Music by George Styles, lyrics by Anthony Drew, book by Anthony Drewe & Elliot Davis.
The Union Theatre, Old Union Arches, 229 Union Street, Southwark, London SE1 0LR to 22 December 2016.
Tues-Say 7.30pm. Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 15 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9876.
Review: William Russell 26 November.
Gay times in fairyland Soho
Billed as a new musical, this Styles and Drew gay take on Cinderella was actually staged in 2012 at the Soho Theatre. It is a bit of a curate’s egg.
The music is splendid, tuneful and almost up to coming out humming standard, while the lyrics, or what one gets to hear of them because this cast’s diction is frequently deplorable, are very funny. The problem is the plot which cannot make up its mind whether it is just silly or a rather sweet and serious tale of gay love in Soho.
Things are not helped by the decision of director Will Keith, who otherwise does a first rate job, to do it in traverse fashion. It saves on sets, but the Union’s new theatre space is just too wide. When the audience is on opposite sides with the acting space down the middle the cast has to turn its back to one half and if voices are feeble, as several are, one cannot hear what they are singing when their backs are turned.
The truth is that getting to grips with the new Union premises is proving tricky for directors and this production is no exception. The square room has a high ceiling and so far nobody has worked out what the right seating formats are. In addition the placing of the band underneath a staircase means that it is in a kind of echo chamber, which is no help at all when a show, like this one was, is not miked.
The plot involves Robbie, aka Cinders, who runs a laundrette in Soho with his chum Velcro – not explaining that one – a lass who adores him but know he is not attainable. Upstairs live his obese evil half sisters who are trying to evict him as mother did not leave a will and they claim the premises belong to them.
Robbie has a friend, a peer who takes him out to dine and gives him money when he is in straitened circumstances. In spite of living in Soho Robbie seems unaware that where there are quids there is also a pro quo. He has not gone to bed with his patron. Instead he has fallen for James Prince, with whom he holds text chats and trysts in Trafalgar Square – as you do. But James, who has a fiancé called Marilyn is also a candidate for Mayor of London. Naturally there is a scandal, the tabloid press go haywire, Marilyn concedes that she always knew James, with whom she was at university, was a bit of one thing and the other, and it all ends up happily with James and Robbie heading for Margate on platform five at London Bridge Station.
One does wonder what planet the writers of the book are living on. Gay politicians these days no longer hide from view, there was a gay mayoral candidate last time round and nobody thought anything of it. As for Margate trains, they do not now, indeed if they ever did, leave from platform five at London Bridge.
The ensemble, however, dance very well, pretty Duchess of Cambridge lookalike Lowri Walton has the best voice of all as Marilyn, Lewis Asquith makes a suitably dishy prince, although an unlikely mayoral candidate, Chris Coleman is good as the inevitably disappointed peer, and the ugly sisters striving hard to be funny duly murder one of the better songs, I’m So Over Men. The big romantic number, My Intimate Stranger, is lovely and there is a terrific production number, Who’s That Boy?, when Robbie turns up in quite the worst fitting tuxedo ever at the ball held by the peer for James and everyone wonders who this can be?
But given that it is not a new musical some work might have been done since its last outing to fix things. Rather than as billed being “a new musical” it is a work in progress which has not progressed.
Robbie: Joshua Lewindon.
Velcro: Emily Deamer.
James Prince: Lewis Asquith.
Marilyn: Lowri Walton.
Clodagh: Michaela Stern.
Dana: Natalie Harman.
William George: Samuel Haughton.
Lord Bellingham: Chris Coleman.
Sasha: Meg Matthews.
Ensemble: Jade Bailey, Oliver Bingham, Luke Byrne, Lance Collins, Matt Morris, Charis Murray, Chloe Polson-Davies, Harry Wright.
Director: Will Keith.
Choreographer: Joanne McShane.
Musical Supervisor: Joe Louis Robinson.
Musical Director: Sarah Morrison.
Designer: Elle Rose Hughes.
Lighting Designer: Iain Dennis.