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A CurtainUp London London Review
Soho Cinders

by Sebastian King

They don’t make glass slippers. It’s no great surprise. If they make glass slippers, they don’t have my size.— Robbie
Soho Cinders
Company in Soho Cinders
(Photo: Roy Tan)
Following the success of last year’s Betty Blue Eyes, long term collaborators Stiles and Drewe have teamed up with Loserville writer Elliot Davis on this contemporary reworking of Cinderella. Last year they presented a star-studded one-night-only concert version of the show at the Queen’s Theatre, and the majority of that cast have been reunited for this fully realised production at the Soho Theatre, just a stone’s throw from Old Compton Street where the action unfolds.

James Prince (Michael Xavier) is a London mayoral candidate, engaged to the beautiful Marilyn (Jenna Russell). But in his rare moments away from the spotlight and the machinations of his campaign manager William (Gerard Carey), he has secret romantic meetings with Robbie (Tom Milner). What James doesn’t know is that Robbie is a rent boy, and one of his clients is Lord Bellingham (Neil McCaul), who just happens to be James’s principal campaign sponsor. To make matters even more complicated, Robbie’s best friend Velcro (Amy Lennox) is facing eviction from her launderette by Clodagh (Suzie Chard) and Dana (Beverly Rudd), Robbie’s sisters. And yes, in case you didn’t guess, they’re ugly.

There are several strong musical numbers, most notably the Ugly Sisters’ ‘I’m So Over Men’ and ode to overnight celebrity ‘Fifteen Minutes’. Beverly Rudd and Suzie Chard are in their absolute element, serving up smutty one-liners and modelling increasingly grotesque costumes. ‘Let Him Go’ is a touching duet between Marilyn and Velcro, with both Amy Lennox and Jenna Russell delivering fine vocal performances, as well as making the most of rather underwritten characters. The most memorable song is Robbie’s ballad ‘They Don’t Make Glass Slippers’, with a haunting melody and heartfelt lyrics. Not all songs hit the mark though sadly: a duet between Robbie and James in which they saccharinely refer to themselves as ‘Gypsies of the Ether’ suffers from inane lyrics, and ‘It’s Hard to Tell’ – about the similarities between gay and straight men – is a poor relation to the very similar ‘Gay or European’ in Legally Blonde.

Jonathan Butterell’s direction serves the piece well, and Drew McOnie’s choreography is nice, if a little unimaginative and somewhat under-rehearsed. Morgan Large’s set is impressive and certainly makes the most of the Soho Theatre’s auditorium. Stephen Fry provides the voice of a droll Narrator guiding us through the almost unrecognisable vision of Soho. In this, his first professional theatre role, Waterloo Road star Tom Milner sings it well, but his voice pales in comparison to his far more experienced colleagues, and his accent wanders around the whole of the UK over the course of the show. Also disappointing is Gerard Carey as Prince’s spin doctor William, who lacks the charisma of his predecessor in the role, David Bedella, causing his musical numbers to fall flat. To be fair to Carey, it’s not all his fault: the role is burdened with frequent casual racism and sexism, which sometimes make for uncomfortable viewing.

Also uncomfortable is the slightly homophobic message, which seems strange given the show’s creative team and subject matter. A reference to gay men who spend their time mincing around shouting about rights leaves a bitter taste, as was the apparently ‘happy ending’, which seemed to suggest that being gay is something to apologise for, and that it’s impossible to have a successful political career as well as a homosexual relationship. Despite these slight discrepancies, the plot is cleverly constructed, if a little predictable, and the script is full of camp humour and local references. In fact, as an adult pantomime, Soho Cinders ticks a lot of boxes. However, if it’s looking for a future as a credible piece of musical theatre, it could certainly do with a little more magic.

Soho Cinders
Music by George Stiles
Lyrics by Anthony Drewe
Book by Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis
Directed by Jonathan Butterell

Starring: Tom Milner, Michael Xavier, Amy Lennox, Jenna Russell, Beverly Rudd, Suzie Chard, Neil McCaul, Gerard Carey, Stephen Fry (voice)
With: Raj Ghatak, Amanda Posener, Lewis Barnshaw, Vivien Carter, Christopher Doyle, Julian Hoult, Lewis Kirk, Johua Lovell, Nigel Roche, Philippa Stefani
Designed by Morgan Large
Lighting: Hugh Vanstone
Musical Director: Stephen Ridley
Orchestrator: David Shrubsole
Sound Designer: Adam Fisher
Choreography: Drew McOnie
Running time: Two hours 30minutes including interval
Box Office: 020 7478 0100
Booking to 9th September 2012
Reviewed by Sebastian King based on 8th August performance at Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London. W1D 3NE (Tube: Leicester Square/Tottenham Court Road)

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