In Review

Theatre in review: what the critics are saying about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella

Oscar-winner Emerald Fennell’s rebooted storyline and dialogue have ‘heart’ as well as ‘barbed wit’

The road to the opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella has been rocky indeed, said Clive Davis in The Times. All the lockdown delays, pingdemic postponements and “anguished” wranglings with the Government “could almost be material” for a musical of their own. Now, at last, the show has gone on – and it’s a triumph.

Lloyd Webber’s “richly enjoyable orchestrations range from grand waltzes, courtly processionals and marches to deftly pastiched and deeply felt romanticism”, said Chris Wiegand in The Guardian. There are “bewitching melodies”, as well as rollicking guitar riffs, power ballads and a splash of chanson. David Zippel’s “crystalline” lyrics are “cheekily satirical yet wistful and uplifting too”. And Oscar-winner Emerald Fennell’s rebooted storyline and dialogue have “heart” as well as “barbed wit”.

It all “adds up to not so much a ball as a blast: terrifically OTT and silly”, but also warm, funny and vastly entertaining. This “sassy, sarky” version of the fairy-tale is set in Belleville, a place where feudal France meets modern “Love Island-style body snobbery and romantic cynicism”, said Nick Curtis in the London Evening Standard: “periwigs and bustles rub up against washboard abs and cantilevered bosoms”.

In this culture, Cinders is a “Goth refusenik”, who steals the show with a series of fabulous numbers. Carrie Hope Fletcher excels in the role: her voice is “beautiful and powerful enough to knock down walls”. Ivano Turco is also strong as Sebastian (the brother of Prince Charming, who has vanished from Belleville: plot twist alert).

But the most fun is had by the villains, said Marianka Swain in The Daily Telegraph. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is a “commanding” Cruella of a Stepmother, and Rebecca Trehearn’s queen is a “regal diva”. With resplendent set and costume design, and “exuberant” choreography, this is “an utterly charming crowd-pleaser” that deserves to run for years.

I had niggles with the concept, said Andrzej Łukowski in Time Out. Turning Cinderella into a slyly feminist “takedown of human superficiality” is a nice idea, but isn’t there something odd about “hiring a cast of hot young buff people to send up the idea of hot young buff people”? Also, it’s not clear why anarchist Cinders would spend her days in “meek servitude” to her wicked stepmother and “ugly-on-the-inside” sisters.

Still, it’s all “great fun” and undeniably enjoyable. Lloyd Webber seems to have reached a point in his career when he just wants to entertain his audiences – and his new show does that in considerable style.

The Gillian Lynne Theatre, London WC2, until 29 May 2022

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