the Fairy Godmother salon where there is a promise to ‘make more permanent changes next time…’
All those amendments, however, meant her beau did not recognise her under all that make-up and blonde wig. Or even by her voice… A silly scene made much of by Fennell.
The stand out star of this show, for me, was Victoria Hamilton-Barritt. She spoke with a wheezing accent that was as funny as her lines, and her battle with Rebecca Trehearn’s Queen was a pleasure to watch.
More to my liking though, while all this was going on several choice phrases were dropped, which had parents squirming in their seats as their own little princesses asked ‘what were the whores doing in the brothel?’ Or, ‘Why did she call the prince a prick?’ And, ‘What’s a bimbo?’
But no children were harmed in this joyous twist on an old classic where the target is young women who aspire to having surgery instead of intelligent conversation. Fennell’s book has given this fairy tale the kick it needs to get it into the 21st century by making the lads who sing about drinking beer before swinging on a chandelier so laddish they are a joke; and the women that fall for them even more ridiculous.
Expect to be surprised as well as royally entertained by this Cinderella.
Gillian Lynne Theatre, 166 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5PW until 13th February. Times: Mon – Sat: 7.30pm; Wed & Sat 2.30pm; Sun: 3pm. Admission: £19.50 – £210.