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Review: CINDERELLA, Gillian Lynne Theatre

Andrew Lloyd Webber's long-awaited fairytale is a flamboyant, joyous and smart show

Cinderella The Musical

Cinderella The MusicalTheatre has endured a truly torrid time during the pandemic, with Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella delayed for a year and last month's opening night called off at the last minute. However, the much-hyped show is now here and this irreverent take on the traditional fairytale is a joyful spectacle.

It's set in Belleville, a seemingly perfect place where gender is proscribed; the overtly masculine court Knights are more like Chippendales and women get a nose job before going to a ball. Cinderella is the rebellious outlier, refusing to conform and preferring to take the mickey out of her friend Prince Sebastian.

But when Sebastian unexpectedly becomes heir to the throne and needs a wife, will Cinderella conform to beauty stereotypes to get her 'happy-ever-after'?

Carrie Hope Fletcher has a captivating stage presence as Cinderella, belting out songs such as the intensely catchy "Bad Cinderella" with her powerful voice, but also capturing the sardonic, sarcastic and rebellious side to the character. She has a smart answer for everything, but also shows great nuance as she reveals vulnerability and fear.

Ivano Turco makes his West End debut as an understated Prince Sebastian. His standout ballad of "Only You, Lonely You" is brimming with emotion. There is a quiet and gentle chemistry with Hope Fletcher, reflecting the deep friendship between the characters, rather than a great passion.

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is the comedic cornerstone of the show as The Stepmother. Her ridiculously hilarious vocal intonations are reminiscent of a husky Joanna Lumley, combined with a strangulated Margaret Thatcher. There are some lovely scenes with Rebecca Trehearn's Marie-Antoinette-like Queen, one of which features the sharply satirical duet "I Know You", a masterclass in passive aggression.

Gloria Onitiri is wonderful as a darkly comic, Botox-wielding Godmother; more like Grace Jones than a cuddly fairy. Her character does feel slightly underused though - it would have been great to see a bit more of her.

Georgina Castle and Laura Baldwin's preening stepsisters are straight out of Love Island, via Made In Chelsea, and Caleb Roberts makes an unexpected and flamboyant impression as Prince Charming.

Writer Emerald Fennell exposes the pressures on women to change their appearance to attract a man and turns the traditional idea of a girl being rescued by a prince on its head. As with her Academy Award-winning rape-revenge satire Promising Young Woman, Fennel subverts the traditional story of female conformity, but the feminist themes are presented with humour and lightness of touch, rather than being rammed down our throats.

Lloyd Webber's diverse score incorporates wistful waltzes, rock ballads and formal orchestral pieces at the royal court. There are fewer earworms than might be expected, but songs such as emotional ballad "Far Too Late" and the rousing dedication to all things masculine "Man's Man" secure the attention and enjoyment of the audience.

The show's costs of £6 million are clear to see; the production looks incredible. Gabriela Tylesova's costume design is utterly sumptuous, featuring looks as diverse as modern-day Royal Ascot, Games of Thrones and the court of Louis XIV. The hats and headpieces, in particular, are simply knockout. Tylesova's set design is also detailed and immersive, lit beautifully by Bruno Poet.

Sean Kenny's impressive redesign of the venue has enabled both a conventional theatre configuration and the ability to convert into the round during the performance, and Laurence Connor's energetic direction takes full advantage of the diversity this stage offers.

You won't remember every song and the length could be cut a little, but this wildly over-the-top show is full of joyous exuberance and playful wit. It was worth the wait.

Cinderella is booking until February 2022

Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

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